Blogpost: Why do We Fear Push-ups but not Cheese

After 21 years of a traditional medical practice, I made a huge change to a membership practice.  It has been official for just over a year.  The emphasis of the practice is reversing lifestyle diseases, and achieving optimal health for as long as possible.  You would think that would be the emphasis of all medical practices, but time constraints only allow acute problem solving in most settings.  Nevertheless, I could not be more happy helping people to become fit and active.

Many of my members have been my patients for many years so it is a change for them as well.  They now have homework assignments.  There are monthly fitness and mobility challenges.  We have a private Facebook group that allows sharing of successes and struggles as well as friendly competitions.  It is not mandatory,  but it is an attempt to engage and get people out of their comfort zones.  We have people doing squats that have never done such an exercise in 60 years, and they love it!  Like everything, there are the early adopters, those willing to try anything new, those who are curious and start a little later. There are also those that limit themselves because of the fear of getting hurt, or the pain of trying something new.  We all experience at least a little fear of failure in our minds even if when have never really given much thought of what that failure would mean; if anything.  Some might even say the ultimate failure is never starting.

Let’s take our push-up challenge as an example.  What would failure look like? We are doing one for everyday of the month.  So 1 push-up on the first day and 31 on the last day.  Some may look right to the 31 and feel that would be impossible so why start.  You can’t fail if you don’t start right?  Wrong.  Not starting is admitting defeat, and no one really likes that so you will have to ignore the challenge all together.  One might say that is not meant for me.   Getting injured might be viewed as a failure so that is a good reason not to start.  There are many people that have been told by physicians not to do a certain form of exercise that will surely lead to permanent damage or worsening pain.  Of course there are people that have been told they could not and have done “miraculous” physical challenges despite great limitations.  Their fear was not in failing the challenge but by having someone take their dreams away.  I met a women last year lining up for the beginning of the Ironman with a prosthetic leg.  She said she missed the bike cut off the week before so she was determined to do better this time.  The fear of her potential limitations was worse than the fear of the suffering she would surely endure during the race.

The victory with our monthly challenges is to do something that is a little outside your comfort zone that will make you a little stronger.   You become physically stronger and mentally stronger because you faced a fear, accepted a challenge, and became better for it.  It may not be a perfect Navy Seal push-up.  It may be 31 wall push-ups or a combination of different variations that make you struggle just a little.  But the important part is that you pushed yourself.  There is no age limitation on taking a challenge.

So why do we fear physical challenges but ignore any fear of eating harmful unhealthy foods destined to cause disease and inflammation?  The pain can be much more severe and last a great deal longer.  It can even result in death.  Yet we are willing to role the dice and order the cheesy pizza and never say no to the cheese on our salads.  We call Mac and Cheese comfort food when it is actually lighting an immunologic fire in our bodies right after consumption.  It  causes abdominal pain for most folks who are lactose intolerant, but they are willing to take a pill to calm the pain so they can continue to indulge.  We are lured like it was the forbidden fruit.  The salt and fatty flavors make it irresistible despite the cancer promoting growth factors and hormones designed to make calves grow into large cows.  We willing admit to frailty of will to continue to indulge and innocently wonder why we feel so poorly.  The difference is the immediate pleasure versus the delayed gratification.  Pleasure is hear and now.  You may not know what disease feels like or remember what health was like.  But you know pleasure.  We know that the best things come out of hard work yet we are tempted every time by the easy button.  We are drawn to it every chance we get only to be disappointed in the reward.  To good to be true.  We all have heard it, but we ignore it more often than not.

You cannot run or exercise the negative effects of dairy on your body.  Your microbes have unleashed the army of inflammatory compounds.  Your body is in chaos.  That salt and fat taste is gone in seconds.  The harmful side effects linger for days.  Inactivity leaves the body weak and frail.  We loose mobility and soon cannot get off of the floor.  Cheese and inactivity both lead to ill health but we only fear the push-up.

The only answer is to have a plan.  Is this something to fear?   We need to define a  specific goal and  have a plan of action.  Weaning off of a bad habit is harder than gradually starting a new exercise.  Crossing the bridge to improved health means leaving the toxins behind and exploring new  challenges on the the other side.  Change involves facing fear and accepting new challenges. What have you been missing and have accepted as gone? Is it getting up off of the floor, stability in climbing, walking on vacation, or even competing in a race or other competition?  Perhaps it is fitting into the size clothes from when you were in high school.  But when that change is to a plant strong active lifestyle, the rewards are many and the risks are few.

If you would like help with your health and wellness challenge send an email to We would be honored to lend a hand or give a gentle push.

  1. Reply

    As always, each and every blog post is motivating for me! Thank you, Dr. Dulaney.

    • Reply
      Dr. Dulaney

      Thank you

  2. Reply

    This blog really made me think about why lifestyle change can be so hard. Immediate pleasure (eating and avoiding exercise) vs later in life pain (illness). You stress the “plan” but often it seems like it is so easy to fall off the plan (wagon) and get derailed by friends, family, fast food everywhere and convenient processed foods in every aisle. I am getting more and more convinced that it is a “mindset” one must have before the plan becomes meaningful and encourages us to act/eat/move in a more healthy manner. The process (or journey) to be healthy has to be the motivation in the moment because it is just too hard to see down the road. This is why I love your practice! You not only have a kitchen in your office but now you have yoga classes too! Three weekly nutritional classes, a private FB group and being able to pick your brain anytime of day keeps us striving to NOT FEAR change but to embrace a healthy mindset. We are not perfect but your practice and the continued support challenges us to be the best we can be in this moment. Carry on Plant Strong Warrior!

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