This could be the most important health and fitness article you read this year. It’s also one of those articles that everyone (including me) needs to read and reread, but most skip over. They think they “know it” already, or they believe the content doesn’t apply to them.

Your willingness to live out this single commitment is key to your current and future health. Your refusal to accept it will leave you physically and mentally far from your best.

This is the first of The 10 Commitments of VIGOR(ESS).

VIGOR(ESS) COMMITMENT #1

I AM 100% RESPONSIBLE FOR MY HEALTH AND FITNESS

Stare at that statement. Let it sink in. Hold the full weight of 100% responsibility in your hands until its meaning seeps into your soul.

100% means 100%. Total. It leaves no room for anyone or anything else to be responsible. No other person or company is responsible for your health and fitness. Just you.

RESPONSIBILITY IS ACTION

Talking about taking 100% responsibility is easy and exciting. You can probably find hundreds of feel-good memes to share on social media that sound sweet until you have to put substance behind the sayings.

Taking 100% responsibility is something else entirely. Taking responsibility means taking action. Not only when it’s easy or convenient. Not just when you feel like it. Taking responsibility is taking action whenever it’s necessary. 

Most of the time, you won’t feel like doing what you should do, and you will feel like doing what you shouldn’t.

When I Googled the definition of responsibility, I got three definitions. Each is applicable in the context of your health and fitness.

Responsibility:

the state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something.
the opportunity or ability to act independently and make decisions without authorization.
the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something.

Can you see how responsibility requires action? When you take 100% responsibility for your health and fitness, you find a way to:

Notice how each of those bullet points starts with an action verb? You cannot sit on your rear and claim to be responsible. A responsible person always “has a duty” to do what needs to be done, and avoid what ought not to be done.

Read also: The Non-Negotiable Approach to Succeeding at Fitness (and Life).

VICTIMHOOD CHIC

Every day, food companies get blamed for making people fat. Doctors get blamed for not knowing what their patients’ ailments are early enough. Spouses get blamed for not making the other partner happy. Bosses get blamed for not promoting their employees. Parents get blamed for setting and holding boundaries with their children (especially those who are 25 years old and still living at home without a job). Pharmaceutical companies get blamed for everything else (sometimes it’s warranted, sometimes not).

Side note on that one: I’m not one to chastise the pharmaceutical industry. Like any other industry, there’s some shady stuff that goes on, sometimes as the result of greed. But it would be stupid of me to make a blanket statement about “Big Pharma” when some of their drugs cured my childhood leukemia.

Heck, I often hear people talk about how an injury to one limb made them gain 30 pounds. As if their banged-up body part forced them to eat food they shouldn’t have eaten, and kept them from using their other limbs. The way I see it, with one limb out of commission, they have three others with which to do strength training and cardio. And the injury doesn’t cause them to eat poorly. In fact, the injury should be the reason to eat well, so they recover faster. The lame limb is just a convenient excuse.

Let’s say you blame a food company for your never-ending craving for carb-filled snacks. You post complaints on social media about the ingredients they use. You write a letter to the CEO, chastising him or her for the secret formula that keeps you eating until the box is empty. You create a petition to stop selling their product and get other “victims” to sign it.

But in the context of 100% responsibility, is it really the fault of the food company, that out of all of the foods in the grocery store, you ate their product? Or, is it your fault for buying it, bringing it home, breaking open the package, and taking a bite?

Temptations will always be there, and as long as you believe you’re a victim, you’ll continually give into them. When you accept ownership, you’ll be more likely to make better decisions, though you will mess up from time to time, which we get into next.

You cannot be both a victim and take 100% responsibility. It’s one or the other.

Read also: 5 Ways Your Feelings Fail You (And Keep You From Living Up To Your Potential).

GUILT IS GOOD

In the context of health and fitness, action means avoiding what makes you fatter and unhealthier, and acting on what makes you healthier and leaner.

If you were a robot, action would be easy. You’d just do what you were programmed to do. But you’re human. Emotions, social pressure, unexpected interruptions, and unhealthy patterns (which are like lousy programming) stand in your way sometimes.

You sleep in instead of going to the gym. You drink the sugar-filled coffee concoction your friend bought you. You order pizza and eat it on Monday after work because that’s what you’ve done for a decade. The pattern is so ingrained in your mind that you don’t think about not eating the pizza until the last piece squeezes itself into your overstuffed stomach.

At some point, you realize that what you’ve done conflicts with what you know you should have done. Following that realization, you get hit with emotion experienced by all humans that aren’t psychopaths.

You feel guilt.

Guilt is your soul’s way to tell you that you did something that conflicts with your values and responsibilities. If you don’t feel guilty for making the wrong decision, you’ll have no internal guidance to make the right one.

Guilt doesn’t feel good. Guilt says, “You screwed up.” Accepting that you screwed up kind of sucks.

Those who embrace the guilt in order to grow respond to the feeling with something like this: “Dang it! I did screw up! How did that happen? What can I learn from it? What can I do in the same circumstance next time to act differently?” Such a line of questioning is easy for those with a growth mindset. Not so much for those with a fixed (or victim) mindset.

Those who use the guilt to guide them, learn a lesson and do better the next time and the guilt goes away. Everyone else attempts to justify or excuse themselves, point fingers, or numb the guilty feelings by eating, drinking, or doing something else that helps them (temporarily) forget about it. They also share the situation on social media, looking for sympathy and waiting for someone else to say, “It’s not your fault.”

However, the guilt doesn’t go away until the choices that caused it get resolved.

Make friends with guilt. Guilt is a beautiful emotion that alerts us when something is wrong so that we may achieve peace with our conscience. Without conscience there would be no morality. So we can greet guilt cordially and with acceptance, just as we do all other emotions. After we respond to guilt, it has done its job and we can release it.

Glenn R. Schiraldi

Use guilt for guidance. Embrace it. Appreciate it. Then follow the guidance guilt gives you.

Read also: 5 Beliefs that Build Suckituptitude.

AT SOME POINT, EVERYONE MUST TAKE 100% RESPONSIBILITY

You can take 100% responsibility for your health and fitness today, and get healthy and fit. Or you can wait to take 100% responsibility when you are sick and overweight.

Either way, there’s no one else who’s responsible for your health. Nobody’s going to make sure you eat what you should eat, exercise regularly, take your supplements, get to sleep, or get your blood tested. And even if someone else could take care of all that for you, why would you want them to? Unless you’re a child, or an elderly adult who cannot care for himself or herself, why would you put the burden of your body in someone else’s hands? It’s your body. It’s on you to take care of it.

Take 100% responsibility for your health and fitness, and you’ll be amazed at how much else in your life you can take 100% responsibility for as well. You can’t control everything in life, but there’s no reason to give up control of that which you can.

Take 100% responsibility. Take action. Eliminate excuses and victimhood. Embrace the guilt that guides you along your path and use it to grow.

ARE YOU ALL IN ON THIS COMMITMENT, AND LOOKING FOR AN AWESOME PROGRAM TO FOLLOW? CONSIDER JOINING VIGOR (MEN) OR VIGORESS (WOMEN)