Fitness & Nutrition Priorities: Where do they Fall?

If I asked you to tell me what the most important thing in your life was, what would you say?  Most likely your answer would involve your spouse, kids, family or job.  How many of you would say fitness or nutrition is the most important thing in your life?  Fitness and nutrition is important to the vast majority of us, but how many of us truly make fitness and/or nutrition one of our top priorities?  How many of you could also rate yourself as your top priority?  You know what we call people who always make himself or herself their own top priority?  Selfish!  There is a certain stigma to putting your own needs ahead of others.  Yet, putting ourselves first is exactly what we need to do when it comes to our own fitness and nutrition. 

Where do Fitness and Nutrition fall on your everyday priority list?

Where do Fitness and Nutrition fall on your everyday priority list?

Everyday we have tens and even hundreds of things that are required of us to just make it through the day.  If we were to create an itemized list of some of the activities we perform on a daily basis and the importance of each of those activities it might look something like the list shown below.  The top of the list (starting at #1) would be the most important item and the importance of each item decreases as the list continues until you reach the bottom of the list and the least important items.  Note: Importance does not always equal time consumption.  Some of the least important activities (i.e., watching TV) are the most time consuming for some people, so don’t just order your list by the amount of time you spend on any one given activity.

  1. kids
  2. family
  3. work
  4. driving
  5. grocery shopping
  6. watching television
  7. watching sporting events
  8. watching movies
  9. Internet surfing
  10. Facebook
  11. Twitter
  12. Instagram
  13. walking dog
  14. laundry
  15. eating out/entertainment
  16. cleaning house
  17. exercising
  18. shopping
  19. reading
  20. video games
  21. reading blogs
  22. yard work
  23. cooking
  24. dentist appointments

In this list, exercise is ranked 16th and cooking comes in at 23rd.  Fitness and proper nutrition are not required to make it through the day and are therefore oftentimes put on the backburner while we put out our other daily fires.  Before long fitness and proper nutrition become “long term goals” rather than daily necessities.  Many of you have to get yourself ready for the day, get the kids ready for the day, take the kids to school, pick them up from school, take them to extracurricular activities, help with homework, and make dinner...........all this without even mentioning outside work responsibilities!  Fitness and good nutrition are not required to get through the day and is thus continually moved down to the bottom of our “to do lists”.  Now I realize that some sort of nutrition is necessary to get through the day because we all have to eat, but for many of us making it the best possible nutrition IS NOT a top priority.

Most of us want to be thin and fit, but as stated above we oftentimes do not prioritize fitness and nutrition high enough on our “to do lists” to achieve the results we desire.  When our fitness and nutrition priorities and time spent exercising and meal planning do not match the expectations we have set for meeting our ideal body weight and fitness level, big-time frustration ensues because goals are not being met.  On the other hand, some individuals make fitness and nutrition his/her top priorities and achieve great fitness and nutrition results, but other parts of their lives may suffer.  We only have so much time and capital to put towards daily tasks and putting exercise and nutrition first and second may come at the expense of friends, family, work, sleep, and other fulfilling activities such as reading.  It is a delicate balance, but surely one that we can achieve with some careful thought.

As a nutrition professional, I often hear about how mothers, fathers, and other caregivers put the needs of others ahead of, and at the expense of, their own needs.  I am sure you have all heard the saying that “one must love oneself before loving another”.  One must also take care of his/her fitness and nutrition needs before being able to help others.  Fitness and nutrition are basic needs, not extravagances for the sake of pleasure.  Watching out for your own basic fitness and nutrition needs does not have to involve time consuming marathon training, intense Crossfit workouts, or eating gourmet home cooked meals.  Rather, it means incorporating physical activity into your daily lives and eating balanced meals at home, work, and on the run.  Once you have met your own basic fitness and nutrition needs, you will be better prepared and equipped to help those around you.  

If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to make a priority list to see where exercise and nutrition fall for you.  I’m not asking you to put nutrition and exercise first and second on your list, but for most of us it wouldn’t hurt to be aware of where they do fall and to try to move them up a few spots!


Todd M. Weber, PhD, MS, RD