The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak – part 3
These were the questions we’d posed at the end of our first post in this series :
Why do most people fall short of their intentions? Do they try and then give up, or not even try? What do they do in order to stay healthy?
This post explores the answers to these questions.
Most people fall short of their intentions for one key reason – ‘the man~ana factor’. ‘Man~ana’ is Spanish for an indefinite time in the future, tomorrow or sometime later; ‘the man~ana factor’ is our term for procrastination, an attitude described with a lot of wit and a fair bit of accuracy in a popular song from decades ago with the refrain ‘man~ana is soon enough for me’.
While they are aware of long-term health problems and maintaining good health is important to them, most people don’t see it as a key problem for themselves; a previous post titled ‘everybody says I’m fine’ had described this attitude. Hence, while they intend to do something about it, it isn’t critical except when they are feeling unwell. As a respondent pithily expressed the fact that practising healthy habits is limited to when one feels unwell,“takleef gayi tho buri aadatein shuru”. Now add to this the fact that time is a commodity in short supply in everyone’s lives, and you know why intent doesn’t translate into action very often.
The people that do exercise regularly are of two types. One, those that are extremely health conscious or appearance conscious – this is the sliver of the population we’ve referred to in multiple posts (here and here). In addition, a chunk of this regularly exercising group is those that already have some health problem and need to manage it, for instance, those that have back pain and do yoga regularly, or those that have diabetes and walk every morning. Often, the shock of having and suffering from the ailment is the wake-up call that jolts them from a state of intent to one of action.
Women often exercise even less than men do; one, the belief that housework itself constitutes sufficient exercise and two, a tendency to put anything related to themselves right at the bottom of their list of priorities. Even women that do take care of their health sometimes feel the need to rationalise it as necessary in order to ensure that they can take care of the rest of the family; as one woman expressed it, ‘agar tire hi achhi nahin hai, tho gaadi kaise chalegi?’ (‘if the tyres aren’t in good shape, how will the vehicle run?’). Yoga and walking are the preferred modes of exercise amongst women that do exercise regularly; one wonders whether the reason for the popularity of these two is that neither requires special equipment or surroundings, both of which would mean spending on themselves.
Women either wake up early to do yoga (we’ve actually met women that got up at 4 a.m. in order to do an hour of yoga before their daily chores begin!) or do it in the afternoon. Yes, the spurt in the number of yoga channels such as Baba Ramdev’s has added to the popularity of this mode of exercise. Walking is another popular method, though they often cheat their conscience by accepting hot weather / rainy weather / cold weather, in fact, anything less than perfect weather as an excuse for not stepping out. One exceptional lady we met in Bombay though, solved this problem by deciding not to travel via vehicle to any place that was within 2 hours of home – so she walked to the grocer, walked to work, walked to her children’s school, etc. and this kept her fit as a fiddle.
Given the lack of time to exercise, most people rely more on controlling their diet – or trying to – than on regular exercise. Most people, both men and women, believe that eating fresh home-cooked food is one of the best things to maintain good health; hence being on a healthy diet is something that is not too difficult, except for those that have a job that involves travel. Within this broad framework, housewives also recognise the need for some amount of control, so they try to moderate the amount of rice, sugar, oil, etc. they consume and use for cooking, and to increase the amount of green leafy vegetables and cereals consumed. Sometimes leading to frustrating results; as one lady told us, her husband complained about the amount of oil she used and its effects on his health, but when she made parathas with less oil, he refused to eat them as they weren’t tasty enough ! Her solution, to make the parathas with ‘enough’ oil and then dab them with a paper napkin before serving them so that no oil was visible !
Unlike the belief that they are getting a reasonably healthy diet, most people recognise that they are getting nowhere near the required amount of exercise. Concerns about this cause a heightened awareness of exercise solutions available, and probably an over-stated intention to exercise in order to stay healthy as seen in the survey.
Before ending this post, let me mention that while most people believe that their diet is reasonably healthy, they also believe that they need to tweak it slightly in order to address certain specific health issues. Understanding which health issues these are and creating offerings that address them has been the key to many a successful product launch in the past, and it is only this understanding which can lead to the high growth rates that have been estimated for this sector.