Opportunity cost is defined as the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen. Every opportunity costs something. Going to work and building a career costs you time spent with family. Buying the most expensive car you can afford means you miss out on the things you could have done with the extra money in your budget. Ordering steak means you don’t get a burger (unless you have an incredibly ambitious appetite). Taking your children along on date night to save money costs you quality time alone with your spouse. Every decision you make requires something to be sacrificed. In the grand scheme of things, we don’t consider opportunity cost in our daily thought process. That’s because our personal priorities make it easy to make simple decisions. We understand the fact that ordering option A means we don’t get to enjoy the other options, but that’s OK because option A is what we want.
When it comes to fitness, adopting a long-term plan and getting into the how and why of our decisions is important to long-term success. Opportunity cost is an important factor to consider and may help you understand and make decisions moving forward. We’re going to get into the main opportunity costs when it comes to fitness, and how you can use that information to help you make better decisions, and feel happy and confident in those choices.
The first opportunity cost we are going to cover is the enjoyment of consuming excessive calories and non-nutritive foods. Food is a pretty big deal in our culture; it’s glue that binds everyone together, despite all differences. It’s generally present at all social events and celebrations. It’s easily accessible, and a somewhat affordable way to enjoy yourself. To lose weight and take your health seriously, you are going to have to make choices about what you eat. You will need to begin eating food that fuels your body with nutrition rather than basing all of your food choices simply upon taste. It’s choosing an apple instead of a cookie, a salad instead of lasagna. It’s difficult in the beginning, and there will always be moments when you don’t make the right decision; that’s OK, that’s life. Making food choices that align with your goals costs you the enjoyment of the junk food you could have eaten instead. The opportunity gained is moving toward being a healthier person and achieving your goals, whatever they may be. Put another way, eating what you want instead of what you should gains you the pleasure that comes with eating that food. Maybe it gains you a more full social life. But the cost comes later, when you didn’t make your weight loss goal and you can’t fit into the clothes you wanted.
The second opportunity cost in the fitness arena concerns exercise. It takes time to work out every day. For some, it’s really difficult to carve out the time needed. Some people do not enjoy exercise, so they prefer to relax or work on hobbies instead. Exercise is also requires making yourself uncomfortable on purpose. A good hard workout hurts. Your muscles and lungs burn and your skin sweats. The next day you might be sore. You may feel vulnerability if you are new to exercise or trying to learn something new. It’s not easy to make yourself uncomfortable on purpose. Spending time exercising costs you time and comfort. The opportunity gained is health, strength, courage, and fat loss. Put another way, not exercising gains you extra time to relax or even address other responsibilities, but it costs you the opportunity to find out what you’re really capable of.
Two sides have been presented. The first is eating as much as you want simply for pleasure and never exercising so you can spend the time doing other things. The second is taking every opportunity to eat healthy and push yourself to the extreme max with every workout. Deciding where you belong in that spectrum simply depends upon your priorities. Maybe you never want to say no to dessert or drinks with dinner. That’s OK! But don’t beat yourself up when you don’t see a six pack in the mirror. Maybe you want a shredded physique with really low levels of body fat. Good for you! But realize that’s going to require a lot of discipline and some sacrifice. Have realistic expectations and realize that you can only occupy one place between the two extremes. Most people will ideally fall somewhere in the middle, where that beautiful thing called balance exists. You can have a social life, enjoy your favorite foods, and have a great bod if you want. It’s difficult to achieve; it requires patience and knowledge. But it is totally possible.
Just remember that as long as you are healthy and happy, there is no right or wrong answer. It’s a matter of priorities and what’s important to you. You have to be happy with your decision and realize that you can only occupy one place between the two extremes. Maybe the memories that come with the midnight pizza runs and the bottles of wine and the freshly baked cookies are worth it to you, and you don’t care that you can’t grate cheese with your abs when you lift your shirt. If that’s what you want your life to be, embrace it! But don’t get mad at someone who has a lower body fat percentage than you and passed on the cake you brought to the party. That’s their decision, just like you made yours. And they have their own opportunity costs. If you want a toned and lean appearance, and you work hard in the gym and the kitchen, accept the fact that you’re not going to be able to eat everything all of the time. Realize that it’s just food, and there will always be another chance to eat whatever it is.
I hope this helped you to understand a couple of the basic cost and opportunity scenarios that exist in the world of fitness. Figuring out what your priorities are may take some time. But the great thing is that you can always change. Practice thinking through your decisions and making choices that align with your goals or priorities. Then follow through, and be happy with the outcome!