Americans are more disciplined than I am. By a lot.

December 7, 2018 by Joshua
in Habits

Walking back from a farmers market with some fresh Brussels sprouts, I can’t believe how indulgent my life is. I meant just to drop off my compost, but they looked so delicious, I couldn’t resist.

People call me disciplined, but amid my indulgence, relative to Americans, I’m not. When it comes to voluntary choices to live by one’s passions. Americans across the board sacrifice more and devote more resources to what they love more than I do.

I conclude from their behavior that Americans love different things than I do. And they devote and sacrifice to bring what they love into their lives more than I do into mine. Let’s look at some numbers.

Time spent on passions

I love being fit. I do calisthenics twice a day for under 15 minutes each, intense intervals for under 20 minutes, and lift weights for about 1 hour every five days, averaging 44 minutes per day.

Americans love watching TV. The average American watches nearly 8 hours of TV per day!

Nielsen numbers for television viewing time since 1949 (Nielsen)

Nielsen numbers for television viewing time since 1949 (Nielsen)

They sacrifice much more than I do for their passion. They sacrifice 8 hours per day of conversations with family, opportunity to advance at work, reading, taking classes, exercise. They sacrifice their health for their passion to watch TV. There’s no way I could sit for 8 hours a day watching TV.

The average American spends 10 times more time on their passion than I do.

Americans win here with more discipline.

Food spending

I love fresh vegetables and fruit. spend less money than ever on food. My two CSAs (one summer-fall, the other winter-spring) combined cost under $1,000, probably about half my annual food budget, maybe a third.

Americans love junk food. Americans spend $7,000 a year on food—at least double what I spend. They spend more on fast food than I spend on any food. They’re willing to sacrifice their health, years of their lives, and the taste of fresh fruit and vegetables in favor of salty, sugary, and fatty foods.

American food budget

American food budget

Again, Americans show much more discipline than I do. No way could I sacrifice my visits to the farmers market for the longer trips to fast food places as divorced from the natural world as I could imagine. That’s dedication beyond mine.

Another win for Americans being more disciplined. They love junk food more than I love food and they do what it takes to enjoy it.


I love a fit human body, especially mine. I just returned from a month-long trip where I couldn’t eat or exercise by my regular schedule. I put on a couple pounds of fat. The first thing I did on returning was to work to return to my earlier body fat percentage.

Americans love overweight and obese human bodies. They celebrate Health at Every Size, Fat Acceptance and Fat Power, and Big Beautiful Women. Over 70% of Americans are overweight or obese, meaning they spend more money on food than I do. It takes more money and sacrifice of, for me, pleasurable activities to maintain fat that the body would prefer to burn for energy. I don’t have the discipline to earn the extra money or divert it or time from other parts of my life to maintain the extra fat they do for their standards of beauty.

Another win for Americans being more disciplined. They love being overweight and obese more than I love being fit and they put more resources into maintaining their extra fat.

Where the money goes

Most of my food money goes to local farmers, whom I meet and whose farms I visit.

Most of Americans’ food money goes to companies that treat their workers poorly, treat animals inhumanely, trash the environment, twist laws to subsidize unhealthy diets, and other behaviors I find unacceptable. They sue people in what looks to me unfair ways. Americans are willing to support such practices for their passion of eating junk food. They love their passions so much, they’re willing to sacrifice their humanity by hurting and polluting so much.

Another win for Americans being more disciplined. They love their junk food so much, they’ll support industries I couldn’t bear to.

Stewardship and pollution

I can’t bear to pollute this otherwise beautiful, clean, pure world we share. I don’t have it in me to pollute it unnecessarily. My ecological footprint, at 0.4 Earths is intolerably high to me and I can’t resist working to lower it.

Global Footprint Day calculates what they call my ecological footprint from my behavior as I report it

Global Footprint Day calculates what they call my ecological footprint from my behavior as I report it

Americans love comfort and convenience so much that they’ll trash the environment for their travel, air conditioning, meat, big cars, long commutes, and so on. The average American footprint is 5 Earths! (see calculation here). They’re willing to sacrifice their stewardship and caring about others more than I am.

The average American ecological footprint

The average American ecological footprint

Another discipline win for Americans. I couldn’t sacrifice my humanity and the principle of Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You for my style of living, but they are.


I could go on, but the trend is clear. Americans are more disciplined in pursuing their loves and passions than I am.

For their comfort, convenience, love of being overweight and obese, love of watching TV, love of eating salt, sugar, and fat, and other passions, they sacrifice time, money, stewardship, advancement at work, the Golden Rule, caring for others, health, years of their lives, and pleasure at the taste of fresh vegetables and fruit as well as the exhaustion of physical exertion.

I can’t believe what they’re willing to sacrifice and the scale they’re willing to sacrifice it. Ten times more time, 12.5 times more environmental destruction, 2 times more money, and so on. By comparison, I live a self-indulgent life of greater emotional reward, community, personal growth, and other things I love. I wish I had the discipline to sacrifice and spend on my passions what they spend on theirs.

Americans are more disciplined than I am.

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