Building Your Health Fortress, One Brick at a Time

by Dr. Chris Hardy on December 24, 2015

Health Fortress

The New Year is almost upon us and millions of people will be making resolutions to improve their health. Gym memberships are purchased, new diets are tried, and home exercise equipment is ordered. Unfortunately most of these resolutions are doomed to fail, often by the time March rolls around. The gym memberships go unused, the diets are not sustainable, and the exercise equipment becomes an expensive clothes hanger. The cycle will repeat the following New Year, with many of us starting over again, sometimes in worse health than the previous year. No long-term progress is ever made. Why do we set ourselves up for failure year after year?

The modern environment lays perpetual siege to the health of our body and mind. Fast food, nasty bosses, long work hours, financial worries, domestic conflicts, poor sleep, and pollutants/toxicants are part of the world in which we live. With these health-destroying enemies at our gates, we have to put in more effort than ever before to achieve and maintain optimum health. We have to build a health fortress to protect us from the modern environment.

The primary reason most resolutions go unrealized soon after they are made has less to do with the actual resolutions themselves and more to do with how they are implemented-the plan. Attempting to radically change your current lifestyle overnight is akin to building a huge wall with brick and stone and not using mortar. You can build an impressive wall quickly but it will soon crumble under the slightest outside pressure, certainly not siege-worthy.

An instant gratification mindset leads to this sad excuse for a wall.

An instant gratification mindset leads to this sad excuse for a wall.

To build an impregnable Health Fortress, each brick and stone has to be placed and then sealed with mortar for strength and resilience. This process takes time and effort, but the result is a structure that you can build on year after year, not a flimsy construct that has to be rebuilt from scratch every year.

Each brick/stone for your fortress is a small positive lifestyle change. Each change must be sealed in place with time as the mortar. When you can incorporate a small lifestyle change into your daily routine for at least 90 days, the chances of it sticking for life increases dramatically. This is the way you can slowly build each wall of your fortress, and the building process is sustainable.

There are hundreds of potential bricks (lifestyle changes) outlined in Strong Medicine. In the book, we call them defensive tactics. On New Years day, pick a couple of these that you think you need the most and incorporate them into your life for 3 months. By the time March rolls around, the new bricks are no longer changes but have become part of your wall, set in place and resilient. Then pick a couple more bricks and continue the process. Even if you just picked 2 changes every 3 months, by next New Year you will be well on your way to having an impressive wall. Instead of starting over again, you now have a structure on which to keep building. This is how a Health Fortress is made, and sustainable wellness is achieved.

Don’t fall into the New Year’s resolution trap. Start 2016 with a New Life Resolution and build your Health Fortress.

Strong Medicine Scroll


Chris Hardy, D.O., M.P.H., CSCS, is the author of Strong Medicine: How to Conquer Chronic Disease and Achieve Your Full Genetic Potential. He is a public-health physician, personal trainer, mountain biker, rock climber and guitarist. His passion is communicating science-based lifestyle information and recommendations in an easy-to-understand manner to empower the public in the fight against preventable chronic disease.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
  • Logan Christopher

    Very important article. The biggest brick I’m adding to my health fortress in 2016 is to actually get a good amount of sun. It happens to be very rainy right now but when the sun comes out I will go out.

  • Christopher Hardy

    Thanks Logan!

  • Steven Horwitz

    Great article Chris. Another reminder to pay attention to your health. Take 5 minutes to think not only about “right now,” but what the last 10 years of your life will look like based on the choices you make today.

    • Christopher Hardy

      Thank you sir! The instant gratification mindset so prevalent in society has permeated health and wellness. Just trying to create some perspective for the long game. I appreciate the comment Steve

  • WxHerk

    Great article!! Interesting in that I tell each of my trainees and training partners that each day is a “brick.” That day’s combination of eating and training (including a well-timed rest day) constitutes one brick. You can train for 12 hours, doubling your PR on every movement or eat 4 gallons of ice cream one day….but that day is ONE brick. Realistically, now: concentrate on today’s brick, including altering it to fit tomorrow’s plan….what kind of wall will you build with 2016’s 366 bricks? What kind of wall will you have built with the next 10 years’ 3650+ bricks?

  • Ben Swarts

    Big fan of this one – something I’ve focused more on lately is my health, rather than ‘show and go’ with my body. Figured I should practice what I preach! This is a concept I teach anyone who will listen. Thank you for another great article!

  • Mitch Scott

    How are you Chris?Love the book but would like to hear it from you that it is appropriate for my health situation.I am a Type 1 diabetic on insulin for 20 years who has never had any control of my blood sugars.The past few years have been especially rough winding up in D.K.A.numerous times and getting more and more frustrated.Any words of wisdom aside from your great informative book would be greatly appreciated.

    • Christopher Hardy

      Mitch, Type 1 Diabetes can be really tricky. The people most successful in managing blood sugars have an insulin pump to give them a good basal level and are really careful managing changes in blood sugar around activity. All of the things covered in the book can help (sleep, stress, etc), but this is a challenging situation. You are going to have to do frequent testing to adjust your dosing to any lifestyle change. High intensity exercise (glyolytic/anaerobic) needs to be followed carefully to ensure you don’t bottom out with blood sugar. Obviously I can’t give specific medical advice over the internet so find a good endocrinologist to help (ideally one that will work with athletes). Getting a good basal insulin delivery system that most closely mimics what your pancreas should be doing is a great start and helps stop the rapid swings in blood glucose. Hope this helps. Chris

      • Mitch Scott

        Chris thank you so much for responding to my post.I just received the pump but there is like a 10 hour learning curve involved and a lot of reading to do before I can use it.I test myself very frequently anyway so that won’t be a problem.I am reading your great book again and learning so much but wanted to make sure I was on the right path and not following a regimen that was more geared to type 2’s.I am already benefitting from your LSS program cutting out whole grain breads and pastas.Thanks for the great advice.

Previous post:

Next post: