The battle to try and be healthier may be the most important thing we do – and for a lot of us, it’s probably No. 72 on our priority list. So if you’re looking for a role model to provide inspiration so you can clean up your health act, my vote goes to Chris Traeger (played to perfection by Rob Lowe), the auditor and later city manager on the modern-day TV classic, Parks and Recreation.
Really, there’s really nobody better. Sure, there have been a lot of healthy TV characters. A few who come to mind and in no particular order might include:
- Terry Jeffords on Brooklyn Nine-Nine (they made it clear on the series that he worked out, a lot)
- Tony Banta on Taxi (he was a boxer, after all, when he was driving a cab)
- The hulk on The Incredible Hulk (when he wasn’t bulked up and being played by Lou Ferrigno, Bill Bixby’s David Banner was in pretty good shape, too, always walking from one town to another)
- Dr. Richard Kimble – he was a doctor and always running or walking fast from town to town.
- Diana Prince in Wonder Woman (whether she had a fitness routine or not, she clearly was healthy)
- Most of the doctors on ER (well, they were always playing basketball or jogging in their spare time)
OK, well, we could go on all day listing TV characters who were good physical fitness role models, but I don’t think any of them can compete with Chris Traeger. Fitness and nutrition were an integral part of Traeger’s personality and life. Maybe too much, but still, if you want to get inspiration from a TV character, he’s the one.
I should say at the outset, that I am not a doctor. The TV Professor is, more or less, a classic TV blog, and not a health blog. Still, if you’re looking to get healthier, Chris Traeger would be a pretty ideal role model.
Today's "TV Lesson" Breakdown:
- Prioritize your health.
- Set healthy goals.
- Remember that you can get exercise anywhere.
- Know what you’re eating.
- Don’t despair if you stumble in your effort to be healthy.
- Good mental health can help you overcome just about anything.
- If you need help, don't be afraid to ask for it.
- Have a positive mental outlook.
Prioritize your health.
I don’t know if anyone can – or even should – go as far as Chris Traeger does. He is on the extreme side of healthy living. You'd probably want to get a doctor's approval before doing half of what he does.
But prioritizing your health over everything else is something that is difficult to argue against – and that’s just what Chris Traeger does. In the first episode he makes an appearance in, Traeger says, “I take care of my body above all else. Diet, exercise, supplements, positive thinking. Scientists believe that the first human being who will live 150 years has already been born. I believe I am that human being."
Set healthy goals.
Don't feel bad if you aren't on the same level as Chris Traeger. Nobody is. Maybe instead you decide you’re going to walk 15 minutes a day in your neighborhood. The point is, you set healthy goals – and you see them through.
Traeger should be an inspiration to anyone looking to set ambitious healthy goals. He says in one episode, “I have run 10 miles a day, every day, for 18 years. That's 65 thousand miles. A third of the way to the moon. My goal is to run to the moon."
Of course, you actually have to stick to those goals, and that’s where the magic presumably happens. Fifteen minutes a day sounds like nothing, but imagine if you could say, “I’ve walked 15 minutes a day in my neighborhood for the last 18 years.”
You would be able to add, “In the last 18 years, I’ve walked 98,550 minutes, or 1,642.5 hours, or a little over 68 days throughout my neighborhood.” That probably would make a pretty decent positive impact on anyone’s health.
Remember that you can get exercise anywhere.
A lot of us make the mistake of thinking we need to join an expensive gym to burn off calories, or we need to purchase a treadmill or barbells – or set a special time of day to exercise. Look, go ahead and do that, if it’s going to get you mobile and burning off calories, but sometimes we all put off our goals, healthy or not, because the conditions aren’t quite right. So instead of pursuing our goals, we don’t.
Chris Traeger never had that mindset. In one episode of Parks and Recreation, he is hanging upside down in a door frame. When Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) suggest that perhaps there is a nearby gym where Chris could be hanging around, Chris says, “The world is my gymnasium, Ron.”
It's a smart way to approach exercise – and an excellent way to approach life. When opportunity knocks, open the door. Or hang from its door frame.
Know what you’re eating.
I have to hand it to Chris Traeger. If I eat a salad, I just know that there’s some green stuff in it, and I assume that it’s probably good for me. But Chris could likely tell you exactly why he is eating exactly what he is eating, probably due to all of his careful shopping at his favorite grocery store, Grain 'n Simple.
During the course of Parks and Recreation, we learn all sorts of things from Chris Traeger about foods and how they improve parts of the body. I have to think having that knowledge would probably motivate anybody to eat better. Here are a few examples:
- Water. Chris is a big believer in it and tells us in an episode that he keeps himself “very well hydrated.” Maybe he drinks too much water, however. “I urinate roughly 12 times a night,” he says.
- Radishes. They are good for urethras. That’s a tip he offers to Leslie Knope.
- Bran and nuts. “Brans and nuts are very helpful for your colon.”
- Raisins. “It’s nature’s candy.”
Of course, Chris Traeger does sometimes take things too far. In one episode, he is tasked with bringing a celebratory cake.
“To be fair, it's not a cake so much as it is a vegetable loaf,” Chris acknowledged. “You got your mushrooms, your alfalfa sprouts, your spinach, and I had it sweetened with fruit reduction.”
Ron Swanson: But did they ask you to bring a vegetable loaf or a cake?
Chris: No, a cake, but this is so much healthier.
Ron Swanson: So not only does this thing exist, but now you have deprived everyone of cake.
Don’t despair if you stumble in your effort to be healthy.
I think we all know this, but it’s nice to know that Chris Traeger is a good role model here, too. In the episode, “Ron and Diane,” Chris accidentally drinks the wrong kind of eggnog.
“Mmm! This is literally the best non-fat eggnog I've ever had,” Chris says.
“Remain calm, but I think you just drank some of the regular, full-fat eggnog. Chris, one cup won't kill you,” Ben says.
“No, but it will add exactly 440 calories. But you know what? I'm fine,” Chris says, adding: “You only live once. Mmm. I don't know if you know this, but things with fat in them taste way better than things with no fat.”
“Yeah, Chris, everybody knows that,” Ben says.
Good mental health can help you overcome just about anything.
Chris Traeger offers some really excellent advice in the episode “Leslie and Ben,” when Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt) starts to feel hopeless about the health of his relationship with April (Aubrey Plaza). It’s the sort of advice that we should probably all hang onto when we feel like we’re hitting rock bottom.
“Andy, this is a very important moment for you,” Chris Traeger says. “How we deal with tragedy defines who we are. I used to be terrible at it. Beyond terrible. You are not going to let this deflate you. You are going to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and we will figure out what the next step is.”
If you need help, don't be afraid to ask for it.
Yet another reason Chris Traeger was a wonderful role model, even if he could be overzealous in his quest for self-improvement.
“It used to be, when I was down, I called my mother,” Chris says in an episode. “When I lacked self-confidence, I called my running coach. And now, no matter what emotion I'm feeling, I call one number: my therapist.”
Chris knows that he can’t do it all, or if he intends to, he can’t do it all without help. I think that's impressive and important, even if Ron Swanson may disagree.
Incidentally, Chris's therapist gives him a lot of interesting advice. At one point, Chris tells Andy, “My therapist said that I need to be more vocal about appreciating myself.” And then Chris adds: “Thank you, Chris. You're welcome, Chris. I sound insane. I'm going to go talk to my therapist.”
Have a positive mental outlook.
I’m sure that in real life, Chris Traeger would probably drive a lot of people crazy with his gung ho, never-ending positivity. But maybe not. I think most of us would rather be around people radiating good vibes than being around people in a lousy mood all the time.
In any case, if you watch Parks and Recreation enough, you start to realize that Chris Traeger (I just realized that keep saying his full name over and over, but that’s kind of fitting because, Chris always addressed people by their full name, even his girlfriend, Ann Perkins)… anyway, watch the show enough, and you start to realize that Chris Traeger could spin just about anything in a positive direction.
For instance, a lot of people hate going out on numerous awkward first dates. Not Chris Traeger. “I love dates,” he said in an episode. “I love connecting with someone. I love engaging them. I love being surprised by them. I have never had a bad date. They've all been either great or phenomenally great.”
In another episode, Chris makes Tom (Aziz Ansari) a project leader, and Tom isn’t so sure he wants to do it. “This is a big deal,” Chris says. “You should keep an open mind. Let your brain unlock the door to your heart's future. I made that expression up when I was 14. Still in use today. By me.”
That was Chris Traeger: relentlessly positive. Even if he was fictional, it somehow wouldn't surprise me in the least if historians ever conclude that it was one of Chris Traeger’s ancestors who came up with the advice that when life hands you a lot of lemons, make lemonade.
Where to watch Parks and Recreation (at the time of this writing): The entire series can be found on Peacock TV.
Articles similar to this Chris Traeger profile: You might enjoy reading about the health benefits that can come from watching Columbo. Or if mental health is your interest, perhaps you'll enjoy this post about Monk and what you should look for in a therapist.