There is nothing new except what is forgotten.
–Mille. Rose Bertin
We’re on the verge of starting 2015 and the internet is collapsing under the weight of health suggestions and advice for the new year. Why is that?
Did everyone forget all the advice from last year? Of course not.
Have there not been any suggestions for losing weight and cutting calories at any time during the rest of the year? Obviously not. You can’t throw a pebble at a puddle of internet headlines without hitting one about losing weight or getting healthy. At any time of year.
Well, I guess everyone is just lazy and stupid. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have such a collective weight problem.
No, kidding! It’s not. That’s a simplistic answer that ignores reality. Consider this: just as the retail world counts on those days between Thanksgiving and Christmas to boost revenue for the entire year, every gym and fitness club in the country is anxiously awaiting the dawn of January 3rd. Why? The three to four weeks following the beginning of January is the boom season for them. That’s when they make all their money, as people fruitlessly try and lose weight.
Why do I say fruitlessly? Well, because ignoring reality is easy to do and not just on dieting advice websites. Let’s have a look at an interesting article about the gym and fitness industry. It’s an industry report for 2015. In it, we can read all the following statements…on the same page!
With the obesity epidemic that is currently going on in the United States, fitness and weight loss has been growing in popularity, if not becoming an obsession, for Americans. The rate of obesity grew steadily from 1987 to 2007…
The fitness center industry started coming into its own in the 1970s and 1980s , when exercise…became popular…
The 2000s were a period of enormous growth for fitness centers. There were 16,938 clubs at the beginning of the decade, and that number grew to 29,636 by January 2008. 41 million Americans are members of a health club…
Obesity in America shows no sign of slowing down, and because of this there is promise for the continued future growth and success of both the fitness center and weight loss industries.
Isn’t that great? By all means, run down to your gym and sign up to sweat your way into 2015. Because that works like a charm.
Instead of signing up at the gym, why not read this book by Dr. Steven Barrer? Entitled Exercise Will Hurt You: Concussion, Traumatic Brain Injury, and How the Dangers of Sports and Exercise Can Affect Your Health, it promises to be an interesting read by someone who has been treating these injuries throughout his career. I haven’t read it, and no doubt there are parts that I would find less than compelling, as there are with all books. But it’s an interesting thought, no? In this review of it we read:
“I posit that exercise can be bad for you in several ways,” he [Steven Barrer] writes. “Injuries can result from routine participation. . . . And there are hidden dangers that lie in the cumulative effect of even the seemingly most trivial of injuries or just the overuse of our joints and muscles in the absence of injury.” He elaborates: “We wear out. And the older we get, the more we wear. We just can’t do at 45 what came easily at 25. And even those under 25 often overdo it.”For you macho CrossFit fans and lactic-acid junkies, Barrer is especially contemptuous of the mantra “no pain, no gain” – “unquestionably the stupidest thing I have ever heard.” Pain is the body’s signal to stop!
So for at least one experienced doctor, the “benefits” of intense exercise–whatever they might be–do not outweigh the damage it does. And in the category of “nothing is new except what is forgotten” we recall that our ancestors–until about the 1970s–were largely aware that exercise was useless for weight loss.
The article about Dr. Barrer’s book goes on to make it clear he is not advocating a sedentary lifestyle. What’s he’s objecting to is overexercising that does more harm than good, and the culture that imbues people with guilt if they don’t run a couple miles a week at the very least. That’s exactly why I continue to highly approve of the method I’ve talked about here, which is specifically designed to give you the maximum return for minimum wear and tear on your body.
So how about some real health suggestions for 2015? How about some resolutions that will do you some good?
Throw away the Christmas treats.
You heard me. If you’ve got a pantry stuffed with cookies, chocolates, leftover pie, fudge, buckets of caramel corn, candy canes, and bags of cheap candy that you can buy at any time, anywhere, but which seem special right now simply because they’re wrapped in shiny gold holiday foil, you know who you are. If you’re holding on to this stuff from a misguided fear of “wasting food” or some kind of sentimentality, let me help you out.
First, it’s not food. Food is beef. Lamb. Chicken. Fish. Eggs. Cream. Butter. Fruit. Vegetables. You could keep eating your garbage for the next week till it’s all gone–but all you’d get from that is a steady feeling of disgusting, an extra week of worrying about your waistline, sniffles and the fighting of colds, and an unusual exhaustion that you may erroneously attribute to the post-Christmas blues or not enough sunlight.
Second, if you just can’t bear “giving up Christmas”, and throwing away the candy is symbolic of doing that, can I suggest you may have made your happiness dependent upon high fructose corn syrup and shiny red things? Put your hopes in the Emmanuel that Christmas is all about. Life with Him has joy–there is no true joy without it. I realize that not everyone who reads this blog believes that. I understand. My statement about true joy stands; but even in the ephemeral, joy-like happiness of transient earthly things, surely you can find something more meaningful than food? If food is the Reason for the Season, then just shoot me now.
Third, if you’re eating because you’re sad, lonely, and hurt… I’m sorry. I know you. I know you think I don’t, but there are several people in my life who are just like you. They eat because they’re not loved, or at least they feel they aren’t, and they don’t know how to get anyone to love them, and they are miserable. Food is the one thing that brings them a moment’s transitory enjoyment, and even that is just a physiological response to sugar and starch. Can I tell you why this won’t work in the long run? There are three reasons.
- The first is that this kind of eating is invariably of refined carbohydrates (cookies, candy, cake, ice cream, chips). All of these things exacerbate mental health issues. If you’re struggling with depression, sugar will only make the problem worse. In fact, what you’re doing is no different than someone who turns to alcohol to forget their troubles; and frankly, alcohol would at least give you 30-60 minutes of jollity. Snorking down peanut butter cups will make you nauseous in about five minutes, at which point you’ll feel even worse about yourself.
- The second reason is that overeating cheap, refined carbohydrates is what makes most people fat. Some of the people I know who are lonely and sad feel lonely and sad in part because they are fat–they fear that no one loves them because they’re “ugly.” And they are partially correct. Our society equates thinness with beauty. These people have a lot of other things to bring to the table besides just the way they look, but whatever we wish the world was like, the reality is the world is such that a lot of people don’t care what’s inside if they don’t like what’s outside. There’s lots more that could be said here, but for our purposes we can stop at this: eating fudge and caramel corn is the worst possible thing you can do to fix this problem. It only makes it all worse. You may have hormonal, genetic and stress-related issues that make losing weight really, really hard, such that simply cutting out sugar isn’t enough by itself. But tons of sugar will only worsen the problem.
- The third reason is that food can never, ever fill the emptiness inside. It really can’t. If it could, there wouldn’t be any depressed people in developed countries. Don’t engage in fruitless behavior. All that will do is frustrate, anger, and humiliate you.
Establish a post-Christmas tradition that has nothing to do (or little to do, anyway) with food.
If you are accustomed to making life enjoyable through food, it’s time to ditch that habit. Instead of reaching for more peppermint bark, try something like:
- Make taking down the decorations a party. (The Roommate certainly does; she gets all giddy at the thought of organizing.) Can you rearrange your living room after the decorations are down? Something fresh? Something new? Watch your favorite fun movie while you do it.
- Go to see or rent a cheesy movie with like-minded friends and mock it mercilessly. You know there’s no shortage of those, especially around the holidays.
- Do something season-appropriate. Something you can only do in the winter. Go skiing, ice skating, or find a mountain with some snow and make snowmen. Better yet, if you find snow, have a battle. Call the kids, get some friends, and build elaborate forts.
- Hold a “hold-out” contest with friends or family. On the way home from work, everyone counts how many people still have Christmas decorations up along their route. Keep track through January (or until there are finally no more to be seen); everyone goes out for a nice dinner, and the winner is treated.
- Design winter decorations that aren’t Christmas-specific. Make something bright and cheery, and keep them up while the dark, short days last.
- Buy a new board game and cajole some people to come play it with you. You remember those…they’re what people used to do before Tetris was invented. You might be surprised at how fun it is to do something totally different.
- Read a book with someone. Not you read, and she reads, and then you talk about it (though you can do that). Read it to each other over coffee.
If you either don’t exercise or exercise to excess, get Body by Science, read it and try it.
Rethink your food budget.
If you think you can’t afford to not eat cheap carbohydrates or to eat good meat and fat, you might be right. But you might be wrong, too. Take some time to investigate options in your area. You might find a happy farmer with good prices on raw dairy. You might find some friends who are willing to share a cow with you. You’ll have to pay for it all at once, but it might bring the cost by weight down to something you can afford.
For a month, calculate what you’re actually spending on anything that isn’t real food. (All the chips, the fast food, the potatoes, the mac and cheese, the flour, the sugar, the breakfast cereal, the fancy sugar-coffees). You might be surprised at what you learn and how you might be able to cut that to find cash for something better. And don’t forget that when you don’t eat enormous amounts of carbohydrates and you do eat plenty of fat and nice protein, you don’t get so hungry.
That’s all the advice for now! Happy New Year! See you in 2015.
Plato says he’s hungry
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