or: “Going on a Diet can Go to Hell”
Portion control is very difficult in first-world capitalist consumer-pleasure-dominated society. We can blame the corporations for shoving that delicious pie down our throat to keep us sated as they rob us blind. We can blame the post-WWII boomers who lived to revel in the excesses of sugary, delicious pie. We could even blame the pie for being delicious. In the end, it doesn’t matter. We live in the here and now with 300% of our daily caloric intake, and eating out at trans-fatty dollar-sign fast-foodatoriums.
There are several possible solutions, so let’s address them in no particular order, shall we?
You could die of heart disease (the number one killer according to the CDC), diabetes, or other complications arising from unhealthy American obesity. You’ve heard a lot of these facts and figures spouted again and again, and they don’t seem to affect your thinking too much, so here they are again. Dying is perhaps the easiest solution, though dying of these agents may not be as rewarding or exhilerating as, say, jumping off of the Queen Mary. If this is not our fate, then read on.
2. Attempt to lose weight.
Join a gym, prescribe exercises with calorie burning goals, drink nothing but juices, eat nothing but juices, cut out fiber, cut out sugars, cut out carbohydrates, cut out lipids, cut out proteins… and perhaps lose a few pounds. And though calorie counting is still the gold standard of scientific weight loss, there are other contextual considerations.
The problem is not really physical, but psychological. Statistics show that the simple act of making New Year’s resolutions, for example, almost guarantees that they will fail.
I once had a job transcribing for a nonprofit group whose goal had been to change the ‘built environment’ with a mind to ‘active living’ and ‘reducing obesity’ in urban populations. While this was perhaps a fine step in shifting the societal responsibility, it does little to change the manic bipolar attitudes towards weight: glamorize the anorexic fashion models, advertise the fattiest hamburgers, hype the latest diet craze, get the kids to watch TV after school instead of playing outside, censure McDonald’s menus and restrict their private enterprise, blame and marginalize the fat for being fat, raise the monthly rates at the gyms. The irony, of course, was not lost on me that I logged twenty hours of these nonsensical interviews whilst sitting my fat ass in my little-wheelied desk chair.
People often ‘hit plateaus’ in their weight loss plans. Or they lose a lot at first and don’t know why they can’t continue at that rate. Some people may never escape their body type, but still wish they were Victoria’s Secret model thin (*sigh*). More on this later.
“The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over, and then expecting different results.”
The most successful results come when you do not ‘go’ on a diet, but instead change your habits and your very cognition. As soon as you tire of those calorie counting, rice and celery juicing, overworking exercise regimens, you WILL put that weight back on, because you were looking at the light at the end of the tunnel the entire time. And that light was not just a single delicious slice of pie, but a return to the lifestyle that brought you such devastating misery in the first place. Which brings me to the third potentiality:
3. Alter your habits
There are plenty of things you can do to simply make better choices. As opposed to all those ‘diet fad’ books, I have found that the caloric swaps in David Zinczenko, Matt Goulding (authoritatively titled) Eat This Not That to be frighteningly enlightening and weight-lightening to boot. The restaurant guide in particular reveals what cultural change has done over the generations to slowly let us accept our meaty fate. You would be surprised how easily you can save a hundred calories or two from your diet by eating one specific greasy fast-food dollar-menu breakfast sandwich as opposed to another. It involves calorie awareness, but not necesarilly calorie counting, which I contend is inconvenient, and as such will probably not be a fail-safe sticking method for everyone.
Some foods even trick your brain and stomach into eating fewer calories.
And don’t be hydrophobic, drink water as much as possible! It’s better than any health shake, ‘detox cleanse’ bullshit, soda, coffee, beer, corn syrup juice, or sugar drink you can get. And doctors agree that there is no such thing as water weight (as much as getting two doctors to agree to anything is possible).
Here’s something you may not have put together (I know it came as a late revelation for me, and boy, did I feel stupid). Are you fat and broke? Well, there’s your problem right there. Of course, cutting down on portions is easier said than done. But preventing yourself from losing money is the greatest motivator, combined with losing weight and saving the planet, it may just be the winning combination you need.
There are numerous apps (most of them free) to keep your health on your mind.
An easy way to save money at that overpriced gym is to find a community college that offers phys. ed. classes for college credit. It’s possible to enroll for just that one class, and the monthly breakdown may end up being a fraction what one of those chains (and even the Y) charge. It may also be as simple as taking the stairs at work more often, or, if you take the elevator, doing your squats while you wait both on and off. And simplicity in exercise is often key.
There are websites entirely dedicated to saving you money on outings, activities, and group meet-ups. These are fun, and at least some of them are in line with your interests, but viewing them with an eye to being more active may give you that extra gumption to actually get out and do them. They’re cheap or cheap-as-free, so that chain gym won’t be getting any contractually obligated sum of your money, and they integrate fun, some skill you’ve been meaning to learn, and thus burn calories without you having to think about what a chore this whole calorie-burning thing might be.
These kinds of lateral moves will not only save you some money, but in doing so create a positive mental feedback loop that inspires and encourages you further.
And lest we forget, a rigorous and adventurous sex life is perhaps the best exercise regiment available.
4. Alter your philosophical outlook
How many fuckers do you know who say they are ‘so fat’ when they are ‘so not’? How do you feel when you haven’t quite made that health goal? Additionally, how will you know when enough is enough, without appearing to have some body dimorphism, harmful self-esteem issues, or gypsy curse? And isn’t the worst part about this whole weight loss thing when you’ve put your effort and time in, then fall into a few evenings of lounging instead of exercise (or perhaps as some reward), but then immediately feel guilt?
Don’t feel guilt, this is counterproductive. Likewise, don’t tell yourself that you’ve ‘earned’ this. You are still viewing it all as some external component of life that you engage in, what those alien fitness people allow you to temporarily engage in.
When you have a more platonic relationship with the universe (something I advocate anyway), you don’t care what society tells you about your body image or unhealthy habits. This doesn’t mean you lose all attachment to personal responsibility, just that you can gauge what is both productive physical time, and what is productive relaxation time. Wastefulness is your attachment to complaining, to worry, to stress, and to the labels that prevent you from fluidly being both the fitness-buff-and-couch-potato-in-one. It makes you a diverse person, and who doesn’t want to be that?
If you earnestly stop trying to make specific weight goals, while at the same time making good decisions on a regular basis, you will ingrain it into your being that health is a major motivator along with all the other rewarding and pleasurable activities in your life, you will escape the unfair expectations of a bullshit society and your own deceptive mind, and discover that vagueness can be liberating.
‘Laziness’ has gotten an unfair reputation, as our modern industrial world allows us more leisure than ever before, and people judge whether you spend it as an armchair sophist or benchpress hypertrophist. And let’s not forget the importance of sleep to your health! You most certainly burn calories while you slumber, and at the very least, any cheesecake you consume in a dream isn’t going to your hips.
A recent study suggests that people who are obese (barring other unhealthy factors) may live just as long as their skinny counterparts, and certainly longer than the stressed lives of those who continually attempt to lose weight and fail. It is important to remember that the BMI method is somewhat flawed, that only certain forms of obesity put you at high risk (such as belly fat), and that everything, including not just weight gain but weight loss, should be taken in moderation.
A new advocacy group and online community, Healthy at any Size, is based on the simple premise that the best way to improve health is to honor your body. Their website “supports people in adopting health habits for the sake of health and well-being (rather than weight control). Health at Every Size encourages:
- Accepting and respecting the natural diversity of body sizes and shapes.
- Eating in a flexible manner that values pleasure and honors internal cues of hunger, satiety, and appetite.
- Finding the joy in moving one’s body and becoming more physically vital.”
And let’s face it, though it sounds like something your mother would say, it IS true; do you really want to date/hang out with/sleep with/gain the approval of people who judge you for your body type, anyway?
In the end (your fat rear end), the most important thing is deciding what is right for you. Spend some time thinking about it, and don’t try to give up cheese if you love cheese so VERY, VERY FUCKING MUCH. Moderation by mediation, by meditation, make bargains with yourself as to what your needs, wants, and not-so-needs-or-wants are. Make lists of each. You’d be surprised how much you would happily give up and not notice.