Sunday, March 27, 2011

Diet Advice From The Watery Gourmet

The manifestation of your genetic form is your choice. If you are really fat, you can choose to not be fat. If you are scrawny, you can choose to increase your muscle mass. It might be much harder for you than someone else who is "blessed" with genetics that predispose them to whatever figure that you want. If you want to lose weight, your genetics might necessitate a diet of beans, chicken, and carrots for the rest of your life. Is that fair? No. It's not fair. It sucks. But just because the choice is more difficult for you doesn't mean that the choice doesn't exist.

Previously, I put the word "blessed" in marks because it's not necessarily a blessing. Lots of medical research shows that people who are super-skinny regardless of diet are prone to dying of every malady imaginably, aside from diabetes, than those who are predisposed to weight gain. Being predisposed to extensive muscle growth burns more calories Having a healthy pile of fat on your body makes you more likely to survive extended medical problems. Being fatter keeps you warmer than someone with a BMI of 4. These are legitimate advantages and only get glossed over in our image-conscious popular world.

But back to the concept of choice. Much of how you look is determined by your genes. The extent to which certain aspects of your genes are represented is a choice, though. Again, in our image-conscious world, helped along by a healthy dose of religious moralizing, the opposite of the ascetic existence, one in which we indulge pleasure and taste, is seen as necessarily bad. Think about that. When you eat a slice of cake instead of doing sit-ups, you are making a choice. You are choosing that the pleasure of eating that cake is of higher value to you than not eating the cake and conserving caloric intake.

This is not an inherently bad choice. It is our society that tells you that it's a bad choice. You are being a bad person for indulging your desire for pleasure. It's one of the sins, and was written explicitly by Saint Thomas Aquinas as something to be avoided. We eat to live, we don't live to eat. But why? Why shouldn't we live to eat? It's great! We don't do it because abstinence in all things is the Christian ideal, which gets us closer to God. If you don't happen to believe in the Christian god, then you're hosed, because you're still subject to the social expectations that this ingrained value programming has injected into the zeitgeist.

Problems for people arise when they choose cake and then feel bad about it. They then get sucked into diet scams. I went to Amazon and searched for diet products in the Health and Beauty section. I found over 4,000 items. Certainly not the largest section on Amazon, but remember, NONE of these products have been shown in a reputable study to be any better than simply eating a better diet. That's why they all, I'd wager 100% of them, if they make a claim about weight loss on the packaging, print in absurdly small print a disclaimer saying that this must be combined with an exercise routine. It's a scam. Plain and simple. You might very well have lost weight with these products, but I say with nearly complete certainty that the product had nothing to do with it, it was you and your dedication to a healthier lifestyle. On a funny note, I found the pictured Atkins mix to so resemble a bag of "Atkins Chow" as to warrant a new package design firm.

If you want to be thin, and you can't seem to manage it, you have to move even further towards the ascetic lifestyle of 24/7 salads. You might NEVER be able to eat cake. Cheese, cookies, pastries; they're all right out. But no matter what you tell yourself, you can be thin. Jogging five miles, every day, salads with grilled chicken every day. That doesn't sound like something that I'd like to do, frankly, and if that's what you would need to get thin, then that's unfortunate, but still your choice. You are making the choice to continue eating cake, cheese, and cookies. And that's not bad! If I had to make that choice, I'd pick cake on any day of the week. But I am making the choice explicit and do not regret my choice. I embrace it.

That being said, very few people need to make that choice. Do you have a glandular or hormone problem? No you don't. You're lying to me and to yourself. Alright, yes, some of you certainly do have medical problems that result in your body turning even carrots into fat. People with severe glandular problems make up less than 1% of the population. People with moderate glandular problems and depression included only bring that number up to 1%. That means you are fat because you are making the choice to be fat.

Weight loss is a simple equation of fewer/better calories and more exercise. Every day. You need to integrate it into your life. Going to the gym once or twice a week will DO NOTHING. You need to go every day and make a fundamental shift in your diet. If you can't find anything that is acceptable on a daily basis, then you either need to change your expectations or accept the fact that you are choosing to not lose weight. I've lost nearly 50 pounds from my greatest weight of 260 pounds. I woke up early to make sure I was able to eat a high-fiber breakfast. I made sure to walk or jog multiple miles every day. I stopped drinking sweetened drinks of any kind. I do pushups and pullups randomly throughout the day. I integrated all of this behavior into my day. It stopped being exercise and diet and simply became part of my life. If you can't do that, stop fooling yourself. You'll fail, and then you'll go back to complaining about how you can't keep the weight off.

I have been discussing fat at this point, but many of the same criticisms also apply to those who wish for greater muscular definition but find it hard to achieve. Some people can lift a weight once per day and look like Hercules. Others can lift weights all day long and still only see middling results. These people have it easier than those who are overweight because of our focus on an ascetic ideal, but it can still be difficult for them.

These poor saps are taken for a ride in ways that dieters aren't. Magic pills and powders intended to make you FREAKIN' 'UGE sell for silly amounts of money and usually don't do anything. At least lots of the diet foods out there are still food. It might be terrible food, but it's at least a meal. Pills, powders, shakes, creams, bars, and all of the other things promising you an Arnold-like physique only work with extreme work-outs, and then you don't need them. The difficult part is already done. Just eat chicken and rice.

Our world is an Eden of excess. Our primordial drives don't know what to do with what we've wrought. Food and pleasure is everywhere, so we indulge it. We then feel bad about it. The problem is not the desire, or even the indulging, it's the regret that we as a society feel afterward. We eat like crazy and lie about, then we say that we simply can't avoid it! We say that we'd have those six-pack abs, only if this or that was different. We'd be thin, only if. We'd run every day, only if. All excuses for a choice that you are making but then pretending like you didn't. No. You made the choice, and it's time to stop whining that you did so.

My father has given me a few choice pieces of wisdom. I'd say the one that has had the greatest effect on me is that a loser is not defined by what they have achieved in life, but whether they whine. If you spend all day long complaining, it doesn't matter whether you live under a bridge or in a palace, you're a loser. By rendering the choices we make explicit and taking responsibility for them, we lose the ability to whine and complain, because it was our choice. It is our power. And they are our bodies.

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