Sunday, August 26, 2007

What's your excuse?

Is health used as an excuse to justify extreme self-obsession and what would otherwise be regarded as an obscene level of vanity? What else can explain the smug superiority of those who act like they're doing society a favor by burning calories in hamster-wheel-like activities that accomplish nothing and take them nowhere (well, nothing except to sculpt bodies and make themselves thin).

"Health" has been placed upon a pedestal as the highest virtue; those who do not spend every free moment exercising or counting calories are regarded as sinners who would tear apart the fabric of society. If you are not placing your weight as your highest priority, you're accused of everything from global warming to increased health care costs.

But what if the stated goal of "health", in regards to food restriction and intense exercise, turns out to be invalid? What if deliberately starving yourself and engaging in long hours of extreme physical activity doesn't really make you less of a drain on society than the person who eats normally and engages in mild exercise? Even worse, what if the starving and rigorous exercise actually makes you more likely to have high health care costs in the long run?

If someone has been focusing themselves on intense diet and exercise to become and/or remain thin, it would be a difficult thing for them to accept that their socially acceptable excuse for doing so, "health", is not necessarily the end result. They may reject the idea, because otherwise they would have to admit that their pursuit of a lean body is for their own vanity, not for any greater good.

For someone who is not naturally inclined to be thin, the effort required to become and/or remain that way is immense. The autonomic processes of our bodies are difficult to control, even with the knowledge and medical science available to us today. Our bodies resist attempts to alter its chemical and physical processes. If we are taking a medication on a regular basis, the body adapts and becomes tolerant, requiring higher doses after a period of time. When we starve and become thin, either by choice or not, our bodies cry out and demand sustenance by causing us pain and suffering in order to drive us to find and consume food.

For many years, research has indicated that artificially lowering one's natural weight does not positively impact health or increase longevity. It has, however, been concluded, time and time again, that having adipose tissue has direct health benefits, and that being over the "recommended" weight of most such charts is actually better for longevity.

So what is the real purpose of body sculpting? Aside from those who have been fooled by anti-fat propaganda into thinking that they truly are doing the right thing and becoming healthier, I have to conclude that someone who works to achieve a particular body shape and size is doing so in order to look good for themselves and other people. They're doing it to be attractive, to avoid criticism, and so they can be part of the social elite.

The thing is, these are not good enough reasons for people to act smug and superior to those who choose to spend their energies on other pursuits. Guess what? You like to lift weights and count calories. I like to write, create art, and garden. How about you stop making excuses for what you do, and just admit that you're doing it because it's what you want, because I'm really sick and tired of people acting like they're doing ME a favor by dieting and exercising.

5 comments:

KateHarding said...

*applause*

annaham said...


"Health" has been placed upon a pedestal as the highest virtue; those who do not spend every free moment exercising or counting calories are regarded as sinners who would tear apart the fabric of society. If you are not placing your weight as your highest priority, you're accused of everything from global warming to increased health care costs.


THANK YOU. This post is made of win, by the way.

vesta44 said...

What kate and annaham said. Standing ovation to you for this.

Andee said...

I'm really sick and tired of people acting like they're doing ME a favor by dieting and exercising.

Sing it, Retha. Unless you play for the Mets, and therefore your 20-egg-white breakfast* and gutbusting workout regime will actually make the difference between my team winning and losing, I officially don't give a crap what you eat or don't eat or how much your exercise or don't.

*Ex-Met Julio Franco actually ate this way, and last year, at age 48, he was the oldest major league player ever to hit a home run. That's nice. However, it must be noted that this year, at age 49, he continued to eat egg whites by the ton but sucked ass, and the Mets released him. Now I don't give a rat's ass about his diet either.

Andee (Meowser)

Tari said...

Right on! Personally, I don't think there's anything evil about people who're weight-obsessed (though I pity them in general and mourn all the amazing things they'll never have time to accomplish while spending every spare moment at the gym)...but I think you're spot on - they should own the real reasons they're doing it, whatever they might be.

And, yeah, I think these days, "health" is just another word for "fear." Or maybe "ignorance."