The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, May 07, 2007

Fitness versus Health

Athleticism versus Health

Over on the Lifewriting forum, the following comment was posted:
“I have spoken to two people who have very little body fat (concerning Intermittent Fasting). One is 5'1" tall and weighs less than 100 pounds. The other is maybe 5' 3" and weighs about 105. They are very athletic women; ten mile runs are not unusual for either of them. Both of them have told me that they cannot function if they do not eat several times a day. They cease to be able to think clearly and their strength and stamina plummett quickly if they do not eat when they feel the need.

This makes me feel that IF may well be a very different proposition for people with little or no natural reserves of energy in their bodies.”
Excuse me, but there is little “natural” about this. Honestly, it sounds like a form of “Athletic Anorexia” where people are trained to such a razor’s edge that they are only functional within a very narrow range of behaviors and circumstances. I wonder how often these ladies get colds.

It is one thing to say that I.F. doesn’t sound like fun, or that it is insufficiently interesting. But when someone says they CAN’T function without eating every few hours, that doesn’t sound healthy at all. Exactly what natural human pattern does that follow? If you HAVE to eat every few hours, or your mental processes fall apart, that would make it mighty difficult to either hunt or gather. You’d be dead pretty quickly.

Now, athletes, especially professionals, walk the razor’s edge of performance constantly, as any fractional advantage can make the difference between Gold and Silver, or between contracts worth millions and those worth tens of millions. I get it. But Fitness is the ability to perform given tasks to a given standard: strength, speed, power, precision, etc.

Health, on the other hand, is another matter. It is waking up feeling great. Sleeping soundly. Rarely getting sick. A healthy sex drive. Clear skin and bright eyes. Plenty of energy for your life, energy so infectious that other people “light up” when they are around you. Do not confuse Fitness and Health—they overlap, but are different things.

And here, frankly, is where the “Fat Liberation” folks have a point. Too skinny is as bad as too fat. Frankly, I think that the idea of maximizing secondary sexual characteristics ain’t bad, but you can take that one too far, as well (note plastic surgery and gigantic breasts among strippers, for instance. Yucka.) So common sense has to come into it.
## is a website offering a free “Warrior Diet” style approach to I.F.

That is, you fast until 5 pm every day, and eat in a five-hour window. Written by a medical doctor, this PDF download is pretty interesting, and might help fill in some gaps for those looking into the I.F. phenomenon.

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