The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, June 30, 2008

On weight and conscious humanity

Marty S. took exception to my comment that the older generation has to die off before certain social change will take place. Yeah, I know there are exceptions, but in general, attitudes frozen in place before puberty are hellaceosly hard to change. In terms of things like racial images in film (which I see as a litmus test for social attitudes in general) I've been asked hundreds of times what people can do to change the world in this way. Frankly, I get tired of trying to inform people why Indentured Servitude wasn't the same as slavery, or why sexual images matter. I am no longer interested in changing people's minds if they won't meet me half-way. But that hardly means I am pessimistic. Quite optimistic, in fact, and feel that when more of the white males born before 1950 are dead, the problem will take care of itself. If that sounds harsh, sorry about that--I mean you no ill will, and wish you and your family long life. But death comes to all, and in this context, I won't shed a tear.


I'll dig to try to find those stats about Japan and obesity. A clue: people don't pass laws without the perception of a problem.


I want to address the "fat" thing again, after reading the review of Wall-E posted by Nancy. I look at this issue a lot because it is a perfect example of the way human beings warp reality, twist physics and ignore data to protect their egos. We ALL do this--but we do this in different arenas. I can't point the finger, for Christ sakes: I hang my bleeding psychic laundry out in public view every damned day, and anyone who thinks I think I'm above this stuff hasn't been reading.

So the following comments are not, in any way, intended to say that fat people are less than anyone else: less moral, less intelligent, less worthy as human beings. It is intended to say that their particular wounds "cluster" in a particular quadrant of human consciousness.

The review complained that Wall-E was not "Fat positive." I completely understand why the ego of a person dealing with this issue would want this. But norming something socially isn't the same as making it positive. You can remove the social stigma to, say, illegitimacy, without diminishing the damage it does to the children, or to society, to grow up without a stable family. Norm away.

A "dis-ease" is something that diminishes functioning of organs, social interactions, psychlogical health, relationships, whatever. By almost any medical standard, anything that decreases life span, decreases energy, decreases function, would be a "dis-ease." And obesity certainly fits into this category. The problem is that obesity arises from some very positive genetic predilections:

1) To eat as much as possible when food is available

2) To expend no more calories than are necessary to survive.

For hunter-gatherers, this is great. For people living in an industrial society, these twin tendencies have become lethal. Human beings have NEVER had to expend so few calories of effort to earn a calorie of fat, protein, or sugar. Anyone who thinks that the explosion of obesity is genetic rather than environmental isn't paying attention to what happens as we move toward a post-industrial/information-age society...or as that happens anywhere in the world. People get fatter.

The very worst cases in my experience are those whose ancestors lived very physical lives. In the Pacific Northwest, where I lived for ten years, I knew a lot of VERY fat people. Their fathers and grandfathers were lean and muscular--I saw the pictures. They were also lumberjacks, one of the most grueling and dangerous professions in the world. What happened? The mills came in, people got desk jobs...but they ATE like they learned to eat as children. And got fat. Simple. That corresponds to physics, biology, psychology, and family dynamics.

I've heard the same story from people who live in farming communities. Instead of working from dawn til' dusk, people take desk jobs...but eat the same way. What the hell do YOU think is going to happen?


Now then. Does this mean there are not people with slower metabolisms than other people? Hell, yes! Everyone who ever played team sports knows that on a team everyone can do the same workout, eat at the same training table, rise and bed at the same hours...and have differing levels of body fat. This is a reality. But acknowleging this truth isn't the same as saying "I can't lose weight" or "it's my genetics." Everyone has a mixed bag of positive and negative characteristics: more intelligence, less grace, more compassion for others, less understanding of self. This is just the stuff we're given at birth, and we have to deal with it.

Is it wrong for society to stigmatize the obese? Define your terms. Should we stigmatize alcoholics? Unwed mothers? Cigarette smokers? People who don't pay their bills? The homeless? All of these things are combinations of biological and psychological factors, with differing levels of personal responsibility involved. In a spiritual world, we would see that all of these deserve our total compassion. In the real world, societies attach pain to behaviors that are damaging (or are perceived to be damaging) to the society. The cruelty of children toward the "Other" is legendary. And part of that is the driving fear of being just like whatever "geek" they are taunting, chasing, beating up, mocking, or shunning. Terrible, and damned near universal.

I have lost many friends to obesity-related illnesses, and I've run out of bullshit on this issue. I will not be politically correct while people are dying.

1) No one's body disobeys the laws of physics. I have literally heard this from overweight people, and it is heart-breaking. These people are smart, good, as moral as anyone else...and flat-out lying to themselves. The lesson is NOT that fat people lie to themselves more than thin ones. Rather, it is that we lie to ourselves to protect from the pain of existence, and then beg our friends and families to cooperate with the lies. We bend reality to fit our emotional needs. When you hear a fat person doing this, ask yourself where in your own life you have done EXACTLY the same thing. Trust me. You have.

2) It doesn't take "hours a day" to work out. Jesus, what a crock of shit this is. It is based on ignorance (you stopped learning about your body after your last High School Phys Ed class) and fear (I don't want to do it, so will exaggerate the time involved so people will get off my @#$## back.) Where pure fitness is involved, no one can work out intensely for more than about 45 minutes--after that, GH release diminishe, and unless you are on steroids, diminishing returns sets in FAST. What is the actual minimum expenditure of time for a serious result? Including warm-up, less than 30 minutes. There are plenty of damned fine workouts taking no more than 15 minutes a day, requiring no more than body-weight and a willingness to be consistent.

3) Weight loss efforts MUST involve BOTH exercise and dietary modification. What people do is do one OR the other, and then fail, and say "see? I can't lose!" Weight is a two-headed snake. If you don't handle both ends, the other head will bite you in the ass. A pound of fat is 3500 calories. An hour of treadmill burns maybe 500-700 calories if you half-kill yourself. Do the math.

4) Don't try to lose more than 2 pounds a week, max. Trying one of these dreadful "lose a pound a day!" programs is just playing into the lie.

5) Diets don't work. Any eating pattern you are planning to abandon down the road is just setting yourself up for failure. Lifestyle changes work.

6) Your ego will kill you to protect itself. This is a nasty one. By the time you identify with a bulky body and think it is "you" you MUST change your self-image to be able to lose that weight. Visualization, therapy, hypnosis, etc cn be mighty allies.

7) Your social networks will support you staying exactly where the #$%! you are. Try losing weight and have your friends start inviting you to fondue parties. It is bizarre, and predictable. You may have to leave your social network if they have "normed" your negative behaviors.

8)You're going to get negative shit from society. Get over it. It isn't fair. It isn't "right.' We should fight to have compassion--without norming the damaging behavior. People who have to chose between being depressed and being obese pretty understandably choose being obese. I would. BUT YOU DON'T HAVE TO CHOOSE. It isn't a binary universe. The fact is that the average person DOES live as if such choices are inevitable. The average person, given the genetics and social environment of an obese person, would probably be obese. That's part of the reason they give you shit--they're afraid of becoming you, and so anchor pain to that thought by being cruel. There's no excuse for such behavior, but there are reasons. Don't EVER attach your life results to whether other people change or not. I might have a goal of "writing and producing movies" that are partially based upon the behavior of others. But that is not a primary goal. My primary goal is to complete myself in my lifetime, to be happy, healthy, balanced and loved. And society has very little to say about that: my REACTION to society does. Children think they can't be happy unless they are loved. Adults should know better. We all resist growing up. We want to be children with the privileges of adults. It doesn't work.

9) There are no unrealistic goals. Just unrealistic time frames. It will usually take you less time to lose the weight than it took to put it on. But human impatience is a terrible thing.

10) Our bodies, like our finances and relationships, reflect our actions, beliefs, values, and positive/negative emotional anchors. We HATE this. We want people to look at us and see our spiritual essence, as if it is divorced from the reality of temporal existence. We desperately want to define ourselves by our ego-images rather than our behaviors. And become angry and afraid when people judge us as we judge them...and ourselves. One of the harshest moments in any lecture or class I give is when I say that people should be attracted to themselves, physically. When they strip and look in the mirror, they should want to screw their own brains out. They know EXACTLY what I mean, but will blame society, heterosexuality, or whatever for their inability to find themselves lusty. They want, in other words, other people to find them more attractive than they find themselves. Life doesn't work like this. If you want a relationship with someone who is healthier than you physically, you can have it--if you are healthier than them emotionally. Or have greater financial resources (this works REALLY well for guys). But there is no cheating, and no way around it. You just cannot attract and hold someone above your own energetic level. Either compensate in another arena, or make your peace with it. If you want others to see your "inner essence" but aren't satisfied with those who are attracted to you, who are you trying to kid?


The most important thing, that I want to say again, is that in no way, shape or form have I seen the obese to be any less than other human beings. But unfortunately, they are like alcoholics who wear vests made of whiskey bottles. We KNOW they are out of balance, whereas many of us can hide our flaws, our wounds, our inabilities to cope with the changing world or the disappointments of our childhoods. That's the only real difference. They cannot hide.

Ultimately, none of us can. Ultimately, there is no world "out there." There is just us, and our illusions about our existence. I am totally unattracted to fat bodies, but have been VERY attracted to some ladies who were fat. They were trapped in fortresses designed to protect them from childhood trauma, struggled against it, and often failed...but kept trying. And I loved them, and found them desirable. When you feel sorry for a fat person, feel sorry for yourself--where in the hell do you hide YOUR pain? Where do YOUR lies fuck you over? How do YOU distort your understanding of the physics and metaphysics of reality to protect your ego? Unless you can see the universal humanity in each and every one of them, you are kidding yourself, shielding yourself from the pain of real discovery: inside every cloak of flesh is the same spark of humanity that exists deep within us, the same sacred signal distorted by a different type of static, unique to that person's experience.

Do NOT support people in their lies and think you can tell yourself the truth. And the biggest lie is that there is some essential difference between the fat and the thin. If there was, they wouldn't scare us so damned much

We're all together in this, but walk alone. We're all alone in this, together.


Dan Moran said...


Of course, if you're prone to depression, some one telling you you're a failure (moral or otherwise) because you're overweight is not going to help.

1. I'm not trying to help others; I'm trying to help my children.

2. Obesity is a failing; it doesn't make you a "failure" unless you think it does. I have a variety of failings in my life -- but I'm a successful guy.


Some people are heavy because they overeat and some people are heavy because that's the way nature made them. When all the adult siblings of a family have the same obese build, even the one who became a vegetarian, and you eat with these people and they don't eat anymore than the normal weight people at the table you have to conclude they have a genetic problem.

OK. That just means it's harder for them to stay healthy, not that it can't be done.

My 3 sisters were all over 200 pounds at one time or another: they're fat. My father was 300 pounds and had a near-fatal heart attack at 44 that changed his life forever; he was fat.

Me, I'm 215 -- about 25 pounds overweight. I play basketball with adults every week and play with my sons 2-3 times a week and I lift weights a couple times a week and exercise almost every day and I try to watch what I eat and blah blah blah ... and I'm 25 pounds overweight. I know it's hard, but there aren't any excuses I'm personally willing to listen to in this area. People are trying to stay healthy or they're not, and most obese people aren't trying, not even to the point of getting off the couch and walking a few miles a day.

There are a small %, and it's a small %, of people who are so ill they really can't exercise. Without exercise it's brutally hard to lose weight, so I have some sympathy there. But the rest of the world ... not so much. If the potato chips are more important than the ability to go play ball with your sons ... man, that's just brutally sad. I go to the park with my sons and we play ball -- I can't help but think of my own father. He had an image in his head of me and him playing ball together -- baseball, he was a baseball guy -- but by the time I was old enough to play, his health wouldn't permit it. So I treasure my time with my sons -- if anything good came out of that experience with my own dad, it's the awareness that none of this is guaranteed. You have to work for it, and it's worth working for.


Your social networks will support you staying exactly where the #$%! you are.

Truer words. It's frightening when people make successful changes in their lives ... and you didn't. Is "X" really so much better than me? Well, maybe ... I've been on both sides of that equation in my life, leaving behind the peer group, and watching members of my various peer groups outstrip me. Both are hard ... but the second is harder.

Pat Logan said...

This is one of your best posts ever, Steve.

Kami said...

I'm not trying to say anything about 'the one who became a vegetarian' because I don't know those people. I do know about some other people.

The family I know is all overweight. They're all also vegetarians. They eat vegetarian potato chips and vegetarian white bread and vegetarian cookies and vegetarian ice cream and ... you get the picture. Yes they have some healthy meals in there but it doesn't compensate for the massive amounts of fast carbs they eat. They also don't exercise. Vegetarian does not equal healthy.

Also, lots of people, myself included, feel deprived if they don't have a plate of food that looks like the quantities delivered at a restaurant. This horse has been beaten to death but people still don't get it. I eat most or not all of a restaurant meal, and sometimes I even get dessert. Real portions that sustain health and life beautifully just fine thank you very much? Tiny by comparison. Bless my friend Roz for showing me. I'm still working on portion stuff but my gawds, I had no idea until I started eating with her at restaurants that she often gets three meals out of her order. Some of the healthier restaurants, she just divides her order in half and takes the other half home. Others she eats slowly and enjoys while the rest of us are wolfing like we're starving and takes most of her plate home, where she enjoys a nice lunch and dinner the next day from it. She's hugely helped by being single (and older/experienced with how her body works) because she can prepare exactly what she needs to limit leftovers (which become the eat before it goes to waste guilt thing, not to mention it's easy--you can eat it without thinking about it) and she doesn't have anyone eating easy-access junk just within reach of her.

I love living in a safe, food-plenty environment but that means I have to work very hard not to eat the way my body insists that I eat. And it's hard to get off the couch. Anyone else have exercise equipment collecting dust? (Raises own hand) I ended up getting a fitness club membership. The $$ amount gets me out the door. I paid for it, I'm darned well going to use it. But that doesn't work for a lot of people either.

It's tough! But not impossible. I try not to say "I can't." I can go work out, even right now. I won't because it's inconvenient and I want to play online. That puts my choice right in front of my face.

Scott Masterton said...


The point you make about a vegetarian diet is good one (I've been a vegetarian for 10 years); Beer and chips is a vegetarian meal.

I have to agree with Pat Logan on this too Steve, this is one of your best.


suzanne said...

I liked it too, Steve!

Josh Jasper said...

Anyone other than me remember Fen-Fen? It killed people too. People will literally kill themselves to avoid being fat because they're ashamed of being just a few pounds over a weight standard that was set up for the "Average" American.

"Overweight" is not a standard designed on an individual basis. Dan, how do you know exactly what "overweight" is for your age, build and genetics?

What would you do if you found your child was bulimic, and doing so to stay "thin"?

Americans have a messed up relationship with food.

Mike Ralls said...

>People will literally kill themselves to avoid being fat<

And far far more people, both in percentage and absolute terms, literally kill themselves by being fat.

Finding out if your overweight is really not that hard. Get your body fat checked out and then check a chart

Just because some people die by drinking too much water doesn't mean that people shouldn't drink water.

Dan Moran said...


"Overweight" is not a standard designed on an individual basis. Dan, how do you know exactly what "overweight" is for your age, build and genetics?

I don't need "exactly," I just need my mirror and my knees. A few years back I was 195 -- I've put on 20 pounds since then. I looked and felt better at 195, let me tell you.

What would you do if you found your child was bulimic, and doing so to stay "thin"?

Encourage the child to eat.

Americans have a messed up relationship with food.

And relationships, and sex, and money, and so forth. Not an excuse to stop trying.

Look, failure is a basic part of life. Everyone fails at some things (or a lot of things.) As far as I can tell, the main difference between successful and unsuccessful people is this: successful people fail less often, and they use their failures as an opportunity to learn and recommit. (Resulting in their failing less often...)

I have two pieces of artwork I treasure. I'll scan them and put them up on my blog for other people to enjoy -- my kids made them, based on things I've been saying to them for years:

One was done in crayon by my then 7 year old son. "Never ever quit."

The other one is a big poster made by my daughters, done with markers when they were 10 & 12 -- picture of a basketball hoop with the words: "You miss 100% of the shots you never take."

Failure is not death (usually) ... but it is unpleasant. It's supposed to be, so that people will change their conduct.

Marty S said...

All you guys maybe right, but given my personal experience I still have trouble buying it. Before puberty my doctor considered me underweight. I was very active and played a lot of ball. Then I went through puberty. I continued to eat the same types of food and quantities as before and continued to be as active as before, but in a year's time I put on forty pounds and the doctor was urging my mother to put me on a diet. The only thing that had changed was my body chemistry.

Kami said...

The thing about bulimia and anorexia nervosa (my cousin is suffering from bulimia and although she's made great strides it will probably kill her--it's a fatal disease) is that it is a way to control or in this case overcontrol herself due to an impulse caused by mental illness. I guess it's possible that some folks who are morbidly obese also have severe emotional problems but I think a lot of the general run-of-the-mill weight problems stem from the food-a-plenty environment combined with the feast/famine metabolism of the hunter-gatherer bodies we inherited. I don't believe that being overweight has as much to do with mental illness as bulimia, anorexia nervosa and related illnesses do.

As far as fen-phen, using a product that later turns out to weaken your heart valves isn't a sign of a toxic social environment. It's a sign of people looking for quick and easy fixes (pills) to replace eating less and moving more. The pharmaceutical companies will fill in for demand as best they can because that's how they make money. It's up to the individual to measure whether drugs (which can be used under the proper guidance of a physician) and their potential side effects are truly easier, or if you're just signing up for different health problems and a dependency on pharmaceuticals rather than changing your life habits. Changing habits is hard. I know! As I told my teenaged son the other day, I had to change so much about myself when I became a mother. No matter how sick, how tired, how anything I was, if he cried I had to get up and take care of him 24/7. I changed to be a good parent, and became a better human being. It's too bad our own bodies don't act like babies or it would be much easier to change. I don't think I'd ever overeat again if, every time I went for a second helping of cheesecake or started snooping around the fridge because I'm bored, my body started crying!

Steve Perry said...

Excellent, Barnes.

Listen, people, we aren't talking rocket science here.

Go look in the mirror. If you can grab a handful of flab at your waist, under your arm, or anywhere else, you are carrying too much excess fat. With it, it is possible to be aerobically fit and healthy, but much more difficult.

Some is good. A handful or more is not.

Here's the secret to losing it:

1) Eat less.
2) Exercise more.

If you don't want to, don't. It's your choice, but you probably won't get a free pass from folks who have gone down that road and who know what it takes to walk it.

Wall-e's point was well made and perfectly valid. If you don't like it, too bad. Sometimes the truth isn't pretty.

Christian M. Howell said...

As a former Seattle denizen, I can affirm that even though it was quoted that Washingtonians exercise more they are naturally fatter, especially because there is no actual "summertime" so that winter-office fat jst keeps building.

You're right that a lifestyle change is necessary. The "Subway diet" doesn't build muscle so the fat will come back.

I found the greatest exercise for office workers. Get some wrist weights and wear them all day while doing front arm raises every hour or so.

I lost 30 lbs in 3 months and it hasn't come back 5 years later. But things like walking instead of driving (that maybe easier with gas prices); not sitting for 4 hours straight; eating fruit rather than donuts; make the same meal and eat twice, etc.

But Bill Maher told a funny joke once about all of the "pill-poppers"

"So ask your doctor if getting off your ass is right for you."

WALL-E is a distinct possibility when even skinny people have high fat content.

The problem is that corporations are not doing enough to ensure that people have that "actual" hour to work out. Microsoft did at least offer a gym membership. Most companies don't.

The next problem is that people think they can skip the weight training and do aerobics (can anyone say Jack LaLane).

The problem will get worse as more things are automated in manufacturing (I know as I design automation).

In terms of the idea that pre 1950s white men are the problem is slightly short-sighted. The problem is that lazy people actually WISH they could treat minorities as if it was 1830. That way they can be lazier and not worry about actually competing for jobs.

THEY ARE THE PROBLEM. Perhaps they are the people who "aren't ready to vote for a black man."

Steven Barnes said...

I really don't think it's short-sighted (obviously, or I wouldn't have said it). The 60's introduced the idea of equality, but those who had grown up pre-integration had much to protect, and a lifetime of justifications and actions to answer for. Their kids could walk away from it: "I didn't do that shit." They watch integrated movies, listen to black music, love black athletes, and have been told by their parents to treat people as equals. It is harder than hell to change a pattern imprinted before puberty. Kids are just more flexible, and grow up these days with far more familiarity with black culture...and black people. The same level of problem just isn't there. Their parents are more rigid, and their grandparents more rigid still. All stats I've seen suggest that the older people are, the more likely they are to harbor such attitudes. That was just the world then. I'm sorry to sound harsh, but I'm just not interested in trying to change minds once they've been set in concrete.

Steven Barnes said...

Oh--and Jack LaLane was a bodybuilder. Guy was RIPPED at his peak! He actually believed in body-weight exercise, not just "aerobics." And body-weight exercises are brutally efficient. Fifteen minutes of Hindu Squats and Hindu pushups would collapse most weight-trainers in a pool of sweat. They are super-efficient at cutting weight, because the lighter the body is, the easier they are--and the body likes things easy. With weight training, being HEAVIER actually helps you lift.

Marty S said...

The exception that proves the rule: In my Bronx neighborhood the biggest sports argument among us kids was whether Mays, or Mantle was the greatest.

Brian Dunbar said...

Christian M. Howell
The problem is that corporations are not doing enough to ensure that people have that "actual" hour to work out. Microsoft did at least offer a gym membership. Most companies don't.

That's lame thinking. Very few people must work sixteen hour days. If you've got time at night to watch television, you've got time to exercise.

Now - if all you do when you get done with your 20-hour day at the coal mine is to crawl home, eat some gruel and collapse on your pallet, I'd buy the argument 'they're not doing enough'.

Otherwise it's a BS excuse and sloppy time management.

Mike Ralls said...

Hey Steve,

I'm not a mystical person and most of the time when you get to talking mystical I mentally translate it into science terms, but one of the reasons I don't have much problem doing this is just how full of awe we should be when looking at the universe in purely scientific terms.

In that light, there was a recent study that suggests that the universe may not exist when we are not looking at it. You might find it interesting;

"Some physicists still find quantum mechanics unpalatable, if not unbelievable, because of what it implies about the world beyond our senses. The theory's mathematics is simple enough to be taught to undergraduates, but the physical implications of that mathematics give rise to deep philosophical questions that remain unresolved. Quantum mechanics fundamentally concerns the way in which we observers connect to the universe we observe. The theory implies that when we measure particles and atoms, at least one of two long-held physical principles is untenable: Distant events do not affect one other, and properties we wish to observe exist before our measurements. One of these, locality or realism, must be fundamentally incorrect."

"Most of us would agree that there exists a world outside our minds. At the classical level of our perceptions, this belief is almost certainly correct. If your couch is blue, you will observe it as such whether drunk, in high spirits, or depressed; the color is surely independent of the majority of your mental states. If you discovered your couch were suddenly red, you could be sure there was a cause. The classical world is real, and not only in your head. Solipsism hasn't really been a viable philosophical doctrine for decades, if not centuries.

But none of us perceives the world as it exists fundamentally. We do not observe the tiniest bits of matter, nor the forces that move them, individually through our senses. We evolved to experience the world in bulk, our faculties registering the net effect of trillions upon trillions of particles or atoms moving in concert. We are crude measurers. So divorced are we from the activity beneath our experience that physicists became relatively assured of the existence of atoms only about a century ago.

Physicists attribute a fundamental reality to what they do not directly perceive. Particles and atoms have observable effects that are well described by theories like quantum mechanics. Single atoms have been "seen" in measurements and presumably exist whether or not we observe them individually. The properties that define particles—mass, spin, etc.—are also thought to exist before we measure them. In physics this is how reality is defined; particles and atoms have measurable properties that exist prior to measurement. This is nothing stranger than your blue couch.

As a physical example, light consists of particles known as photons that each have a property called polarization. Measuring polarization is usually something like telling time; the property can be thought of like the direction of a second hand on a clock. For unpolarized light, the second hand can face any direction as with a normal clock; for polarized light the hand will face in only one or a few directions, as if the clock were broken. That photons can be polarized is, in fact, what allows some sunglasses to eliminate glare—the glasses block certain polarizations and let others through. In Vienna the polarization of light is also being used to test reality.

For a few months in 2006, Simon Gröblacher, who had started his PhD not long before, spent his Saturdays testing realism. Time in the labs at the IQOQI is precious, and during the week other experiments with priority were already underway. Zeilinger and the rest of their collaborators weren't too worried that this kind of experiment would get scooped. They were content to let Gröblacher test reality in the lab's spare time. . . "

Man, the world is just awesome;

Chavo said...

Great post Steve. The biggest thing that I find helpfell is what people are calling 'gene expression'...which is that we aren't NEARLY as metabolically 'set' as we think we are. Mark Sisson has good things to say about that.

There's another related piece I'll link to here, which is from RObb Wolf, on Yo-yo dieting.

Really enjoying the blog.

Christian M. Howell said...

I really don't think it's short-sighted (obviously, or I wouldn't have said it).

I don't disagree that the farther you go back, the more radical the "social climate" will become isn't true, but a lot of our problems are our own fault.

WE sold out to illiterate rappers. WE allow ourselves to be "sports-slaves." WE decided that the "thug mentality" is the way forward, so even if everyone from pre-1950s died, it wouldn't change our communities. WE have to change our communities. It's 2008 and we shouldn't have the "role models" we have.

I live in Brooklyn and I don't see any effect from old white men. Again, I agree that older people were able to be more openly racist, but technology has made even white factory workers jaded with the "black people didn't do it" mentality.

Christian M. Howell said...

That's lame thinking. Very few people must work sixteen hour days. If you've got time at night to watch television, you've got time to exercise.

Now - if all you do when you get done with your 20-hour day at the coal mine is to crawl home, eat some gruel and collapse on your pallet, I'd buy the argument 'they're not doing enough'.

Otherwise it's a BS excuse and sloppy time management.

I'm not saying that your company has to make sure you can workout, but I know when I get home from work, I'm not ready to do anything.

Most people do need to feel that people are behind their efforts as Steven pointed out, so companies SHOULD help their employees. After all, if they die they can't work anymore.

The onus is of course on each individual but "moral support" is a strong factor in a large society.

As far as time, I spend around 13 hours between work time and commute, so that leaves 11. A good night's sleep loses you eight more. Now you have 3 hours to do chores, shower, eat, run errands, etc so the average commuter may have 30 minutes to attempt to have a life, including exercise.

If you burn out, then it's not advantageous.

Steven, I know Jack LaLane was a body builder but he nearly pioneered dynamic tension as a weight training exercise and was doing extended arm push-ups in his 70s. that's overall conditioning.

I'm not familiar with the regimens you spoke of, but something that would "take out" a weight lifter would not work at all for a person who has never exercised before.

The best exercise for office workers is front arm lifts wearing weights. it can be done at the desk or on the subway.

Americans are lazy as all get out, but we definitely need the corporations to help.

Anonymous said...

"I'm not saying that your company has to make sure you can workout, but I know when I get home from work, I'm not ready to do anything."

While I like working out, I find it hard to drag myself to the gym if I go home first and settle in. The solution to this problem is very simple. Work out after work, before you go home. My wife used to get up early and work out before work, though that solution isn't my cup of tea. Corporations have little or nothing to do with this situation - self-employed people may face even greater barriers to working out, since they are the boss, and the prosperity of their business rest entirely on their work. Many self-employed people work from home too, so they already face the "entropy related to being at home already" problem.


Chavo said...

Wow, first time and I'm going twice...

The comodification of fitness is part of the issue here. You don't need a gym, you don't need much time, you don't need any equipment. While I am disciplined in this regard, it is easy for me to get in my half hour to 45 minutes six days a week...but it takes discipline. Like everything else we do or do not, it's a choice that has to be made. You can choose to make that choice each day, or you can choose to make it ONCE. Make the choice right now, make the commitment now, that you will give yourself fifteen minutes a day every day of movement for your health and sanity. This can be what I see Steve talking about with the Five Tibetans, this can be push ups, air squats, whatever. Just start. Start at five minutes a day. Get to fifteen. Split it up! Do five minutes in the morning, at lunch, when you get home.

Everything is hard until it becomes habit. Then it is only hard when you can't...

Steve Perry said...

"The best exercise for office workers is front arm lifts wearing weights. it can be done at the desk or on the subway."

With all due respect, Christian, not so. Front arm lifts with light weights doesn't work any major muscle group, what it mostly works is deltoids, a little arm and body stabilizers, but it won't strengthen anything else, nor will it help your heart or lungs.

The best exercises for office workers are the same as for anybody else -- you simply can't do most of them sitting at a desk, you have to get up and move.

If you want aerobic fitness, you have to get your heart rate and breathing up and keep it there for a time.

If you are looking for stronger muscles, you have to use some kinds of resistance -- can be rubber bands or bodyweight or iron, but you have to increase the intensity over time -- the amounts or number of repetitions, or both.

If don't work up a sweat and you think you are getting fit, you are fooling yourself.

It's not your boss's job to provide time and space for you to work out, it's yours. If you carry that it's-good-for-the-company logic forward, then they should also make you stop smoking, drinking, eating too much, staying up late, and anything else that might make you miss work. Including riding the subway, where you might get mugged ...

This goes to the personal responsibility meme: If you are healthy and don't have any medical condition that prevents it, staying in shape is a personal choice. You own it; nobody else does.

Christian M. Howell said...

With all due respect, Christian, not so. Front arm lifts with light weights doesn't work any major muscle group, what it mostly works is deltoids, a little arm and body stabilizers, but it won't strengthen anything else, nor will it help your heart or lungs.

I'm speaking from EXPERIENCE. I was a football player and Airborne paratrooper so my workout had to be more intense than anything.

I did that for 3 months and LOST AND KEPT OFF 30 lbs.

It's not a weight training exercise, it's more aerobic. It works out the midsection where most people have the problem.

I'm not talking about 20 lbs, just one or two. I got up to 5(2.5 x 2) lbs on my wrists and 7 on my ankles.

Steve Perry said...

Your experience notwithstanding, I'm talking from HUMAN PHYSIOLOGY, and you'll have to excuse me if I'm skeptical here. Lifting your arms works your abs how, exactly? Given the origins and insertions of those, not if you are from planet they don't.

When I lift my arms to the front -- speaking from experience -- the only muscles remotely tense are in the arms and front deltoids. If i stick 'em out the to sides, I can get a little trap activation and some middle deltoid. That's it.

If you can work major muscle groups doing this, including your abs, you aren't built like the rest of us.

Steve Perry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve Perry said...

Addendum: I'm not calling you a liar, Christian. I believe you did the exercises and I believe you lost the weight. I just don't think one was entirely responsible for the other. Without some change in diet or exercise other than that, walking around with pansy weights on your wrists?

Here's a numbers game:

In theory, you have to reduce your intake by (or burn) about 3500 calories to lose a pound. Varies a bit, according to your weight and muscularity, but call it that.

Light weightlifting, you burn, if you weigh 190 lbs., about 260 calories/hour. I don't think wrist weights would qualify as weightlifting, but for the sake of argument, just for walking around with them on and all, and doing the arm-raises for a few minutes every hour, call it equal to an hour's worth of light weightlifting every day.

So, if you don't change anything else, exercise or diet-wise, then it would take almost two weeks to lose one pound. A hair over two pounds a month.

To lose thirty pounds, fifteen months.

Just sayin'.

Marty S said...

All these weight loss and calorie numbers, I believe are typical numbers and don't apply to all people. My understanding is that you can have two people the same weight and one can need 2000 calories a day to maintain that weight and another 2500. This makes a big difference in what they need to do to lose a given amount of weight. If they each want to lose one pound a week the first person needs to cut their food intake by 25% while the second has to cut it by only 20%. If the difference is due to their body's efficiency in using fat then presumably if they used exercise to lose that pound the first person would have to do the same exercise 25% longer to lose the same weight.
As a white person I undoubtably don't fully understand what it means to be black, but the same thing goes with people who have a weight problem and those who don't. I have a weight problem, but when I go out to dinner I rarely order an appetiser. As diabetic I almost never have dessert and I often don't finish my food. Sometimes I even have enough to bring home for a lunch.

Steve Perry said...

Marty --

All things -- and people -- are never equal, and, yes, those were averages.

Sure, some metabolisms will burn stuff slower or faster. Physics and chemistry, however, can't be denied. Somebody might have to eat less and work out more to get the same benefits as the "average" person, but there's just no getting past the laws of thermodynamics here. If you want to lose (or gain) weight, diet and exercise are still the core principles.

The idea that somebody can eat one cookie on Monday, nothing else all week, and gain weight by Friday just doesn't work in this universe.

You can't burn more than you take in and sustain the same amount of mass. It doesn't work that way.

The number of people with serious metabolic problems that will at least partially explain obesity is simply too small to account for the number of people who are obese.

If you are an endomorph from a family of them, then you have to deal with a genetic predisposition, sure enough, but the equation is always the same: More exercise and less food is how to lose weight. How much more and less can vary, but because Momma and Daddy were fat doesn't give you a free pass. I know a lot of folks who are skinny who have tubby children, too ...

I'm not talking about the reasons people overeat, nor castigating anybody who does so; I'm saying that the Buddhist path, somewhat rejiggered, is the solution: Obesity exists in the world. There is a way to overcome it. The way can be learned, and it is the twofold path: Diet and exercise.

If there are physical or psychological reasons one cannot easily travel this road, that's one thing, but it doesn't change the path ...

Pagan Topologist said...

Steve Perry, I am a bit overweight, but I don't think I have any genetic tendencies in that direction. But the thermodynamic analysis leaves out one logically possible outcome: Maybe someones metabolism is such that she or he will die rather than lose much weight, if the food/exercise equation is pushed to the point where weight loss could be expected.

Steve Perry said...

Pagan --

I will stipulate that it is possible that a person could have such a screwed up metabolism that getting rid of excess weight would be much harder than it would for most people.

But you can't run an internal combustion engine car if the gas tank is empty. The psychological importance of food is huge, but it's not the same as the physical importance.

Possible. But -- how likely is it that a pathological metabolic factor is the cause for one person in three in the U.S. being obese? You are talking about a hundred million people, more or less, carrying more than thirty percent of their bodyweight in excess fat. That's the minimum for the diagnosis.

Last time I saw a research piece on it, been a while, rare hormonal or other metabolic factors accounted for >2% of obesity cases. Drug interactions were worth another point or two.

But that is the excuse a lot of seriously overweight folks grab at. Not my fault, they say. It's genetic. Or hormonal.

95-96% of them can't use those excuses.

Rationalization is a powerful thing. Recall the line in the movie, The Big Chill, wherein Jeff Goldblum's character says it's more important than sex. When, he asks, is the last time you went a week without a rationalization ... ?

Obesity exists because, in our culture, food is easy to come by compared to how it used to be. Physical labor isn't necessary for most people to survive. People eat too much and they don't exercise enough. Over fifteen or twenty years, they bulk up, and when, after two months on a diet, they don't see major weight losses, they get discouraged and give up. Homeostasis is powerful. It takes a while to reset.

PBS did a special on a British kid a while back, he was over four hundred pounds. At one point, after showing his candy stash, which was something to see, he interviewed his sister. He said to her during their conversation, "You sound like you think it's my fault I'm so fat."

Her answer was: "Well, yeah, it is!"

Unless you are among the small percentage of folks who can claim legitimate medical problems, if you are obese, it's because you ate too much and didn't exercise enough. Unless somebody held you down and force-fed you, you made choices, and they had consequences. You might feel as if you had good reasons for them, but if you knew overeating would make you fat and you did it anyhow, who else is responsible?

If you want to change it, you have to own it.