Rants

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Chapter / Rule 6 - Do 45 minutes a day of low-intensity cardio, preferably before breakfast

Now, you may be shocked to know that I happen to think this is fantastic advice.  The first half of the sentence anyway.  And the second half works well for me too.

Can't say I recommend walking while doing bicep curls with 3lb weights though.

But not for fat loss.  Don't think of it in those terms.

Waking up and immediately getting moving in the morning is WONDERFUL for me because it's like adding momentum to my day.  If I start my day off by checking facebook and answering emails (which is what I do 9 times out of 10), I end up sitting at my desk until 11 or 12, and god knows by that point it's too late to do anything productive.  Like go grocery shopping, or make that doctor's appointment, or do laundry, or clean or any other number of mundane but critical tasks.

Plus, walking makes me feel AWESOME.  Especially if it's a nice crisp day.  Something about getting that blood moving I guess.  Probably also something to do with walking for 30 minutes a day being the #1 best thing you can do to improve your health in a wide variety of surprising ways.

So yes, walk.  Walk because it will make you feel good.  Whether you do it before breakfast or not is kind of up to you and when you'd like to do it.  Some people find their lunch break to be the perfect time.  Whatever floats your boat, really.

But let's see why Harper wants you to specifically do it before breakfast:

He starts out with some reasoning similar to what I mentioned above.  If you loathe exercise, getting it done earlier in the day may increase your chances of doing it.  But, again, that's all down to personal preference.  If you dread getting up an hour earlier to walk before work, there's a high chance you'll just say "screw it" and hit snooze.  So, again, whatever floats your boat.

Well except for some fancy science Harper wants to throw your way:

"...emerging science on exercise metabolics...suggests that exercise on an empty stomach has a direct link to weight loss in and of itself."

While it does seem that doing low to medium intensity exercise (say, walking) on an empty stomach will increase fat oxidation, it will not increase the number of calories you are burning anymore than if you had just eaten a stack of pancakes.

Just bear in mind, when it comes to losing body fat, the only thing that matters at the end of the day is if you burned more than you took in.

OVERLY SIMPLISTIC EXAMPLE BELOW: 

Let's say that you burned 75 calories of pure, glorious fat on your morning walk because you did it on an empty stomach.  Compare that to burning 75 calories of not-as-visible carbohydrate doing that same amount of walking at the same intensity.

If, at the end of the day, you took in the same calories as you expended, in situation #1, they would go back to refilling your fat stores.  In situation #2, some would be diverted to restoring any lost muscle glycogen.  At the end of the day, you're right back where you started, regardless.

Now, in some people, light exercise like this can dull hunger.  That would probably lead to some weight loss.  Or if you change nothing else and start going for walks 45 minutes a day, you'd probably lose a bit.  You can even find studies that say fasted cardio burns less calories than cardio after a small meal.  Even Harper admits to that:

"I admit that some science also suggests that eating before exercise might be better for daylong fat burning.  But...you clearly burn more fat during exercise when you do it in a fasted state."

Which misses the point that it doesn't matter for the average person reading this book whether you're burning fat or burning carbohydrates.  Again, that "fat burning zone" graph on your treadmill is meaningless.  Run if you like it.  Walk because it makes you feel awesome.

Harper also has some tips for if you feel woozy during your fasted cardio!

  1.  If you get dizzy, drop to your knees and put your head between your legs!  Hope that no one calls 911 when they see you doing this in the middle of the street!  Get up and KEEP GOING MAGGOT!  Unless it happens again, in which case uhh...try again later.
  2.  If you've been following his regimine correctly you should be looking good.  Totally.  If you look haggard or pale, you're clearly not drinking enough electrolytes or water.   You're just dehydrated.  Drink some more water.  That will help with the 800-calorie-a-day-barely-functioning-haze.  Totally.
  3.  Just keep drinking water and electrolytes.  Electrolyyyyyyytesssss.  You only feel like shit because you're dehydrated, promise.
  4.  If you always feel nauseous or dizzy when doing this fasted cardio then I GUESS you can eat beforehand.  But make sure that you still do your cardio "or be prepared to look chubby in three weeks"!  (fucking REALLY?)

Moral: By all means I think people should do some light exercise everyday.  Seriously, this more than what you're eating is going to have a huge impact on your health.  I cannot overstate the benefits of light walking everyday.  But you don't have to do it fasted, and you probably shouldn't count on it as your magic ticket to leanness.  Also if you constantly feel dizzy when walking, MAYBE THE PROBLEM IS YOU'RE ONLY EATING 800 CALORIES A DAY.

Have I mentioned that's a bad idea?

Chapter / Rule 7 - Five times a week, at any time of day, do 15 to 20 minutes of my Jumpstart Moves

Here's a chapter that I have a lot of grievances with, for a myriad of reasons.  Let's just get right into it:

"Met-con works the whole body quickly, efficiently.  Met-con movements use your own body weight to slim and trim yourself for the long, lean look you desire."

Ughhhhhhhhhhhh.  It's like a collection of my least favorite fitness buzz-words.  Oh yes, it's totally this workout that is the magical combination of the just right number of sets and reps and movements to get you totally slim and trim and long and lean and jacked and shredded and ripped and toned and tiny and huge ALL AT THE SAME TIME!!!  This is definitely NOT just some generic workout that anyone who took a bunch of darts and threw them at exercise names could come up with.  Nope.

In fact, I think I've just come to an epiphany of why I HATE magazine workouts so much.  It is literally like someone took a bunch of notecards with random exercises on them, closed their eyes, and picked them at random out of a hat.  Then they got a skinny model, put her in a designer sports bra and short shorts and made the title something along the lines of "Top 10 Total-Body Sculpting Moves For a Leaner, Meaner You!"  GOLDEN.  Who wants me on their corporate team??? (Yeah I stole that line from Daniel Tosh)

Anyway umm...I think I got a little off-topic there.

"Okay, quick and without overthinking:"

Yes, we wouldn't want to think about anything would we?

"What, exactly, is happening to your body while doing the burpee?  For one thing, by alternating and changing up exercise movements, you help delay a phenomenon in the science of movement known as adaptation - your muscles don't get a chance to "figure out" how to minimize caloric expenditure."

Here we see Harper trying to talk about what others will refer to as "muscle confusion" which is a really silly term that no one should use.

The gist is that you need to keep doing completely different movements so that your body will never become very 'efficient' at doing anything.  The idea being that efficient = less calories burned.  And you're only exercising to burn calories right?  Right.

Unfortunately, this misses out on the idea of progressing an exercise to keep things challenging.  Yes, if you do the same, say, burpee for the same amount of reps everyday, you'll stall out.  But you could progress it by:

  • Adding in a push-up at the bottom of the burpee
  • Doing more total reps
  • Doing the same number of reps in a shorter time period
  • Adding a weight vest

Burpees - The exercise everyone loves to hate! (They are pretty tough)

I am a MUCH bigger fan of practicing movements until you're proficient in them, and then progressing the movement from there - as opposed to just throwing a bunch of new movements at you everyday.  Here are few reasons why:

  1. You don't have to spend a bunch of time everyday figuring out how to do movements.
  2. You'll reduce your chance of injury while doing your workouts since you'll be very proficient in the exercise movements you do.
  3. You'll get a hell of a lot stronger.

Regardless, a burpee isn't some magic exercise that keeps your body guessing.  If you keep doing burpees, guess what, you'll get good at burpees.  Using one exercise for his argument against adaptation makes absolutely no sense.

"Second, in the burpee, you can feel your whole body stretching, flexing, and contracting while your heart pumps faster and harder.  You're working those big muscle groups that tend to burn more calories."

Oh, I can FEEL my body during this exercise?  Wow.  How profound.

My heart pumps faster and harder while exercising?  You don't say.  That's incredible.

I'll agree to that last statement though.  It's the reason why you'd want to do a squat over a calf raise if you were looking to get the most bang for your buck.

Anyway, if you're eating 800 calories a day and feeling woozy, as you probably will be, a burpee is not exactly the kind of exercise I'd recommend.  If someone were hell-bent on doing this 800 calorie a day thing, I'd probably suggest doing at most 2 days a week of weight training with each workout being:

  • Squat 2-3 x 5
  • Bench Press 2-3 x 5
  • Lat Pulldown, Cable Row or Pull-up 3 x 8
  • Go home

And that's about it.  If you're at such a steep deficit, your ONLY goal when working out should be to maintain muscle mass.  Doing a bunch of high-intensity crap is pointless and going to leave you passed out on the floor.  That's why I don't even have deadlifts up there.  Blacking out doesn't seem like a good time to me, personally.

And, go figure, Harper is a HUGE fan of CrossFit-style met-con.  Snatch AMRAPs anyone???

(On a side-note: I realize that not all CrossFit boxes are made alike and some are wonderful places to train with responsible coaching.  Snatch AMRAPs, however, do not fall under that category.)

Moral:  You do NOT need to mix up the movements you are doing constantly to burn calories or get an effect from your workouts.  You DO need to progress, but there are a lot of ways to do that with one single movement.

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Just a quick little post today about "trigger" words used to grab our attention.

I've spent the past 3 months collecting keywords on the covers of several popular men's and women's magazines, most with a focus on fitness, use instahard to increase your blood circulation.  Here's what really matters to us, according to marketing:

MagazineCoversWomen

I'll bet you can guess which is which.

MagazineCoversMen

A couple of interesting things about magazine covers,

  1. Men's magazines used the word "sex" ONCE. ONE TIME. TOTAL. As you can see, women's magazines were WAY more obsessed with all derivatives of the word.
  2. Men's magazines in general used about 1/2 as many words as women. Don't really know how to read into that one.

An additional observation was that the models on the covers for men's magazines were predominantly athletes or former athletes with a few actors or performers in the mix. Women's magazines had ONE athlete on the cover (Maria Sharapova), the rest were models, actresses and singers. Find information about sexual booster at 10naturalhomeremedies.

Once again, we come back to a pivotal questions: Are marketers simply giving us what we want, or are we being force-fed these desires?

I'm going to take a stab at this and say it's a little bit of both.  Here are a few things that are innate in human nature:

  • Desire for sex, and thus to be sexually appealing.
  • High social status, to be on level with or above our peers.
  • Safety for ourselves and our friends and family.
  • To quickly understand and organize the world around us.

Marketers didn't need to make any of these up - most everyone is born with these desires.   Where they come in is evident in the keywords:

  • Sex appeal for men equals having lots of muscle, low body-fat and to a smaller extent strength.  Sex appeal for women equals being as small as possible with very little muscle (but not NO muscle), minimizing signs of aging such as wrinkles, cellulite or thinning / dull hair.  These are by far the most popular terms used above.
  • Social status means owning expensive things, having an advanced career or having stronger 'willpower,' 'work ethic' or knowing things your peers don't which manifests itself in a 'better' body than they have.  (Recall I'm focusing on the health and fitness industry here.  Obviously for different subjects this will manifest in other ways)
  • Safety for ourselves, friends and family is signaled with claims to prevent cancer, prevent obesity-related diseases and being overall highly concerned about health.
  • A quick and easy understanding of the world is shown through words like "secrets," "quickly," "by tonight," "easy," "slash," etc.  These are the most commonly used words behind those for sex appeal.

So what can we learn from this?  Well here are my takeaways:

  1. Sex appeal can mean so many different things to humans.  Our brains can be much more complex than "skinny waist and big boobs," despite what many an internet troll will tell you.  A potential mate's desire to have sex with you is not always derived from how conventionally "sexy" you are.  But damn if it isn't easy to sell something if you assure someone it will boost their appeal to potential mates.  This also ties into a desire for a quick and easy understanding of the world.  No cellulite = sex!  Big muscles = sex!  IT'S THAT EASY!
  2. Who gives a shit about how wealthy or perfect your peers perceive you to be?  Yoga pants are yoga pants, ice cubs are ice cubes.  You know who you are.  I know, that's not a very helpful or scientific observation, but I'm not going to claim to be an expert on our desire for social standing.  Someone else out there has probably written something much more insightful.  If you know of any, let me know and I'll link it here.
  3. Exploiting this desire is one of my least favorite tactics.  I know, cancer is brutal, terrifying and unfair.  Its existence causes us pain, fear and anxiety for good reason.  But how much does the latest article (about how in an observational study based on self-completed questionnaires, researchers found a small correlation between diet coke consumption and breast cancer) ACTUALLY help?  Does it REALLY deserve the title "The SECRET Big Pharma doesn't want you to know about stopping cancer in its tracks!" or "Ground-breaking new study finds potential cure for cancer!" ?  NO.  THIS HELPS NO ONE.
  4. Us humans are fantastic at identifying patterns.  Unfortunately, when we see a pattern we also automatically assume it means something significant.  So we read about a study that says obesity rates have increased as carbohydrate intake has increased - and now that you think about it, you really don't eat very much meat, just a lot of bread and candy.  The brain sees these threads and leads you to conclude carbohydrates = fat.  Unfortunately it missed the part where you and the public at large were just increasing your overall caloric intake.  Whoops.

Anyway, that's a little bit of a rant from me today.  Hope you found those keywords as interesting as I did!  I may try to keep this up for a year - I think that would give a better perspective.

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Pinterest remains a constant source of fascination for me.

Sometimes I'm not sure if the pins I'm seeing are from companies or from the average user.  But regardless, every post on the Health & Fitness board is still about the same as when I posted about it a few months back.  The bad fitness ideas are still perpetuated.  It's still all about spot reduction, running for fat loss and toning with light weights.

However, I do think I've been seeing more posts about interest in lifting heavier, getting stronger and focusing on health.  (Even if the 'focus on health' motivation typically just happen to include fitness models.) I don't have any stats on that but, I suppose you could either call it wishful thinking, intuition or just spending waaaay too much of my time browsing the board in a kind of morbid curiosity.

But sometimes I still need to let off a little steam.  In particular, there is this one "beginner's routine" I see pushed around constantly.  I'm procrastinating on starting my next book review, so indulge me here.  Perhaps you've even seen this article here and there.

What's so bad about it?

Well, first of all it's hosted on PopSugar, one of several emerging websites that don't offer much in the way of quality, but mostly just exist to push out as much content as possible with as many ways to accidentally click on advertisement, sharing and affiliate links as can fit on your screen.

WebsiteMoney

I AM SO DISTRACTED BY ALL THESE SHINY POP UPS...what was I reading again?

I'm not sure if you caught onto it, but I'm not a fan.

But, let's focus on the routine.

This BEGINNER routine features 5 days a week of 90 minute workouts (more if you include the time to get there, change, warm-up, etc.) and 2 rest days.  They emphasize this is for people who are completely new to working out.

Do you remember the first time you tried a completely new activity?  Maybe you even remember the first time you tried to workout.  You were probably so sore the next day getting off the toilet took a few minutes of preparation.  This workout ensures your complete soreness by not only putting you through 80 minutes of working out your first day, but following it up with a 90-minute high-intensity one the very next day!

Not to mention, why are you telling a complete beginner to go to one of the more complex and intense yoga classes in the first place?

Why does the beginner need 4 days a week of cardio, especially if fat loss is the goal?

Why is a beginner being told only to do 10 minutes of either arms or legs followed by a quick 5 minutes of abs for strength training?

This routine ignores reality.

If you're a complete beginner, what are the chances you're counting your calories enough to even know what it would mean to 'cut out 200 calories'?

What are the chances you're going to be ready to just jump into an intense fitness class?

No really FitSugar, what do you mean by 'cut out 200 calories'?  Subtract 200 from what?

Does this routine sound enjoyable?  Does it sound like something a beginner would be able to stick to long-term?

Is this routine flexible?  What are you supposed to do when you are inevitably too sore to go to your intense spin class the day after your hot yoga class and abdominal routine?

Why am I phrasing all of my critiques in question form?  Because I want YOU to ask MORE QUESTIONS from EVERYTHING you see!

Here's what I'd like to see:

Sunday: Go for a 5 minute walk and think deeply about your fitness goals.  Why do you want to achieve them?  What is holding you back?  What are your priorities in life?

Monday: Try a total-body strength routine with just your bodyweight.  2 sets of 10 squats, incline push-ups, body rows and glute bridges would be enough.

Tuesday: Try another 5 minute walk.  Think about what kinds of activities you enjoy.  Did you totally hate that workout yesterday?  Why?  Did you love it, or feel just meh about it?  Why?

Wednesday: Take a couple of minutes in the middle of your workday and just focus on your breathing.  10 deep breaths.

Thursday: Let's go for another walk!  What about 10 minutes this time?  Think about how you feel while you're walking and how you feel after.

Friday: Even if you totally hated it last time, give that bodyweight routine another go.  Take your time and think about how you feel afterwards.

Saturday: Evaluate all you did this past week.  Take some time to think about those same questions from Sunday.  Did anything change?

That's about it.

Boring as hell to read probably.  I'd bet you wouldn't lose a pound.  It's not sexy.  It's not anything I can sell.

But it is realistic.  It is a great start.  Hell if you get out the door that first day, I'm ecstatic.  Obviously you'd progress week to week.  Progress would be slow.  But it would be a far more enjoyable and tenacious experience than 5 days a week for 90 minutes while cutting out an arbitrary amount of calories.

Sustainable weight loss is about sustainable changes.  If you make a change you can't stick with forever, it may not be worth making at all.

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Sometimes a good rant involves more than a mere 1,000 word blog post.

Now, I've made plenty of those, don't get me wrong.  But I've been thinking for a while that I'd like to compile all the fitness-industry ranting in my head and put it in one neat package.  I've been doing a not-really-consistent semi-weekly series on my facebook page called "Let's Sharpen Our Bullshit Detectors!" where what usually happens is I stumble upon some particularly offending health or fitness article and dissect it for everyone's viewing pleasure.

Since they usually go pretty well, I've been planning out a short book that goes through how we can protect ourselves from all the bullshit that gets thrown at us on a day to day basis.  It will come from the perspective of the health and fitness industry (since that's what people come here to read about, and it's also my favorite subject), but you should be able to take away tools and tips to apply towards anything.

Topics that I plan on going over include:

  • The importance of skeptical thinking
  • How to read a scientific paper even when most of the jargon goes way over your head
  • Common tactics used by marketers in the health and fitness industry
  • How to improve your own critical thinking skills
  • Becoming an intelligent, rather than an emotional consumer

Here's an excerpt I've got written so far.  I'm still not sure if I'm going to make this into a series of posts or one short ebook.  Either way, I'm pretty pumped about the content and hope that you all get something fun and interesting out of it.  Drop me a comment below if you have any feedback or if there's anything in particular you'd like to have covered!

_____________________________________________________________

The internet lets marketers get pretty creative when it comes to making money. In this particular example, it really looks like that is all they care about. I want you to take a note of the actual CONTENT to ADVERTISING ratio here:

Exhibit1

#1 – Slideshows

You may have noticed lately many of your favorite websites use a “slideshow” format. If you're like me, you find this very annoying. But websites do this for one main reason: more page clicks. The more viewers it appears that it has, the more money it can get from advertisers, the more people will be willing to affiliate with them and the more likely they'll be able to enter into lucrative sponsorship deals.

This also affords them the opportunity to insert in more advertisements. If you only had to view one or two pages to get all your information about 'weight loss superfoods' (or whatever the hell) instead of 29 pages, there is much less page real estate to sell. If you have to click through to a new page 29 times – and maybe even insert a full-page ad around click number 16 – that's a lot more opportunity to sell you crap. Sometimes when I get tired of all these techniques I just look for some easy and understandable advertising. Here is a car covered with Denver truck wraps, and these is no need to look for some further info. All is clear at first sight. 

#2 – Strong headlines

The stronger the headline, the bolder the claim, the more likely you will be to actually click through all 29 pages. More page clicks = more money. If the headline was something more realistic, such as “A few nutrient-dense foods that, eaten in combination with an exercise plan and reasonable-calorie diet, may promote weight loss,” there is a real good chance you won't care enough to muck your way through all 29 pages of advertisement opportunity.

#3 – Do Our Advertising For Us

Didn't you just love this article? Share it with all of your friends who may have missed it so that we can get more page clicks.”

Now, this isn't a bad thing. If you love an article, a product, a particular group, sharing is a great way to help them continue to do whatever it is they do. But just recognize that is what you're doing – and always be aware of what you're sharing.

If you clicked to share this article, what are you really promoting? Did you actually get a lot of useful information out of the slideshow? (Did you actually make it all the way through?) Do you support whatever Health's general mission statement is? Do you want to look like the kind of person who is into being really healthy, and the best way you can do that is showing everyone on facebook how much you love “superfoods”? Before you click, think about these things.

Be a knowledgeable consumer, not an emotional one.

#4 – Seriously, click through to the next page. And share us on facebook.

Having multiple opportunities to share / stay on the website increases your chance of doing so. This leads to more page views for Health.

#5 – Did we mention we're on facebook? And twitter? And pinterest? And instagram?

Following Health on one or more leads to more page views.

#6 – Other links in the same category

The vast majority of blogs do this. If you label a post as a certain category, such as “nutrition,” you can have a list at the bottom or the side that shows other past posts from you under “nutrition.” They already know you're interested in it, so you'll be more likely to continue clicking through the website. More page views = more money.

#7 – Affiliate programs

Affiliate programs are a popular way for bloggers to make money. Amazon has a very large affiliate program, and in the fitness world it's not hard to find a product or program to affiliate with. Again, there is nothing inherently wrong with this, but it is good to know as a consumer that Health would make money if you purchased that product.

#8 – Paid Advertisements

I don't think I would have thought to make that tiny space an advertising spot. I guess that's why I'm not in marketing!

These are the straight-forward ads. The company or group directly gives Health money for page real estate. Simple!

#9 – Beware the “free”

Here is why Health wants to give you free stuff:

  • So that you sign up for 2 free issues of the magazine which requires your credit card information, thinking that you'll just use them and leave once you get your free stuff.
  • But then you actually just forget and end up paying $50 before you even remember you didn't want the magazine in the first place.

Conclusion

Just look at the content to advertising ratio on this page. You get 2 paragraphs with nothing but buzzwords in return for 9 opportunities to give Health money. And if you think that's only because it was the introduction page, here is the next slide:

Exhibit1b

Oh, a paragraph devoid of anything substantial followed by a link to a recipe on your website? How long you must have spent researching this piece! What a cornucopia of value for me!

There's a bit of a "chicken or egg" argument about certain marketing tactics.  The dual argument will go as such:

"The media just give us what we want.  We fear being unattractive or appearing old, and they prey on those already existing fears with weight-loss products and wrinkle creams."

Or,

"The media makes us think that being old is a bad thing.  By rarely portraying women over 40 in big productions, or women who are more than a size 2, they make us think that being old or fat are bad.  We get that message, then advertisements and other marketing tools drill it in by selling us products to solve a non-existent problem." 

I admit myself, I am not sure which camp I agree with.  Both seem plausible to me.  Some will bring up evolution as a way to say that the desire to appear young and healthy (aka, not overweight) is bred into us.  The more you look to be between 18 - 35, the more likely you are to be fertile, the more attracted potential mates are to you.

(Of course, I could perhaps buy that for the 'old' argument, but considering overweight and even obese women were literally idolized in the past, I'm not sure about that particular side of the argument. )

I used to have a client who was a big advertising executive.  I was always fascinated by his job and we'd spend time in between squat sets talking about his work.  He told me one day about one of his biggest challenges in marketing.  His company had a client trying to sell a television that was much more expensive and vastly inferior to their competition.  Off to a great start, right?

He detailed to me about one common advertising tactic: present your product as a solution to a problem, regardless of if your particular product is actually a better solution, or even if that problem is an actual problem.  They made a marketing campaign that promoted this particular TV as stylish enough for your wife to approve putting in the living room, but with a picture great enough to capture every bead of sweat on your favorite quarterback's face.

And, it worked.  They sold the majority of their stock and even outperformed their competition - who recall, had a superior product for a cheaper cost.

Does that sound familiar?  You can probably think of a few products and commercials you've seen use that same tactic.  Here is a completely made-up problem used to sell deodorant for example:

How have we managed for SO LONG to live without a special deodorant to deal with the super-special STRESS SWEAT?  That one was just an obvious example.  What about cellulite?  Another made-up problem with no 'solution' to date (aside from losing overall bodyfat), but that doesn't stop some of the most ridiculous advertisements I've ever seen from stepping in to "help":

LOBSTER WEIGHT LOSS TECHNOLOGY AHAHA THIS IS FUNNY SO WHY AM I CRYING??

LOBSTER WEIGHT LOSS TECHNOLOGY AHAHA THIS IS FUNNY SO WHY AM I CRYING?? (click to zoom in.  It's still hard to read the label - there's probably a reason for that.  That reason of course being that it says 'lobster weight loss inspired technology.')

Anyway, all of this is building up towards a discussion on an article I found in Self this month titled "Old Talk is the New Fat Talk."  I took the liberty to snap a few quotes from it that I found particularly controversial:

Hypocrisy

I'm going to go ahead and get a couple of issues I have about this out of the way that don't have to do with the content of the article.

  • Right before this article there were 5 pages dedicated towards how to look hot after you finish your workout.
  • Before that there was an article about how you should really consider using sandwich bread instead of a pita pocket for your lunch so that you could save yourself 50 precious calories.
  • And earlier in the magazine was a page dedicated to the #1 exercise to get a flatter belly, as if such a thing could even exist.

Now that doesn't mean the content of this article isn't worth reading.  After all, the author of this could have nothing to do with whatever else is put in the magazine.  Maybe she's as disgusted with the surrounding content as I am - who knows?  But don't the editors see the irony?  In reality it probably doesn't matter too much.  Just something to point out.

But let's take a look at some of those quotes:

"Now women are viewed as sex objects for a much greater portion of their life span."

Why is that?  Is it true that in the past when you hit your 50's you went from sex-object to dignified elder?  Or did you simply drop off the face of the earth, as many women in entertainment do now?  Which is better?  Here are some stats I took from a documentary (Miss Representation - starting at 0:58:00).  I tried to find their source but couldn't - I've emailed them to try and get where the stats came from, but here is what they claim:

  • Women in their teens, 20's and 30's comprise 39% of the population.
  • Yet, they are 71% of female characters on television.
  • Women 40 and older are 47% of the population.
  • Yet are only 26% of female characters on television.

"Thanks for that Madonna."

Is it that Madonna has somehow retained all of her youth naturally, or has she had to use a liberal amount of photoshop in her promotions to appear young so that we will still recognize her talent?  Is it really her fault?

Note, there is NOTHING WRONG with the former picture.  Oh no, she has some wrinkles.  BECAUSE SHE'S FIFTY-FIVE.

"Here's the deal: You're gonna obsess, whether it's about gray hair or cellulite or something else entirely."

Why would you even write that?  Why on EARTH should you just accept that you're going to obsess about your appearance?  Doesn't that sound like something you should, I dunno, work on?

Here we have a magazine that perpetuates our obsession, attempting to normalize that obsession as though it's just human nature to worry about whether you have thighs that touch or not, or whatever the latest body-flaw obsession is fashionable these days.

"...if you truly don't like the way you look or feel, use your vanity to inspire you to take steps towards a healthier life..."

What if you take those steps towards a healthier life and still don't end up as the perfected ideal you are presented, which is likely going to happen?  You're perfectly healthy, but still have cellulite, as normal human beings tend to have.  According to Self, whelp, you're just doomed to a life of fruitless obsession.

So, Self, I get what you're trying to say.  It's unhealthy to obsess over these pointless little things.  It's normal to age, it's normal to have cellulite.  But apparently they have reached the conclusion that worrying about these things is simply an inevitable consequence of being female.

They do a pretty good job of perpetuating that.

_________________________________

I'd love to hear your thoughts.  What really causes these impossible ideals?  Do marketers use liberal photoshop because if Madonna didn't look picture perfect we wouldn't buy as many of her albums?  Or were we conditioned by the same marketers to expect that ideal so that the idol in question seems more awesome to us?

Are we given wrinkle creams because we inherently don't want to look old, or are we told not to look old and thus given wrinkle creams?  Does it matter which came first?  Should it make our strategies for overcoming this different?  What do you think?

8 Comments

So after my post regarding Pinterest (which is actually by far my most viewed post - thank you for the support everyone!), I did go ahead and make a Pinterest account.  I've been intermittently posting things, though I'm far from consistent.  At first I tried to look at popular posts on the Health & Fitness board and repost the ones that were good, or repost them with things to look out for in the comments.

While doing this, I also took screen caps of some of the more...ridiculous, harmful or misleading ones.  I made some comments on those too.  Enjoy!

I too enjoy doing tricep extensions with 2lb weights while looking contemplative.

I too enjoy doing tricep extensions with 2lb weights while looking contemplative.

THECUPCAKEISTHATWAY

Good Lord I hope nobody actually sees themselves this way.

Good Lord I hope nobody actually sees themselves this way.

EVERYTHING IS ABOUT WAIST WHITTLING THAT SOUNDS PAINFUL.

EVERYTHING IS ABOUT WAIST WHITTLING THAT SOUNDS PAINFUL.

Also, please stop with this 'thigh gap' bullshit please.

Also, seriously stop with this 'thigh gap' bullshit please.

WTF ARE YOU CIRCLING PT1

WTF ARE YOU CIRCLING PT1

NO SERIOUSLY WHAT ARE YOU CIRCLING PT2

NO SERIOUSLY WHAT ARE YOU CIRCLING PT2

7000 Jumping Jacks give you fancy lingerie, who knew?!

7000 Jumping Jacks give you fancy lingerie, who knew?!

Yep, pretty sure those dumbbells are in the negative pound range.

Yep, pretty sure those dumbbells are in the negative pound range.

Whew.  Okay.  Glad to get that off of my chest.  I promise to have an actual substantial post later this week!

2 Comments

This week's post is less of a splattering of information and more of an open-ended question.  I'm not going to pretend like I have the answer to this.  In fact, part of the point I think is that the answer will be different for everyone.  And I want to hear those!

The question is, in its most basic form: When is it okay for someone to desire to lose fat?

Let me elaborate on that a little bit.  This is a question that's been mulling over in my head for a while now.  Since writing this article, in fact.  I've recently been reading a lot from several people in the fitness industry who focus on body acceptance and trying to undo some of the neurosis people feel over food.  (If you're curious, it has primarily been from GoKaleo, FitMamaTraining and EatMore2WeighLess.  There is certainly a lot of thought-provoking information there.)

I like the message of these women, and it also just so happens to jive with the "eat whatever I want kinda" part of my diet right now.  (I'll have some updates on that next week)  I've known plenty of people who have gone really far with their diets, to the detriment of social lives, relationships, and performance in sports / everyday life.  I've gone off the deep end when it comes to how I treat food quite a few times in my life, so many of these stories really resound with me. (Obviously the following questions do not apply to people who need to lose fat / gain fat for health reasons, such as the unhealthily obese or someone who is severely underweight / anorexic.  I'm talking about all of us in between.)

I also whole-heartedly agree that there's no need to aspire to look like a model or <insert really lean / thin person here>.

Whether it's 'fatspo' 'fitspo' or 'thinspo' they're all basically the same.

Whether it's 'fatspo' 'fitspo' or 'thinspo' they're all basically the same.

I agree that chronic dieting is a generally bad thing, and that being able to enjoy food - all foods - guilt-free is something we should aspire to.

However, what happens when someone reads all that, agrees with it, yeah yeah, that's great - and then still wants to lose fat?

How can you pinpoint whether YOU want to lose fat as a reflection of how you see yourself or whether you want to lose fat because you think you need to look like said fitness models?  And the real question - does it even matter which one it is?

If you feel bad when you look at yourself in the mirror, do you need to work on your self-image and accept who you are as you are, or should you try to lose fat to achieve whatever aesthetic you'd be happy with?  When is the latter an "okay" thing to do?

When is losing fat something to do 'for you' and when is it giving into societal expectations?

Thankfully I was able to articulate these questions to a blogger whose work I've admired for a long time, Leigh Peele.  She had an AMA on Reddit today and I jumped at the opportunity to ask her opinion.

I'll get the conversation started by posting responses from a couple of other users and Leigh herself.  Let me know what you think in the comments below!

LP1 LP2

1 Comment

This post was mainly inspired by an article I read in the latest issue of Health magazine - but it's also from the million of articles I've seen around the internet about how to burn calories in your daily activities.

Hiking - Cover

Taken from Health Magazine (July-August 2013), pg. 40

Want to buff up?  Slim down!  ...Wait what?

During your hike why not do some lunges up the mountain top to get that metabolism running?  While spending time with family and friends at the pool, why not get in a great calorie burn?  Take dancing lessons with your partner - you'll get fit together!  Getting some serious work or studying done?  Why focus on actually accomplishing something when you could be doing these sneaky ab exercises?

Maybe this sounds like great motivation for getting more activity and healthy movement into your life.  But tell me what you think about this proposition:

Alternatively, why not go for a hike because you want to enjoy the great fucking outdoors?  Why not actually enjoy time with family and friends at the pool instead of anxiously trying to get a calorie burn to assuage the guilt of that lemonade?  Why not take dance lessons with your partner so that you have something to relate about and bond over?  WHY DOES EVERYTHING HAVE TO BE ABOUT BURNING CALORIES?!

Taken from Health Magazine (July-August 2013), Pg. 43

Taken from Health Magazine (July-August 2013), Pg. 43

I'm trying to think of a caption to appropriately encapsulate how ridiculous this is, but I'm finding myself at a loss.

I'm going to take this a step further.  Why not sprint because running fast feels like you're fucking flying?  Why not pick up ultimate frisbee because it's amazingly fun?  Why not lift weights because you'd like to play airplane with your kid without throwing out your back?

If you've reduced the activities in your life into ways that you can justify eating food or try to cancel out something you feel guilty about, you're destroying the point.  Try to enjoy what you're doing for the sake of doing it - not because you feel like you need to look better in a bikini or you feel like you need to earn some birthday cake you're going to eat later that week.  Is that living?  Is that mentally healthy?

I'm a personal trainer and oftentimes I work to try and help people lose weight.  We also exercise together - so maybe it's a bit odd to hear from me that I would really like to get people to get away from associating exercise with burning calories and losing weight.  Exercise because you want your body to perform better, not just because you want to lose fat.  If the only reason you're working out is for the latter reason, you'll end up sorely disappointed - not to mention missing out on some INCREDIBLE benefits of working out that don't involve fitting into skinny jeans.