How much do your efforts to "look good" support your efforts toward optimal health. Do you think that it's possible that you undermine your health to achieve a certain look? Has the line between beauty and health been blurred? Do you think that because you look good that you are healthy?
This is not a question about "other" people or an observation about anorexic models on the runway in Milan. Among many Paleos there is something of an obsession with being skinny/low fat. Is it healthy? I briefly succumbed to this mania, tried VLC, and it wasn't pretty. As I described here, I wasn't pooping, sleeping and my libido started to flag. So you're walking around the Santa Cruz Boardwalk dead tired and constipated but don't those washboard abs look great! What's worse, some hottie decides to pony you up, but you're hanging like a weather vane on a windless day in July. I could just think this is peculiar to me, but I've read too many corroborating posts here and elsewhere...and not all of them were by the old and decrepit like me :) At some point (6,7,8,9, 10 percent bodyfat) it affects you hormonally. At what point this occurs varies according to the individual.
Now that was mostly aimed at men, but a similar tale could be told about women, I am sure. And by the way, WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO THE FEMINIST CRITIQUE of all this? It's a good and natural thing to want to be attractive, but at some point you give up real health for the simulacrum of health. However, for those of you who are so dependent on the male gaze for your sense of self-esteem, let me tell you something: a lot of us don't really find skinny women attractive. Personally, I like a little FAT-BACK. Maybe it does something for certain battered male egos, but when I take the plunge I don't like to feel the mattress coils. OUCH
Are all of these bootcamps healthy? If you are over 35, do you think that endorphin hit trumps the chronic inflammation? Take another swig of the fish oil, buddy. You're going to need it. I was about to take YET ANOTHER swipe at Crossfit, but I'll take one at myself instead. How healthy are those hard-core workouts I am doing? Get over your mid-life crisis already, I'm 51! Sure. My squats and deadlifts produce a nice, bulbous rump that all the fly paleo chicks want to bite ;), but is it worth the inflammation?
Look, I like to pass on my jeans as much as anybody, so my answer might be, "Hell Yeah!" The point is to make that decision consciously. To be aware of what is truly healthy and what appears to be healthy (but isn't really) and make a decision based on that.
What? Health and beauty aren't synonymous? Why then do all those ladies magazines have subheadings promising the secrets of attaining both?
I realize that I've been brainwashed by this clever marketing to believe that health and beauty are one and the same.
So this is what I've been noticing along my "hardcore workout" journey. Now that I am 37,(and wanting to look 17) attempting to hit higher and higher levels of intensity have delivered fewer and fewer benefits. Going too hard, too frequently has made me look older and taken away some of the "cushion" if ya know what I mean.
Same goes for diet. It seems like the harder I try to control every last morsel, the worse the outcome.
Ironically my fervent attempts at looking good have, in my opinion, backfired terribly.
I read time and again here and on other sites that one should use the measure of "how do I look and feel" to gauge success. This may not be ideal as we strive to look a certain way that may not be attainable or we self medicate with unnatural levels of stress hormones released in response to "hardcore" efforts.
My new take is to eat and exercise in a way that supports my abilities to handle stress whatever form it takes. I no longer exercise to "burn off energy". What is energy anyway but life itself? Put that way, it seems stupid to exercise away life just to whittle the middle. Also my take is if food is not providing energy (life) then we best change up the plan and quick.
I'd rather be healthy and happy, than a muscle-model. If I can be both, that'd be cool - but I'll err on the side of happy.
It does bother me that obese people like to argue that they're perfectly healthy; when a blood and adrenal panel can show otherwise. Unhealthy is not beautiful; it's dangerous.
Well I am 5'2" and 170ish pounds. I have been this heavy (plus or minus 10ish lbs) for a while. I still have managed to acquire two boyfriends, a girlfriend and a playmate. I thus conclude that my weight does not seem to have a significant bearing on my attractiveness.
On the other hand my knees and ankles hurt and I would like to do things that would be easier if I was more muscular. And the clothing I really like at thrift stores mostly seems to be a few sizes smaller. So I would like to lose some weight once I finish my current project.
I don't think I am willing to go VLC to do it though. My sweeties might not care if I am squishy, but they do not like me bitchy. And I don't like my myself much either.
The answer for me has always been beauty before health...and I have done/paid/tried many things to achieve that end. And yes, I would like to have been more confident in my younger years. But it is what it is and I tend to be a perfectionist and am learning to temper that part of my personality in favor of mental health.
What is interesting in my case is that I accidentally found paleo when I was 38 years old and looking for another "answer" to save me from slipping back down into an eating disorder again. Following paleo was only about beauty not health. Then I started doing CrossFit this year. It is the ONLY thing that has broken my obsession with the scale, and for the first time in my life I have realized that food is not evil because such tough exercise forces me to eat sensibly. I am not bothered that I have not been able to lose ten pounds, and I was able to resist turning to starvation so I could weigh that magic number yesterday when I turned 40 :)
I am cautiously optimistic that the combo of paleo/crossfit has switched me to the "health" end of the spectrum.
Here goes: I'm 5'2", 110 and I've been this way for years except when I went down to 98 lbs during a depression. At 36 I think feeling good is way more important to me than looking good. Having said that, feeling good actually makes me more appealing (or it could be the nice golden tan of summer). In any case, I dig on that endorphin jolt. I also dig on waking up feeling like I can conquer the world.
Paleo has led me to more detailed self-tracking and a greater awareness of the small things that impact my life in big ways. What I'm doing now and have done for 8 months has been improving my mental state more than my body. Perhaps it is my age and my acceptance that I have evidence of life on my face (wrinkles) but I'm more accepting of myself as a whole than just my amazing outward appearance.
So yes, beauty and health has blurred. I was gorgeous at 21 but very unhealthy. I'm attractive at 36 and healthy. In all these months, I've come to accept that body fat is not a number I care to track. Hey, I shop for clothes in the kid's section so I'm a healthy weight and I save a few bucks. Thanks Paleo gods!
Sidebar: In conducting an experiment with 30+ women from this forum, I see more women interested in curing health-related issues than weight. Most have said that weight is only a factor in that it has given them poor health. That right there says a lot about the intellect and confidence derived from eating for health and not for weight loss. Woot and a hip bump!
i think part of it is cultural. i personally like my women with a disproportionate waist/hip ratio :-). on a serious note, though i don't go back to hunter-gatherer's as a reference for all things, when it comes to how females look, they don't seem to be ripped up and looking like prime candidates for amenorrhea. they look strong and able to survive a good period of time if food weren't plentiful.
as far as guys go, anywhere from high singles to mid-teens seems appropriate- depending on what your goals are. i don't begrudge anyone wanting to look like the cover of a men's health mag. i just try to keep in mind that from an evolutionary standpoint, collectively, our genes just want us to live long enough to procreate by any means necessary:-). luckily that usually coincides with looking great naked.
Tofu-belly, dairy-swollen, peanut-burping, legume-pregnant, sugar-icky, constipated, runny-sniffled, pale-discolored, medicated, shameful-loathing, angry-angry gluten monster...
Empty-belly, dancing-silly, grassfed-high time, seratonin, body-freedom, open-hearted, Lectin-smashing, out-loud-laughing, doctor-farewelled, deepdeep-breathing, in the moment, fertile-yummy, jolly, jocund me.
Being obese is unhealthy. There is no exception. But carrying a few extra pounds in non-visceral fat is not going to be a health problem in pretty much anybody and I'd say it's probably healhtier to do that than it is to be ultra skinny and possibly malnourished.
Gilliebean makes a great point about how fear of offending someone can affect a person's decision (or lack of decision) to do anything about their health challenges and/or weight.
I think the human nature to respond incorrectly to positive criticism unfortunately causes a cascade effect. The person who wants to help someone almost never will actually say anything for fear of offending the very person they want to help. It's quite sad really. If people were able to think with a clear mind, and proper perspective, they would not allow their own hang ups to block themselves from receiving well intended advice. But unasked for advice is usually unwanted advice as well, right? Such a shame.
So what do I suggest. Judge someone? No. Definitely no. Nobody likes to be judged. We are all jacked up in our own way, are we not? You surely don't want to go around making people believe that you are judgemental against their weight or whatever else. If we all want some level of grace regarding judgement, wouldn't it follow that extending that same grace to everyone makes perfect sense then?
But it sure would be nice if people could just hear the truth (or any opinion really, even if it may not be "the truth") and receive it from a neutral or 3rd party point of view, willing to consider the possibility that the person telling them the hard stuff might actually be right! Imagine that!
Now about the idea that Thomas is talking about with people viewing 'skinny' as healthy (especially women). I have to say that I am in FULL agreement with Thomas about the curvy aspect of women. Women are supposed to be curvy. That's one of the most attractive features of a woman's body. Is it really that hard to believe that guys like big butts? Why do you think that song is so popular? Why do you think the entire world is obsessed with the derriere of women? (yes I am saying 'entire' because it is basically true.). Why do you think a passerby would yell what they yelled at akd? But then, in some kind of demented twist of reality, girls see these stick figure models on the runway or in a magazine and think that's "beauty". Well, it can be in some cases, but many of those 'beauties' are terribly unhealthy and far too thin, sacrificing health for perceived 'beauty'.
In fact, even some of the pics I observed on leangains.com showed some guys to be very very thin and lean, with muscles and veins viewable on every square inch of the body. I personally prefer the more 'filled in' look, even on myself. I just make sure I stay as fit as my body will allow me to. One thing I'm not quite sure about is the squats and deadlifts comment. Those are two pillars of workout routines. I do them both. Does this cause some kind of inflammation? I don't know anything about that.
Anyway... some poignant thoughts from you on this one Thomas.
I've been paleo for 2 months now and have seen many benefits, one of which was weight loss. granted, I started at 5'3'', 120lbs and am now probably about 115, so nothing too drastic, but it's noticeable (to me) and I feel good about it. the problem comes in when I start to have thoughts like I did the other day that maybe I can get down to the weight I was when I had an eating disorder. yeah, that's disturbing. right now I'm trying to focus on my main goal which is to achieve those ever elusive toned arms, but I definitely need to police myself to make sure that paleo doesn't become some kind of gateway to obsessive, disordered eating. btw, I feel wonderful eating this way, so I'm not saying that through paleo I am prizing looks over health, but that the benefits can have this unexpected consequence.
While I have reservations about the book, I would recommend Catherine Shanahan's Deep Nutrition, as she seems to believe that health and beauty are indeed the same. I believe too that WAPF has some ideas along these lines.
For my part, I feel better in everything I do now that I've lost the 13 pounds that have been plaguing me for more than 5 years: yoga, running, swimming, hiking. Hell, just standing in line at the grocery store feels better! My confidence is way up and I think that counts for a lot, not to mention libido.
For me, it's all about quality of life and self-sufficiency. Okay, okay...I'm a vain mofo too. But the fact that health and beauty go hand-in-hand is nice. I posted about this today on my blog with regards to suntanning.
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