The Agent on Diets and Calorie Counting (or “A Case For Body Positivity”)

It’s not a good sign when you identify with the people in photos of a study on starvation.
Source: BBC News

I’ve made it no secret that I am deeply in favor of the notion body positivity. I believe that a person has the right to be happy in the flesh they’re in without feeling like they have to remold themselves to appease others. And if they DO remold themselves, it should be of their own volition – because they want to see themselves become their own ideal; not the ideal of others.

Unfortunately, there’s always been one aspect of body positivity that I’ve always failed at and struggled with – namely, applying it to myself.

You know the old saying by now; “You are your own worst critic.” And quite frankly, I’ve always been guilty of harshly judging myself; sometimes to the point of self-hate. I could talk at length about the various flaws I see in my personality, but this is about hating my body and I have plenty to talk about in that regard alone.

I hate how flat my butt looks in a mirror. I think that my pudgy, Scottish chin is disgusting. Seeing the thick, masculine carpet of hair on my arms and chest makes me feel unclean. I’ve always felt physically weak and pathetic compared to other people; especially when compared to my father – a former U.S. Army Sergeant and body building enthusiast with access to training and conditioning I could never hope to get and I doubt I could even live through.

So, last week, I lost that positivity and self-love. I caved in and started a strict calorie counting regiment.

I didn’t even make through Sunday before I remembered why I needed that positivity.

This diet was VERY tight. I was barely eating over 2,000 calories a day and burning more than TWICE that much through my day job and regular exercise which consists of a daily 3-mile (just under 5-kilometer) power walk through a heavily forested park. I knew that this was a stupid idea, but I stuck with it because I hated myself so much that I was going to see myself change or destroy myself in the process.

Combine this forced malnutrition with a sudden heat wave in the area, stress from work, a lack of a consistent sleep schedule and guilt at taking my frustrations at ALL OF THIS out on others, and it’s no surprise that my moment of realization at what I was doing to myself came to me in the form of a bout of sleep paralysis and vivid hallucinations involving nauseating fractal patterns, faces contorted in agony and (inexplicably) a leopard-faced man that I’m still trying to figure out whether he was supposed to be the demon Flauros or King from Tekken.

The most absurd thing about all of this though is that I should have known better. This is a similar scenario to what I went through back in middle school when I would skip lunch because of people taunting me. It left me pale, sickly, thinly drawn and so weak that I couldn’t even leave the house some days. I had forgotten that my self-hate had nearly killed me over 20 years ago and I almost let it try to do me in again.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, in terms of health improvement goals, you really need to pay attention to your body instead of the criticisms of yourself and others. The numbers that your Fitbit churns out might give you some insight as to the whys and hows, but they can’t tell you what you ACTUALLY need. Push your body to new levels, but not to the point of self-destruction. Know your limits and steadily condition yourself over time.

Remember, it’s YOU and no one else that needs to want the change and change requires time. Clarity, patience, and effort; those are the keys to self-improvement and self-love.

Breaking Your Beautiful Body: Diets and Supplements That Do More Harm Than Good

Source: The Eye of Abyss (http://beachhutting.wordpress.com/)

If I can open a beer bottle on your rib cage, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.
Source: The Eye of Abyss (http://beachhutting.wordpress.com/)

One of the many admirable people I follow on the Internet had her Twitter account hacked recently – on her birthday no less. And to what ends you may ask? Nothing more than to flog their bogus weight loss crap by PMing all of her followers.

This got me to considering how far we go to obtain that “perfect body” or become the “model of health” without thinking about the inherent dangers on the path. So let’s take a look at some of the finest in modern day Snake Oil.

The “Cabbage Soup” Diet

According to its supporters, The Cabbage Soup Diet is a seven-day dietary plan that claims that you will lose 10 pound by it’s end provided you stay on its feeding schedule with as many snacks of cabbage soup as you want. And while cabbage is certainly preferable to a bag of chips, there is a reason why we eat a wide variety of foods and not just bland cabbage broth.

The weight loss you’ll see is from water, not fat. This means that the weight will be back as soon as you go off the diet. Also, the lack of nutritional value in cabbage, which is low in protein and high in salt, can rob you of healthy fatty acids (yes, there are healthy fats) and complex carbohydrates leading to fatigue, urinary problems, light-headedness, and uncontrollable gas (ever hear of “Cabbage Farts?”).

The Low Carb/“Atkins” Diet

Most people know about how stupid this diet is by now, but that hasn’t stopped some people from attempting this overly-complex starvation process on themselves.

As mentioned above Carbohydrates are essential. They are the primary fuel source for the body. Without them, the body starts to consume your muscle mass – not your body fat – for energy which can further hinder your fat burning ability. Add to that the fact that low carb “meal replacements” often contain unhealthy additives and that these diets usually result in an increased risk for digestive and cardiovascular disorders resulting from low fiber intake and it’s a wonder anyone still swears by these monstrosities.

Appetite Suppressants

Here’s the great whopping hot mess that got this little conversion we’re having now started in the first place. The theory is that, “I must be fat because I eat to much. Lets trick my body into thinking it’s full.”

Most suppressants are chemically similar to most amphetamine drugs and carry the same dangers; nervousness, heart palpitations, high blood pressure and more. Plus, as I’m sure those who can follow a logical progression have already learned, not eating when you need to means you’re STARVING. And that means you suffer all the ill effects of that without knowing that all you need to stop the pain is a burger.

Diet Soda

Oh, wow! A delicious and sweet-tasting soft drink with no calories? That sounds great!… Or it would be if you weren’t lying to my face.

The fact is that the artificial sweeteners used in diet sodas, namely aspartame and saccharin, actually INCREASE weight gain rather than halt it. It seams that nature and physiology have trained us to expect a lot of nutrition to accompany sweet-tasting food. However, since diet soda has no caloric value, our bodies instinctively start on a feeding frenzy to compensate for the confusion and get something worthwhile in our stomachs. Also, there’s reason to believe that aspartame is a known carcinogen just in case you needed another reason to avoid it.

The Final Point

Most of the commercial success of these fad diets and supplements comes from marketers and corporations feeding off of the most basic primal emotion of its consumer base: fear. We’re all afraid that if we don’t match some physical ideal, we will somehow become worthless to society.

What this fails to consider is that a) the physical ideal is a function of biology and environment rather than fashion, b) which fashions are physically appealing is a function of individual personality and psychology rather than group focus meetings, and c) even when the body is spent, the mind can still be useful and desirable.

Sooner or later, everyone will learn as I had to that the body can and will lose its luster over time and only personality and intellect will remain behind. However, they must be cultivated, trained, and routinely maintained. Stay healthy in body, but don’t do so at the expense of mind and soul. Also, make sure you’re actually being healthy.