Weight Loss and Fitness Advice You Don’t Want To Hear

I like stuff that pisses people off.

I’m not talking about the mildly annoying and and beingĀ irritated. I’m talking about raging anger that makes people behave like idiots because they have a visceral and emotional response to it. That’s what got me hooked on punk rock as a teenager.

To this day I tend not to like nice music. I’m drawn to TV shows like Breaking Bad, The Americans, The Sopranos and Mad Men that challenge you. On the other hand I’m annoyed and repulsed by people who work at getting these kinds of reactions from their audience with no point to it (I’m looking at you Walking Dead).

Somewhere along the line the idea that if you’re not getting a reaction you’re probably boring got into my brain and sunk in. When I signed up to be a Coach with Team Beachbody I was told, repeatedly, not to do that. Stop being controversial. Don’t have a political point of view. Shiny and happy 24/7 was the way to go.

Honestly, living that way was nice and quiet for a while, but over the last 9 to 10 months it’s felt like I was wearing someone else’s pants, and not big, comfy pants I could manage to walk around in. The legs were too long and I was tripping over them and the waist was too tight and starting to make my stomach hurt.

The reality is that the world is not a shiny and happy place, and I didn’t become interested in health and fitness because losing weight is fun, or because getting my middle-aged body to stop trying to kill me makes me think of daisies and sunsets viewed from a tropical beach. Unlearning all of my poor nutritional habits was hard, and extracting myself from the poor habits I still have (not getting enough sleep, I’m coming after you once I figure out how to do it) is tough.

James Fell gets it. And he doesn’t run away from pissing people off or hurting their feelings. Take a look at this article – What Is The Solution To Obesity – for instance. You know who he pissed off with that one? Everyone. Why? Because it’s the truth. Jamie Oliver has touched on the same thing repeatedly. I’ve quoted his line about how lifestyle related illnesses are the leading causes of early death in the US and UK right now and about once a year I share his TED talk about the absurd quantity of sugar that is present in the diets of our children today and I know that every time I do it I get unfollowed by dozens of people on Facebook.

We have embraced the cult of personal responsibility in America. Drug problem? It’s about your choices. Alcoholic? You need to make better choices. In debt? You need to make better choices. Obese? You need to eat less and move more.

All of it is a load of excrement.

As Fell mentions in the article linked above, we live in an obesigenic environment. The norm for the average person is a sedentary lifestyle. Most of that is not by choice at all. The primary way people make a living today is sitting at a desk for between 8 and 12 hours a day. Move more? Really? When?

Some businesses are realizing that having fat and sick workers is bad for their bottom line (certainly for their health insurance expenses) so sit-stand desks and even treadmill desks are becoming more common. That’s probably a terrible non-solution solution though for a whole bunch of reasons (not the least of which is that treadmills are soul-destroying), including apparent ignorance of everything learned about what standing all day does to the body via all the data available on what it did to factory workers in the 19th and early 20th centuries. There has to be a better way, and that way isn’t going to come, I’m sorry to say to all you folks who think the market will solve everything, from the market.

Eat less? Fuck you.

Here’s the story I don’t tell very often – changing my eating habits from the ones that made me overweight and wrecked my health was really, really difficult. If I hadn’t had a very, very strong desire to be present for my daughter, and to be the kind of father I never had, who I believe my kid (and every kid) deserves I wouldn’t have succeeded, and right now, as she is getting older and more independent it’s tough not to slide back into those habits.

Food is everywhere. When I do building inspections at my stores there is literally a pile of cinnamon buns, donuts, cookies, cupcakes, lumpia, banana pudding, birthday cake and fried chicken in every break room. It has taken a re-education program that Mao would have been proud of, self-implemented, to alter my reaction to this stuff that I encounter constantly. I had to train myself to see it in a totally different way to stop myself from tucking in.

You got that? I didn’t follow a diet and start doing daily workouts and *blammo* I lost weight. Nope. I had to learn what I was doing wrong, figure out how to fix it and then essentially immerse myself in studying nutrition, obesity and fitness theory in order to re-train my brain to see all that delicious, hyper-palatable food for what it is – poison so that I could alter my behavior around it.

Eat less and move more? Please go blow a rhino.

Most people used to smoke. Why? Because most people smoked. We humans don’t like standing out in a crowd. My father quit smoking when I was little. He decided it was a filthy habit and he didn’t want to do it any more. He was one of the first people I knew who had a big No Smoking sign in his shop. It said, if I’m not mistaken, “Feel Free To Smoke… Outside.” He got lots of shit for that sign. Today no one would pull out a cigarette and light up in anyone’s place of business. That didn’t change because people suddenly got less stupid. It changed because the laws changed.

James Fell has caught holy hell on his Facebook Page from people who find any challenge to the notion that if you’ve got a problem it’s yours to solve by force of will alone outrageous because he’s said we don’t solve the obesity problem by telling people to be more personally responsible. Can you change your life by making different choices? Yes. I did it. But it was ridiculously hard, and as one of my closest friends had told me, I’m not normal. I know how to identify my own flaws, and I’m willing and able to seek out knowledge and support for making changes. I’ve also got time to read, to research and to implement different behaviors. That’s not everyone, and throwing people overboard because they can’t do what I did, as a society, is immoral.

It’s also terrible for the society itself. The outcomes we’re headed for will drain the public treasury, diminish productive capacity and collectively shorten the lifespans of our children.

Yeah, so I’m not going to be nice about it. Shiny and happy will still happen because life is actually pretty great and celebrating that is important, but if I piss you off, well, that’s your problem, my friends.

Well, what did you think?

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