Article Overview: 784 words and a personal position piece on life long fitness in a world focused way too much on image and status.
How much are you willing to give up for leanness?
For some individuals, the answer is: a lot. There is no doubt that being lean and having single digit body fat numbers is a big ego boost for many people out there. For some this comes easier than for others due to factors like good genetics. For others, single digit body fat is truly a religion and an obsession.
The figure below represents the change in percent body fat over a lifetime for the Athlete, the Obsessed, the Moderate, the Obsessed but Inconsistent, and the Sedentary folk. What I’m trying to show is the real difference consistency makes versus being obsessed, and where the real problems lie.
In an effort to hit single digit body fat numbers,the Obsessed resort to extreme measures. Of course many of these measures are effective for getting down to single digit body fat numbers but at what price? Obviously there are the simple pleasures in life that one must renounce such as a traditional morning coffee with the occasional chocolate croissant. However, there are undoubtedly many other negative effects associated with extreme nutrition and fitness fads related to health and mental wellbeing.
As we get inundated with advertising and media showing us how we “ought” to look, the Obsessed but Inconsistent individuals really get the raw deal. Not only must there be a constant feeling of not measuring up to the industry standard but no doubt there is also a lot of failed attempts to hit an unattainable target. The perpetual swings between periods of unsustainably high commitment and periods of low commitment add up resulting in a trend over a lifetime towards the slippery slope of increased body fat and decreased muscle tissue. For the Obsessed but Inconsistent, the periods of extreme deprivation and extreme dieting can only be balanced with periods of extreme indulgence.
Then there are the Moderates. They employ simple strategies consistently that allow them to maintain body composition at a reasonable level over a lifetime. The issue with the Moderate is that their story is nothing new and not overly interesting. You can’t sell the Moderate approach whether that be in a book, online or in a seminar. In fact, it seems as though the voice of the Moderate is rarely heard. While the Moderate’s popularity may have died alongside the popularity of the VCR, the question should be asked whether or not the new iteration is a better alternative. As far as the VCR goes, I’m going to say Apple TV is a big improvement. However, I can’t say the same about the theories and beliefs espoused by the Obsessed, which appear to have silenced the Moderates.
The difference between the Moderate and the Obsessed is shown below in the green highlighted area. This is what a lifetime of commitment to extreme measures will bring you. As we progress through the lifespan, not a single person can entirely overcome the forces of nature and aging. Sadly, while there are few certainties in life, the cycle of birth, aging and death are non-negotiable. Of course this can be mitigated with exercise/lifestyle, and the natural trend towards increased body fat and decreased muscle tissue can be attenuated. The question is whether or not the shaded green zone is really worth depriving oneself of ALL the simple pleasures in life. I will leave it up to you to decide for yourself.
The green highlighted zone also shows what being a Moderate won’t bring you. Living your 20’s, 30’s and part of your 40’s with near single digit body fat can’t be attained with occasionally enjoying simple pleasures and indulging. In order to accomplish this sacrifices must be made. Extreme results require extreme measures.
The orange zone in the figure below represents what consistency can bring you and what inconsistency can’t bring you. The ups and downs of the Obsessed but Inconsistent typically leads towards an overall increase in body fat with time. However, simple strategies like sweating regularly, eating a lower calorie diet with nutritious food, and still indulging once in a while will generally bring decent results over a lifetime. The orange zone represents what the basics and staying the course bring to the table.
The red zone is the real issue for North American society. This is where the bulk of the scientific research is focused and it is often the ammunition used by the Obsessed to justify extreme fitness and nutrition approaches. However, let’s be fair in recognizing that this problem is one that requires a complete change in attitudes and beliefs.
I also think the solution to this dilemma is more inline with the Moderate approach than the Obsessed approach.