Sunday, February 22, 2009

Healthy = Proper Weight NOT!

Health and fitness mean different things to different groups. To the older group, it means low cholesterol and blood pressure. To young women, it means slenderness. To young men, it means muscle mass. To just about everyone who would be happier lighter, it means less fat. Many discussions today have begun to synonymize health and “skinny.” I want to point out that while excess fat or weight can cause problems, the major health issues are deeper in the body.

Organs are important too.

This was completely ignored, in my opinion, by the low-carb, high-protein diet movement. Give me a break. How can you expect anything but trouble if you limit your intake of fruits and vegetables and eat mainly meat? A slender and toned body, if that’s what such a diet can get you, is not going to make you feel good. It will be of little value to you in the near future when you get sick. It amazes me how caught up into body fashion a person can get. I stood with two women one day and listened to their conversation about a high-protein diet. One woman was one of the main nurses at my place of employment. She asked the other woman for her opinion on such a diet. The other woman was a visiting dietician that had just finished a lecture. She was clearly against such a diet but spoke very diplomatically. It floored me to hear a nurse ask such a question, under whose care I had been. From the way she spoke, she was actually considering such a diet.

I did dumber things as a teenager to manipulate my weight for wrestling competition.

Opposite the high-protein, I suspect commercial vegan programs stress the abstinence from animal products more for the weight-reduction (face it – this is where the money is) effect it definitely seems to have than the internal organ and cells benefit it may (I’m not so sure) have. I certainly am convinced that unhealthy meats (those with preservatives and raised with hormones and un-natural feed) are bad and that healthy meats are best consumed only when the appetite truly dictates, but I don’t go for the idea of cutting out animal products altogether, especially if you are not a heavy person to begin with.

You often hear that obesity increases risk of developing diabetes. This may be, but I was never obese and I developed diabetes. So I think of obesity and diabetes as parallel potentials from a common set of bad practices rather than cause and result, one from the other.

What are the benefits of obtaining a body that takes a lot of un-natural doing and maintenance? I used to lift weights an awful lot because I was told I was skinny. As I got older, I found that no exercise program undertaken for cosmetic or self-glorifying purposes could be sustained more than a few years – a few months in most cases. I kept hard at it for about 20 years, partly for the glory and partly because I felt good and aspired to keep up my wrestling ability. My motives to keep up my wrestling were pretty pure; I simply loved the sport. This enabled my consistency. But I began to care less and less about formal competition and more about the sheer activity. I learned that for running to be enjoyable, sustainable and really beneficial, I could not be thinking about getting to a finish line by some certain time. Rather, I learned to focus on the beauty of the present workings of my body and run in the moment. Long before this, I began to realize the absurdity of spending hours each day lifting weights to get big and strong without accomplishing any work beneficial to anyone else. So I began to incorporate my exercise with actual work wherever possible. Like using the reel mower rather than the gas one, and using the old dogs to go places rather than drive.

So I ask you, what good does it do a man to gain muscle mass greater than such as was known to man until 20 years ago, by lifting weights (don’t even talk to me about supplements and drugs – even though I realize they are why the average joe these days has more muscle than the big boys of yesteryear)? He may have the opportunity to lift a washing machine all by himself once in a while, or some such task, and he may look good to some, but other than that, does it allow him to fit into small places, run like a deer or labor through the day with stamina? No. Talk about vanity at the cost of health and time that could have been spent serving.

At six feet and 150 lb, I don’t think I need more mass if I’m not playing the front line in football and if I can lift 180 lb boxes onto overhead shelves, climb like a monkey to do ceiling or tree work, break all the bolts loose that I need to, or work a shovel all day in the fields.

Then there is my buddy, Ken. He would simply look funny if he had more muscle. He is naturally muscular and very strong compared to the typical weight-lifting athlete. He can lift washing machines and break bolts loose without extra leverage that I usually need. I’m sure it comes in handy for him. But he can still run too. In fact, he used to sprint faster than me. And his endurance was respectable (he wrestled too) after he overcame an asthmatic condition. I used to think I had to be like him even though it would require a lot from me.

Another thing that helped turn me from the chase of glory was the realization that very precious few people gave a darn what I accomplished in sports and that those who did only did because they wanted to best me. Except Ken. But my friends loved me anyway. Girls? Forget it. Girls worth saying hi to don’t care about such things. In short, an ego is not attractive and is not seen as something that will benefit the seer.

But don’t get me wrong – sports are great, given the right attitude. I would never trade my wrestling experience, and I am sure that a mate finds avid interest in such activity attractive when it is done for the love of diligence, development, art and fun, and not for ego.

Health is a daily thing as well as a long-term goal. The Book of Mormon, speaking of restoration and reward in the life to come says, “he that is happy shall be happy still.” Health is that way. If your food tastes great, feels good going down your gullet, feels great in your stomach, feels great through the digestion process, feels great leaving the body, and if your exercise feels great and your sleep too, you are healthy now. You that are healthy now shall be healthy still.

I implore all people to be humbly grateful for the body they were given, enjoy the strengths it has and when you think of health, think of what makes you feel really great. Build or maintain the body that will best serve your family.