Do Christmas. That is all, really.
If it really was only one day of indulging, I don’t think we’d have much in the way of any serious problems surrounding Christmas. But we have a way of freaking out about the multitude of celebrations, with much food, drink, all sorts. And it causes much confusion and anxiety, for any number of reasons.
Whether you’re religiously pious or a bit of a fitness nut, we have a long history – us humans – of believing there’s moral superiority in the rejection of pleasure. I used to buy into this myself to a point, but I’m less prone to moralizing in general than I used to be. Or perhaps to rephrase: morals where morals belong, but what about where they don’t quite seem to fit?
If I’m to think about the logical biology of pleasure and disgust, they serve it seems, to ensure survival of the species. I’m not a biologist. My mum is, so I hope she’ll correct me if I’m off-base, but what seems logical to me is this: things that bring us pleasure: eating, sex, sleeping, exercise, relaxation, social interaction – these things can all be linked with the survival of our species, in rather direct ways. Also, these things that disgust us: mold, rot, certain foods, smells, pain – the mechanism of disgust also clearly serves to keep us alive.
I don’t write a whole bunch about nutrition, mostly because I’m a personal trainer, and as such I’m not qualified to put anyone on any particular diet. I can talk about food in broad terms, but it’s worth properly stating: if your personal trainer does try to put you on a diet, make sure they’re qualified. We know about exercise. And it is our job to teach you about that. But we are famous for working outside of our scope of practice.
Having said that, I am opinionated, and I do like to discuss concepts as much as I enjoy details. So, onward to concepts!
The term “diet” we often take to be restrictive these days, but the word may actually relate more broadly to any eating program for any purpose, it may have phases or periods or a specific desired result or not – and even more broadly it may simply relate to whatever it is you happen to eat. For example, the diet of a chimpanzee includes but is not limited to: fruits, other parts of trees, insects and occasionally, other chimpanzees.
In the Southern Hemisphere, winter has recently given way to spring, and in Melbourne it’s been rather warm. And I realise, despite my objection to the contrivance, that I actually do eat seasonally - to a point.
If you haven’t noticed, I’m opposed to restrictive dieting for non-medical reasons. I prefer to take an inclusive, rather than exclusive approach. If we were to learn anything from our Paleo predecessors, I figure it’s this: eat all the foods! And preserve what you can in the permafrost.
I was reading an article before, and was told that whether my goal is fat loss or muscle gain, I should be eating 200 grams of protein each day. I don’t know how people come to these figures. I don’t know if I’ve ever eaten 200 grams of protein in a single day; to get near that figure, I’d need to be eating steak and eggs for every meal, or adding at least three protein shakes to a regular day’s worth of food, or drinking a few litres of milk. Thirty eggs. An unbelievably large quantity of tofu. Meat and milk, essentially. In quantities that would be truly difficult for me to sustain.
Likewise, depending on what I read, it seems I should be consuming anywhere between 2,000 and 4,000 calories per day. That’s a pretty big window. There’s a reason I don’t like to track all this stuff too much anymore. The numbers interfere with listening to, and trusting, my own body and perception, and I only feed my obsessions to a point.
People are ashamed of eating these days. And I think it’s a terrible shame, that we are ashamed of our desire to eat.
Because what is it, other than the desire to live? All of us must eat to survive, and ultimately, there can be nothing wrong with this. This exposes one of many lies: the desire to eat, even the desire to eat all the foods, is an act of self-love, not self-destruction. The will to not eat, however? What is that?
I know so many thin people who fear food, perceiving it as the enemy, the adversary, the challenge to be conquered and overcome – because if the food wins, they’ll be fat. And I know so many fat people who perceive food as the enemy too, as the temptress that is to blame for their misery and plight.
Warning: contains swears.
I struggle with compliance and obedience in a certain context.
I’m good at taking medicine – pills, supplements and insulin injections. And blood-glucose readings. But sometimes my hackles rise when I’m told what to eat – and sometimes they don’t.
Here’s the kicker: dietary change has to not feel punitive.
It’s the same with exercise of course – do it on your terms, or not at all.
This is completely non-negotiable for me.
Pills and supplements are easy, because they don’t feel like a judgement, they don’t appear – to me – to come morally loaded.
People seem to think it’s okay to cut out carbs or fat, but there are only three macronutrients. Nutrients like zinc and Vitamin C and what have you are necessary, but they don’t provide you with energy like that – calories – the energy your body requires in order to function. The energy we use in our day to day lives comes from fat, carbohydrate and protein. It’s not like there are nineteen different options and you’ll be okay if you just eat eighteen of them. Only three. You can manipulate ratios to a point, but if you eliminate one, bad shit starts to happen.
Carbohydrate can be complex – fibre – or simple – sugar – but it’s all carbs. Occasionally you’ll hear someone talk about how proud they are of eating “zero carb” and then they’ll talk about the broccoli they had with their steak. It’s bullshit – broccoli is full of carbohydrate. They mean they’re eating zero grains. Talk like that just contributes to misinformation.
As much as I may be oversimplifying like crazy in this post, I’m not contributing to misinformation – not like that. I attempt to fight misinformation. That’s kinda what this whole thing is about. I'm sorry it’s not more simple, but all the time people try to reduce human physiology to a simple equation. Really? That’s supposed to work? People study Masters and Doctorates in this stuff. Anyway.
We are used to thinking of oatmeal or porridge as some sort of healthy option. Unless you’re on the Paleo band wagon, that is. It’s easy for me – with my diabetes – to view everything in terms of sugar metabolism. There’s other stuff going on, and in a lot of ways, there’s much that’s healthy about oatmeal. Something something cholesterol-lowering, something fibre-protein...
The thing is – it spikes my blood sugar, and it requires a lot of insulin for me to metabolise those sugars – to get the sugar out of my blood and into my muscles. I will need to inject more medicine. If I add a heaping pile of cream, however, that helps. Because adding fat to a food delays the release of the sugars.
Even with cream, I don’t have porridge all that often.
_ So, my blog is now a year old! Happy Birthday, blog!
To mark the occasion, I think I’m going to do twelve cartwheels, one for each month, and maybe seventy-one push-ups, one for each article I’ve written.
I hope you’re picking up on the theme – exercise is not a punishment. It is not something you can do to neutralise bad karma, and its inclusion in – or exclusion from – your life does not reflect on you as a person. It is something to be engaged with in whatever way you like – strength training is my thing, hence my choices. I did not choose a twelve kilometre run, or seventy holes of golf, or a one hour bike ride.
To move freely (by which I simply mean – on your terms, whether structured or no, impulsively or whimsically, with labour or attention or absentmindedness) is to celebrate life.
Also, I bought a new pair of shoes! Huzzah!