Dear reader, as soon as I put on a few kilos, I have one of those bodies that inflates like a balloon. So whenever I lose weight I tend look like a shell of my former self, quite literally. It’s taken a few months, but I’ve done it! I’ve managed to shed 10 kilos. I look good but I’m not letting on how pleased I am with myself. The ladies and gents at work look twice when I walk along the office corridor. I can tell they’re quite impressed by the physical transformation. But before you congratulate me, please read on.
Once I hit my twenties, my body weight started to fluctuate. Where I was once lithe, my abdomen, a stealthy six pack, grew soft, and my sharp angular biceps and quads assumed a somewhat marbly appearance. Nothing remarkable about that I hear you say. Of course, the only way to maintain a firm figure as one approaches mid-life is to exercise and not over-eat. Like most regular folks, I casually ignore this prescription.
The gym, an American invention, does not interest me. Generally speaking, high impact physical movement – jogging, lifting weights, cardio, and so on – hold little personal appeal. And I reject the notion that the only way to maintain fitness or mindfulness is to join these hysterical sect-like worlds. Same goes for Yoga. Not for me. As one instructor gently uttered after I failed to execute a headstand “don’t worry, it won’t make you a better person”. Too right! As she was comforting me, I looked over my shoulder to see some desperate middle-aged guy straining to pull off the gravity defying manoeuvre with a “look at how accomplished I am” expression on his face. How depressing.
So, you ask with a growing sense of curiosity and impatience, how do I keep fit and how am I losing weight? There are no secrets. I can confirm that I am not following any advice published in the world of health and wellbeing. I don’t do the 5:2 diet, or the no carbs diet, or any other peculiarly named diet out there.
What I observe, dear reader, is an age-old invention, and it does not answer to the latest buzzwords or fads. It’s called, wait for it…common sense. If you wish to lose weight you need to expend more energy than you consume. It’s mathematics. It’s physics. It’s chemistry. It’s life.
If you wish to stay fit, then move. You won’t lose weight if you sit down all day, or drive everywhere. You won’t lose weight if you snack in between meals or if the size of your meals are more than your body needs to sustain itself. If your main source of pleasure and comfort is food, then if you don’t put on weight, at the very least you probably won’t lose it.
The other thing you actually have to do is (gasp!) think for yourself. Doing so, you will come to understand that dieting is a temporary affair, and that a healthy well-balanced diet is a long-term proposition. The idea of losing weight should only ever be a short-term goal that is achieved gradually by consuming less and moving more. It requires something that companies try to package and sell to us, thus mischievously undermining our own ability to exercise it. It’s called, self-discipline. I know, amazing right!
Self-discipline is work, which narrowly defined, is delaying gratification and undertaking a chore that demands concerted effort and energy. It’s not fun, but that’s why work is called work. Discipline. It’s necessary if you want to achieve a personal or shared goal. Self-discipline is akin to self-control.
In the face of the hysterical clamour and idiotic noise of self-proclaimed prophets promising to have all the life-answers you need, the grip one has over one’s own self-control grows tenuous. The chorus of voices, the plethora of sage advice, is a deliberate distraction intended to frustrate us from exercising the very thing these charlatans promise to cultivate in us – care of the self. It’s not a conspiracy. It’s essentially market forces. Businesses, big and small, are in the game of monetising the ability to care for ourselves, so that we unwittingly assign this cherished responsibility over to a faceless commercial entity. Weight Watchers, case in point.
In the meantime, the food industry contrives to seduce us into habitual snacking by employing sophisticated marketing campaigns. The bombardment of food advertisements online and point of sale is carefully devised to erode our resistance to instant gratification. The McDonalds and Cadburys of the world invite us to take part in the ruse of meeting our appetitive needs for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and snacks in between, only if we shell out money for the privilege.
You have to be a mythical Odysseus amongst the Sirens to not capitulate to the seductive overtures that the food industry make at every turn. The food industry lurks in every nook and cranny of our daily existence, effectively compelling us to spend as much of our hard-earned money as possible on the tide of rubbish they deign to drown us in.
To be clear, the actual food these companies market, is not the key issue. But the way they metaphorically shove it down our throats, is.
Between a rock and a hard place…the dieting industry and the snack food industry, that’s where we find ourselves firmly wedged. That’s the dichotomy we should be conscious of if we are going to lift ourselves out of this craggy quagmire, emerge from infantilism and hear the sweet music they’re selling us for what it actually is…a cacophony of noise, in other words, complete and utter garbage.