I was fat. I was a fat kid who grew into a fat teenager. Then I grew into an obese man. I wanted to “lose weight.”
At least, I thought that was what I wanted.
I focused on losing weight, and did it successfully. I lost 70lb as I became an adult.
Then I found that 70lb.
I focused on losing weight once again. And found it again. I dieted. I repeated the process, and it took me a long time to notice what was going on.
I eventually found out that I wanted something other than “losing weight.”
There are very basic desires that humans share. We all want life. We want growth. It is difficult to reconcile the “loss” of anything with this basic desire.
We want to spring forth from the soil of society and uncoil our cotyledons toward the sun – we want to self-actualize. Our personal development is a form of growth.
The American Dream is but a new and stylized rendition of this Biological and Psychological Dream. Our economic and social development is a form of growth.
We pass on the best ways we have learned how to grow. We teach our 2.5 children how to live. Safe within picket fences, our DNA and our values will grow strong enough to live beyond limitations. Our legacy grows through our children, and they grow up.
Then we set them free to live and actualize themselves, and grow in new cycles.
Growing as much as we can and passing on what we are is not a new idea.
The American Dream goes back hundreds of thousands of years. Creating a resource-rich niche for our selves and families, and filling it with as much good stuff as possible, has been the goal of humanity for quite some time. Only the 2.28 cars in the driveway is “new.”
Do Americans want to “lose weight,” or do we want to be “bigger, better, faster”?
It may be time for us to become more honest with ourselves. We may not want 50-inch bellies.
Yet in a basic biological and psychological sense, we all want to be bigger.
We want our own vitality to be bigger, so we can be better human beings that attain our desires faster.
If we’re honest about how a body and a mind works, it can help us make new choices. But this honesty requires that us to admit something that nobody wants to admit:
The conscious mind is not The Boss of You.
If your conscious mind was truly the boss of your body, you would simply order it to do your bidding: “Lose weight now!”
You may have tried this.
I thought I wanted to lose weight. I found out that I wanted to be vital. And being lean is related to being as vital as possible.
My focus changed. But it took a long time.
I once knew a man who successfully lost 150lb in 6 months. He even made a joke about it to me. It was the kind of thing that sticks in a young man’s mind. My father said we could put this on his tombstone:
“Lose weight now ask me how.”
Chemotherapy is a way to lose weight.
And somehow, even with that epitaph in the back of my head, even after noticing repeatedly that “successful weight loss” had nothing to do with health or vitality, it still took me a decade to see past what our culture has been telling us.
“Weight loss” was not what I wanted.
Our bodies are made of muscle and organs and bone and fat and water, and all of those show up on a scale. A scale may tell you how much total weight has changed, but it cannot tell you whether you are losing water or muscle or fat.
Few of us want less muscle. The numbers on a bathroom scale tell you little about what is happening in your body.
These numbers may not indicate whether or not you are heading in the direction you truly want to go.
Checking your bathroom scale to see if you’re “reaching your goal” is like looking at your odometer to see if you have driven to Disneyland.
If you want to use numbers: try bodyfat percentage or blood tests.
Numbers are useful. But measurement is not the same as getting to know your own body.
When we are lean and vital, we can feel it.
To get to know your body better, try not rejecting any part of it.
Fat is a part of a lean and vital body. Fat is always a part of what we physically are.
We have no human ancestor who was incapable of storing and using bodyfat.
Modern bodybuilders who strive for veiny abdomens, sometimes strive for 3% bodyfat. Some get very close to that goal, often with drugs.
Andreas Munzer was an Austrian bodybuilder famous for getting even closer to 0% by the age of 31. His abdominal muscles and veins were well-defined. His autopsy revealed less than 3% bodyfat after his organs failed.
Fat is a part of a whole system of interrelating pieces that function together. At the barest minimum: a properly functioning 120lb female body is still made from 16lb of fat.
Yes, she can continue to burn fat off past this point. It will cause hormonal disturbances, then death.
A very lean and vital woman is 14-24% fat in total weight. We can add another 10% to that and still be both healthful and shapely.
A very lean and vital man is 6-17% fat. We can add another 10% to that without causing problems.
Once you pay attention to precise measurements of bodyfat for enough time, you discover that a healthy human body does not have a specific “point” of lean, optimal function. It has a range.
This is because our bodies have grown to create bodyfat, and to burn bodyfat. We alternate between both. This is a cycle that occurs for each and every one of us, whether we are aware of it or not.
This cycle is part of what we are.
We can try to “cut off” from what we are. We can attempt to “tell our bodies what to do.” There is a certain charm of masculine authority in forcing things to happen.
The body is always capable of burning bodyfat for fuel, but any attempt to “force it” to “lose weight” will show short-term results at best.
If we want bodies that we enjoy for their abundant energy and shape, forming a better relationship will help. With a better relationship, we can ask our bodies for what we want.
We can also try attacking part of what we are.
Many of us are “cutting off” parts of our digestive system, or sucking the “bad” parts of ourselves out with a sharpened straw. Do we hate fat? We want the “bad” parts gone, we want to cut off from them. We want to force them to do our bidding. And if that doesn’t work, we’ll try deceiving our own bellies with “one simple trick.”
Hatred and attack and deception are not effective foundations for a good relationship.
We, consciously, are not the boss. We are not kings who rule over the complex ecology of self any more than we reign over our own hearts, forcing them to beat.
We, the conscious part of us that makes choices, may “have” physical bodies. To some extent, we get to order them around. It may feel like we force ourselves out of bed sometimes. That doesn’t mean that we get to choose which parts of a recursively interacting complex system are “good” and “bad.”
Being able to grab a refrigerator door when we think about it, does not mean we are in charge of every part of our bodies.
We cannot even “grow our fingernails” on purpose.
Yet our minds do influence what happens inside us and around us.
We may make choices of action that signal our endocrine system in the direction we want our bodies to go. We may find ways of eating and moving which signal this elegant environment of self to grow what it is that we want.
We can focus on creating ourselves as lean and vital.
Look toward growing and evolving a purer you. Focus on this forward momentum. Find yourself filled with lift, with intensity of purpose and energy.
Focus on vitality, and you’ll notice you move more. You’ll find a spring in your step.
Parts of you will grow and other parts will grow lean. You’ll dance easy, arms and legs not bouncing off of themselves, but moving free in the air.
Want your own energy and spirit, unfolding and growing in choice. Want a lean and vital you. It IS possible.
Want your body.