It strikes me as crazy sometimes that everyone doesn’t look at the fitness lifestyle as a gift we should all take advantage of and be grateful to have. To so many people, exercise is a miserable chore, and ‘eating clean’ is a punishment. Are you kidding me? All you need to do is to look back to the way things were only a few generations ago, when the vast majority of people accepted that their bodies were what they were, unable to be changed.
It’s true that people were more active in general 100 years ago, so obesity was nowhere near as common. But if you were seriously overweight, that was considered to be your fate. It’s simply how you were meant to be, and that belief was even more assured if your parents were heavy too. People did try numerous fad diets, but few ever succeeded. The idea that regular exercise along with a healthy diet and lower calories was the key to real weight loss and management was unknown. Women were expected to gain weight with each pregnancy, and keep it forever (which we still see today, even though we know it’s quite possible to drop it).
Contrast that to now. There are so many options available to anyone who is overweight and wants to lose weight. There are gyms and fitness centers, home exercise equipment, systems on DVD like Insanity or P90X, and a plethora of diet programs. Some of those you need to pay for, like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig, but there are also so many programs available online. Nutritional knowledge and awareness have increased exponentially. Everyone knows what proteins, carbohydrates, and fats are nowadays. Most people who don’t eat right know they are making poor choices, whereas in the past they really didn’t. True, there are more poor choices available now in our era of fast food, snacks, and processed foods; but even the dimmest among us understand that if they are overweight, eating ice cream or McDonalds food isn’t doing them any favors. ‘
Let’s look at the other extreme, one my fellow men will relate to. Say you were skinny, as I was back in my early teenage years. 100 years ago, even though there wasn’t nearly as much societal pressure on men to be at least athletically built, you were stuck with that skinny body. The idea that you could use progressive weight training along with plenty of nutritious food to build muscle mass was still by and large unknown. If you were skinny and not happy about it, too bad. Live with it! Now, every boy knows you lift weights to get big. If you aren’t happy with your scrawny body, you have the power to build it up and mold it into something you can be happy with and proud of.
Probably the single greatest gift the fitness lifestyle has given us all is the power to fight and forestall the aging process. For all of human history up until only a mere three or four decades ago, it was universally accepted that your body would grow weaker, more frail, and less attractive starting at about 30 years of age. I vividly remember being a kid in the 70′s, and people in their 40′s and 50′s were OLD! The fact that most of them smoked a pack or two of cigarettes and drank probably didn’t help matters. But the physical aspect of the aging process was seen as inevitable, and something they were powerless against. Gradually, it became understood that most of what we viewed as a certain physical decline was really just a matter of disuse – “use it or lose it.” If you were inactive, you could expect your body to deteriorate. Your muscles would shrink, your skin would become flabby, your bones would lose density and become brittle, you would lose all flexibility, and your posture would grow bent and stooped. But, others chose to exercise: lift weights, jog, take various classes like aerobics and yoga. Their bodies were stronger and more fit, and they looked a whole lot better than their peers who surrendered to the ravages of aging without putting up the least bit of resistance. Now, it’s common to see people over 60 and even over 70 who can move around just fine and who are nothing like the stereotype of the frail, stooped senior citizens hobbling around or planted in chairs or beds 24/7.
What I’m trying to say is that we now have the power to change our bodies for the better, to be stronger, more flexible, have better heart and lung health, and to gain muscle and lose fat if we so choose. This is something our ancestors were ignorant of. Unlike them, we are not at the mercy of fat or skinny genes, pregnancy weight gain, or watching our bodies become weak, frail, and wrinkled shells. We can exercise and eat right. This is not a chore or something to avoid – it’s a gift we should all embrace. And if you choose not to, that’s your choice. Your body is yours to take excellent care of and truly make your temple if you want to. If not, it’s only because you don’t want to put out the effort. In 2014, you can’t claim ignorance. We have all the knowledge now, and all the tools to make positive changes. You can mold your body into something stronger, healthier, and more attractive. So why wouldn’t you?