Take responsibility for your own health

I was in Colorado when I first got hit with this wave of dieting fads and “health interest.” As far as I can tell, this is also right about the time that the obesity epidemic was declared for the Americans, with the Canadians following closely behind.

Closer to home, my mom is a “health nut”; she was a health nut before it was even cool to be one. My stepdad used to be a body builder and I remember watching him and my mom workout as a kid, or making granola or doing one of their other rituals and wondering what it all meant. I guess it made enough of an impression on me as now I’m about 72.5 kilograms with about eight per cent body fat, which is pretty good for a 20-year-old male according to the stats and charts.

But those don’t really mean that much to me. In the middle of this “obesity epidemic,” I care less and less about what the experts say I should or shouldn’t eat, the newest weight loss tips or how to get in shape quickly. Here’s how I see it: most of that stuff is bullshit. It’s marketed in response to this problem, a way to sell products and make people feel bad about themselves at the same time.

As for those weight-loss diets and eating disorders, I believe that they are directly linked and must be dealt with in conjunction with the overall view of what health is. Weight-loss diets cater towards people who don’t want to, don’t have enough time for, can’t or whatever other excuse there is to avoid exercising. Many diets systematically starve you and destroy your health while creating temporary fixes that cause most people to get even fatter when they inevitably break their diet, thus ensuring that they will feel guilty and buy even more low calorie but unhealthy prepackaged food, more diet shakes and generally throw more money at the problem hoping to make it disappear.

This is the wrong approach. And yes, I said “fatter,” not “put on weight”; the two are totally different things. Weight is just a measurement of how dense you are. Fat is much lighter than muscle or bone, so I can easily outweigh someone who is much larger than me. In fact, weight gain is what normally happens when you work out because you are replacing the fat content of your body with much denser muscle tissue.

So, what should someone do in order to lose fat and get in shape? I just went through a major program in order to prepare for the military and I easily aced the health test. So here’s what I recommend: don’t be too picky about what you eat, avoid prepackaged foods and cook and your own food as often as possible. Rice, eggs, frozen vegetables, perogies and potatoes are all good and fairly cheap foods that will give you energy and a good start. Expand your cooking abilities and eat diversely; learn to cook fish, stews or quiche. Also avoid cooking with oil too often; once every week or so is enough. If you can, you should make your food yourself as restaurants are expensive and often not as healthy for you.

Exercise. This is step two of a two-step program. It’s about as simple as it sounds — go out and do some physical exercise until you are tired. That is how you burn off that stored energy, you use it to move around. Don’t try to jump straight into the weight lifting or jogging or whatever unless you really enjoy it. Try something like martial arts, soccer, biking, fencing or swimming. Seriously, just do anything that involves moving around that you enjoy. Make time to do it, and do it with friends if possible. It’s good to put the books down for a while, free your mind up and do something active.

As for body image, I find that if someone exercises and eats right this one becomes almost irrelevant. When you start to have a lean, healthy body and you feel great you realize that you become your own body image, or at least you accept what you look like, learn to love your body and become able to recognize where you can improve yourself to make it even better. The most important change is in your attitude. You should love the way your body looks and work hard to make it better, not feel guilty about what you eat and mope around because of it.

Be happy, work hard, play hard, have fun, enjoy life and the rest will surely follow.