dtperson

Wrenched

In Exercise, Wooly on 29 June 2010 at 18:49

I know next to nothing about exercise.

Well, take that back; I know pretty well what it doesn’t do. Outside of that, I have the CDC, the overheated celebrity-doctor apparatus, and personal experience to rely upon, same as anybody else.

(Which, by the way – Dr. Oz? D’you know who else promotes weight loss with a heaping admixture of Abrahamic law? Yeah, that’d be PRO-ANA COMMUNITIES. Knock it off, sawbones.)

This past Wednesday I wrenched my knee up pretty good in the course of my regular exercise, which has me reflecting on my near-year’s observation of government-mandated running-in-place. Actually, as far as intervention trials go, I make for an okay case study; I was for years among the indifferent thin from whom a physical penance was never expected, thus never rendered. Walking gradually became my primary locomotion across my college’s diffuse urban campus, and between work and class it’s now about three miles a day in aggregate.

It then became important for me to bring my activity level in line with the federal minimum, mostly to be blameless in the eyes of the first lady. As capriciously as I gave up meat-eating (to just as capriciously resume it three years later) I bought a finger-nail’s length of quality 1970s-style shorts and had a go at running, thrice weekly, atop any incidental exercise.

And … I liked how it made me feel. Listen to my extremely scientific findings:

  • I liked having an inviolable engagement in the early evening.
  • I liked an apportioned time to be ridiculous and out of breath and sweaty, to earn a shower instead of simply banishing a collected day’s worth of inframince.
  • I liked the look of my legs better, but that’s probably because more routine exposure immunized me to their weirdness – they’re still two funky trunks conjoined at considerable knotholes, and no amount of “tone” is going to change that, but omigod dudes SHORTS.
  • I liked – I am ashamed to admit – cooking up alternate names for the practice of jogging to casually drop into conversation, because while
  • I liked the warm approbation that people seemed to radiate whenever I talked about it,
  • I didn’t like feeling guilty for reward-seeking and privileged behavior. Just as often I’d frame it as a bad habit.

(And while it’s not especially germane, I was pleased when running seemed to add the half-dozen pounds I lacked on my historical set point, consistent with anecdotal evidence. Depression took those back and then some, but it goes to show that the modest regulatory effects extend both ways.)

What I liked best, I guess, were the very minor physical empowerments, which I feel are universal and good. The little man’s frankly desperate gesture of solidarity at the far end of the intersection became an invigorating challenge. I practiced running, and hey, I got better at it. Does that give me a survival advantage? Well, I don’t know. Maybe if we were being chased by something, provided I hadn’t just been running, which – let’s say, on balance, no.

The value matrix is so complex that it’s impossible to distinguish actual health gains from projected ones. Is this better respiratory functioning, I wonder, or just a sigh of relief from what Jean Grimshaw called “the kind of bodily fear and unease [of] a somewhat inactive lifestyle”? Am I happier, or is that simply a correlation of having sufficient time and leisure to dedicate an hour to running and going nowhere? It goes like this: If, through my “lifestyle change”, I have earned a sure reprieve from what is popularly considered a death sentence  – well, it stands to reason that my immediate self-assessments might not come from a very objective place.

Physical exercise compresses the interval of self-improvement to an agreeable 21st century minimum, and I guess that troubles me. There’s a kind of seduction in getting appreciably better at something within months of undertaking it. Does that displace the long view? Hard to say. My material circumstances never greatly changed – no first flush of weight loss, no accolades, no dread of regain – so all I can account for is my time. To that end I can’t say I was meaningfully enriched, at least not along Roger Ebert’s “Greater Activity Edification Theorem“,  but then again I only ever partook of what might be called dumb, propulsive activities. Proponents of more holistic approaches suggest that the mind-body dichotomy tain’t necessarily so.

I’m going to resume once my leg gets better, even if my injury prefigures my eventual admission into the ranks of the newly old, whose early-onset, sports-related maladies are actually increasing healthcare spending. Because – and I repeat this for my sake as much as anyone’s – I like how it makes me feel, and I think it falls within the spectrum of permissibly unhealthy human behavior. A body might, for example, achieve the same chemical happiness from a thrice-weekly wedge of cake, and is probably just as well off in the long run – though of course the two are not mutually exclusive.

Oh, man. That sounds awesome. Interim exercise plan: cakesprints.

Language

In Acceptance, Language on 25 June 2010 at 15:36

Care of Isabel on Feministe; trigger warning on pretty much all of it.

Let’s talk about: packing on the pounds. Ballooning. Expanding. Language of disgust, hate, and beneath that, fear. Contempt. People saying, pale jiggling arms, an automatic punchline. Thunder thighs. When boobs are that big, it’s kind of gross. People describing bodies in detail for the joy of watching their listeners’ faces contort in disgust at the idea of a body. A body not doing anything, just being a body. Cover it up. Some people have the right to wear certain clothes. She can’t pull that off. I can’t pull that off. You’re lucky you can pull that off. It’s a conditional right, based on your ability to please strangers. You owe it to strangers not to offend them by wearing what you want to wear. We have the right to condemn someone for not hiding their body to the best of their ability.

Medieval

In Apologetics, Dryasdust on 25 June 2010 at 15:15

I haven’t thought a lot about the epidemiology of fat lately, and I’ll tell you why: you will nowhere find a more fruitless endeavor. Life expectancy’s up; cardiac disease, down. Honestly, the fifteen-odd pounds we have on our forebears seems, if not the cause, then certainly a benign-enough byproduct of our national condition. Of course that’s incompatible with mainline discussion of the obesity crisis, which is a moral panic, and the opposite of science, at any rate indistinguishable from the pseudoscience patter that has underwritten just about every other kind of bigotry at one point or another.

And yet.

So-called overweight’s protective effects are exhaustively documented, often in studies designed to prove the opposite. But what do we know, really, about the deleterious effects of adiposity? Besides being hell of rough on your triglycerides, I mean. As it turns out, beyond the realm of speculation, not a whole lot.

There is exactly one clinical problem directly implicated with fatness: osteoporosis, which is indeed aggravated in very fat persons. It’s not a causal relationship, mind, but assuming the coincidence of porous bones and fatness, what might be prescribed?

Oddly, it’s conditional. Within certain limits, fat actually mitigates osteoporosis, and both are indifferent to aerobic exercise. Restricted calorie diets may engender nutritional deficiencies that accelerate bone loss in the genetically predisposed, irrespective of weight, and chronic dieting has been observed to decrease bone density in fat premenopausal women. And it’s still, overwhelmingly, a disease of the very thin. Fatties can’t even win at their own epidemic.

So it is, all the way down the risk factor checklist, with the tiniest amount of time and attention paid.

It occurred to me the other day that fat – considered, in excess, a prima facie pathogen – has come to occupy the place of the medieval humours, and diet and exercise regimens, to make no mention of actual invasive surgery, are absolutely modern bloodletting. The parallels are actually kind of spooky: near-universal support from the medical establishment, temporary and perceptual gains in health, and, on the unlikely realization of its stated goal, mortality.

Physician, heal thyself.