Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The value of questioning

Since it's been a while, I'm going to start this off with some art. This is a GIF-timelapse of the sunset, a couple weeks ago. Yes, that's all I have to show you. If I there was anything interesting to show, I would, but lately I've been busy, and haven't had a lot of time for art projects of my own.

It's out of focus, but it couldn't be done any other way, because of camera restrictions. There's not a whole lot to be said about it, you can't even really tell how great the view is from here, but the motive does reflect the season along with the signs of an oncoming winter. Days are getting shorter, quickly. With many of us (Finns) being at school or at work during all the daylight hours, it's easy to miss out on the odd sunny day altogether. Which, for some, can be disastrous. Limited exposure to sunlight is bad for the skin, the body, and the mind. The effects on the psyche are not to be shrugged at, for many of those who suffer (Mild or strong) seasonal depression, the overall mood correlates with the amount of daylight hours.

Moreover, even those who can't clinically be diagnosed with seasonal depression might feel blue from the weather. While I'll be fine without catching a tan, riding my bike to and from school in chillingly cold temperatures and complete darkness sure fucks with my head.

Critical thinking and fitness.

Anyway, with regards to the last entry, what I want to talk about today is the value of critical thinking. The mindset in which you systematically question things. Systematic doubt is something that often occurs in philosophy, and critical thinking is... Well, it's just this tedious and boring thing that teachers tell us to do, right?

No. With risk of sounding just like those teachers, I'm going to say it's an essential prerequisite for life. Sure, I guess you can be happy with just going with the flow, never questioning things, just keeping on that one track all your life. And it saves you a whole lot of grief. Ignorance is bliss, they say. And often, questioning is what gives you the ugliest answers. But not always. Here are a couple of things you need to keep in mind when dealing with exercise, bodybuilding, or getting slim. Whatever the goals of your working out may be.

First and foremost, remain critical of models. Especially fitness models! Pratically any male model who ever poses half naked is engaged in bodybuilding, one way or another. And they spend time, huge amounts of time perfecting their bodies. Not only time, but they also have the necessary genetic makeup. See, not everyone has 6-pack abs. For some, it's impossible. And only a select few have the genes to actually have 8-packs. I mean, Google pictures of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Bodybuilding was his life, back when he was younger. Not a single one of my readers have half the time to spend in the gym that he had. Because that was basically a full time job. And yet, he doesn't have a 6-pack. He has 4 large knots, and 2 tiny diaphragm muscles peeking out between his actual abdominals and his pecs. He was never meant to have six. His genetics won't allow it. The same goes for many of you folks out there now, who sweat your asses off trying to reach such low levels of body fat that your 4 abdominal muscles will magically split and be 6, just because you saw a picture of a dude with 8 abs. It's not going to happen. Live with it.

Further on the note of models, not only do most of you not have the time or genetics to be a bodybuilder, you don't have the studio. They say lighting is 70%. This is absolutely true. You're simply not going to look as good in the bathroom mirror as a model looks on a photo, because that photo can be rigged to maximize the definition of his/hers muscles, by professionals. Even worse, digitally edited by professionals.

Another thing about media as a whole, is the bias that occurs. Think about it. Generally, the only people you ever see shirtless in the media are 1) actors, 2) bodybuilders, and 3) other individuals for whom image is very important. This is a kind of media bias, which in the end, given media has it's way, leads you to believe that everyone is fit.

What have we learned? Be critical of models? No. Question your own ideals, question the image that you keep in your mind of how a fit person is supposed to look. No, question what you think a human should look like. Because that image can't be separated from  the influences you have picked up from the media, which are unrealistic, biased and unhealthy.

A couple of other things you need to be wary of are mainly 3 things; Supplements, programs, and yourself.

Dietary supplements were originally created for bodybuilders. You don't need drink those whey proteins shakes in order to get big, because you don't have the protein needs of a bodybuilder. You can get more than enough protein from a normal, healthy diet. What's more important that having extra protein in your body is that you stay well hydrated. If your piss isn't god damn near transparent, then you didn't drink enough, and you lost all kinds of gains. Or, conversely, if you're trying to drop fats, you didn't drink enough. Good circulation and a well hydrated body is prerequisite for both the actual aerobic exercise, and the burning of fats. It's well documented that the areas in which your circulation is most efficient, you lose the most fat. If anyone want's to argue that the burning of fat is not specific and occurs in all parts of the body equally, feel free.

And programs. They tell us that if you do this and that, you'll be ripped in no time. It's almost like maagic, right. Well, no. I'll concede that there has gone considerable thought into some programs, and that they might well work for some individuals. But the biggest factor in this is that a program forces you to work out according to a schedule, one that is almost always stricter than the one you followed before, and often comes hand in hand with dietary regulations. Those things are what make your exercise more effective, not the fact that you're following a professional program. Furthermore, many programs work in a sort of collective manner, and you and 10 others are hastily taught how to do squats, for example. As a result, 3 out of 10 of these poor souls are going to get something wrong. They might lift wrong, they might not have good form, they might lift too heavy. Dangerous things, things that could break you. Injuries after which you will never be the same. It doesn't take much to hurt yourself, which leads me to my last paragraph.

Be wary of yourself. Many people push themselves beyond any reasonable boundary. For example you might strive to have a body-fat percentage lower than ten, which by the way is very unhealthy for most body compositions. And the ways in which people to try achieve these goals are often harsh and inconsiderate of any limitations of the human body. Like LCHF, or extreme calorie-deficit diets. These do not provide enough sustinence for working all day and then going to the gym. And in the end, low body fat isn't going to make you happier. In most cases, low self esteem and weak confidence do not stem from the fact that you aren't good enough, they stem from irrational thoughts born in the wounds and damage left by other people. There is nothing wrong with you.

And be wary that you do not lose sight of your goals. The only advice that I can give to someone who is just starting out at the gym or the track, is keep your goals simple and achievable. And once you reach these goals, don't make new ones. Just don't. Because it never stops. You might think you'll be happy once you can bench 80kg, but in reality, you probably wont. That is why you should never demand things of yourself. Sometimes, it's not meant to be, and you'll be left disappointed and tired, or the gym will just start occupying a growing portion of your life, pushing away your career, friends and family.

Or your sleep. Jesus, sleep is more important than working out in the first place. You need to be wary that your priorities don't run askew. For example, I've always like sweets. And fatty foods. And relaxing, e.g. with videogames or friends. I'm never going to give those things up for exercise, because I know there's no single thing in life that can make you happy. Happiness is the product of a fair balance between all the little things. I don't believe that quitting eating whatever you like can make ANYONE happier.

In most cases, the best approach to improving your self esteem does not actually involve changing yourself, and the solution to most of your problem lies in kicking someone in the ass and getting new friends.

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