What I Want to Be When I Grow Up

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Ever since I can remember, I had a deep, burning desire to have a striking physique.  In Kindergarten we were asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” to be presented at our graduation ceremony.  I had watched a lot of sports on television at that age, and loved boxing and greats like Marvin Hagler.  Marvin had deep, ebony skin tone and was very lean and defined.  Put some sweat on him during a hard boxing match and he looked like he was a man carved out of wood with a fresh coat of paint laid down on him.  I proudly announced to my Kindergarten teacher, precisely because I was so enamored with this look, “I want to be a black boxer.” 

I’m not making this up.  I really wanted to be black.  It seemed the black guys had more defined “bumps in their stomachs” as I used to call them.  Yes, at 5 years old nothing excited me more than the prospect of growing up and someday having bumps in my stomach.  It was announced at graduation that “Matt wants to be a boxer when he grows up.”  Pretty hilarious that they censored that, especially seeing that there wasn’t a single black, or even brown or yellow face to be seen for miles in the suburban area I attended school. 

I originally intended this post to be about some of the dangers of bodybuilding and powerlifting – continuing to point out the negatives that few mention in a world where muscle celebrities are considered the gods of not only physical appearance, but health as well.  This is irk-worthy enough to write about, as the people setting these artificial physique standards are far less healthy and much shorter-lived than your average person – and in competition form they are by far at their unhealthiest.

But unfortunately my damn brain wouldn’t stop thinking about it, and I wondered why so many of us are so paralyzed in life by our desires to look a certain way.  Stupid brain. 

I don’t have the answer, or the solution.  In fact, I am just as preoccupied with “physical culture” as I’ve ever been.  What started me thinking about this recently was watching a video that went viral of CT Fletcher.  This video is like pornography to the part of the male brain that seeks to be dominant and powerful.  It’s a story of being beaten by an authority figure, rising up and becoming indestructible.  A triumph over fragility and weakness.  Sort of a Mike Tyson-like story – Mike of course being another prominent male symbol of badassery in my youth.  The story of CT is a double-whammy on this front, as CT had a massive heart attack and almost died and has now come back strong – even competing at the top level of natural bodybuilding at age 53. 


 

As far as the heart attack is concerned, I was kinda pissed that cheeseburgers got all the blame for it.  Why does the cheeseburger get all the blame for every heart attack?  Or even the diet?  As you can see, there is a theme amongst bodybuilders and powerlifters (and many pro athletes, certainly in the NFL, and Michael Clarke Duncan behemoths) like CT Fletcher – heart failure, heart attack, kidney problems, and overall early death.  And not all of them ate 7000-calorie lunches at McDonald’s every day like CT.  Perhaps being BIG is a stress and ages you faster (well, not perhaps – the larger members of any species have a shorter lifespan than smaller members of the same species).  Perhaps doing hard training to the point of fainting and puking is a stress.  Perhaps there are lifestyles, mindsets, and predispositions amongst athletes with this kind of ferocious drive that predisposes them to certain diseases.  Perhaps, as Robert Sapolsky suggests in his findings on baboons, being an alpha male is stressful and unhealthy.   

Of course, most blame all the problems bodybuilders, powerlifters, and NFL athletes face health-wise on steroid use.  It’s certainly a big player, but CT claims again and again that he did not do steroids.  And if it was his diet, how do we know that it wasn’t the polyunsaturated fatty acids in the fries, all the cysteine and methionine in his and other bodybuilders’ and powerlifters’ high-protein diet (which can cause a pathological rise in homocysteine), or otherwise? 

Well, there’s your dose of the potential health risks of gaining excessive body mass as promised in the last post.  I have nothing definitive to say, but just think it’s an issue worthy of thought and discussion. 

So what’s the point of all this rambling?  I’m not exactly sure.  As you know, especially if you read Diet Recovery 2, I am an advocate of strength training and doing some productive physical activity – at least in the right dose.  I also am anything but shy to recommend a person gain some body weight if it’s necessary for optimizing metabolic rate and proper functioning of the body’s systems. 

I think what I’m really meaning to express is my deep concern over the increasing trend towards obsessively doing something in attempt to change our physical appearance.  It seems nearly everyone has been “infected” with something they saw on tv or in a magazine – perhaps even at an age as early Kindergarten like it was for me (later leading to endless hours playing with my He-Man action figures and dressing up like Mr. T).  For guys it might involve intentionally becoming gigantic like it was for CT Fletcher, who wanted the sidewalk to crack under his feet when he walked down the street.  For women it might mean starving oneself to the point of serious self-inflicted starvation, or filling breasts and buttocks with squishy synthetic implants.  Or this may manifest in totally different ways – like obsessive pursuit of money to achieve other happily-ever-after fantasies – most of them also rooted in an idea planted in our heads from tv and movies.   

Maybe, just maybe, we are simply hard-wired, as humans, to want what we can’t have. For me, growing up in rich, white suburbia as a chunky kid with asthma and waited on hand and foot by my mom, made me want to be poor, healthy, lean, black, and self-sufficient. Skinny women want big butts and giant breasts. Fat women want to be skinny.  Guys with abs want more mass.  Guys with mass want abs.  Poor people want to be rich. Young people want to be older. Older people want to be younger. Maybe we shouldn’t question or be hard on ourselves. But it is a relief to consciously recognize how foolish this is and maybe not take our desires and aspirations quite so seriously.

While we may be far from fully overcoming the powerful influence that today’s models, sex symbols, athletes, and He-Men have over our inner insatisfaction, and we may be even further from overcoming the primitive state of mental slavery we enter into when we idolize someone or something, hopefully this article can at least give you a small glimmer of what it would be like to just be you.  And be happy with that. 

And if you want to discuss how freaking awesome CT Fletcher is in the comments, well, that’s cool too.  The stupid part of my brain could daydream about benchpressing 700 pounds all day long.

120 Comments

  1. When I was in kindergarten, I wanted to be a blue hedgehog named Sonic who could run “too fast for the naked eye.” Never quite got there. :-(

    And that alpha male stress study might go a long way towards explaining why every U.S. President appears to age about 15 years during their first 4 years in office.

    Reply
  2. First??
    I didnt have a clear idea of what I wanted to be when I grew up.
    But I did want to be beautiful.

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  3. Ah bugger, Henry. You must have bet me by seconds.
    And I only posted so I could be first;
    since it seems to be a virtue of achievement round here..lol

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    • The illusive “FIRST” has been sought after from the earliest inceptions of the internet…and it has always been pointless. :-)

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      • That’s what I used to think … until the day I was actually first here!
        Oh the feeling of utter triumph!
        Not even really kidding.

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  4. Wanting what we don’t have (and trying to achieve it), is in my mind an admirable trait and it’s what makes us humans the dominant species on this planet.

    But unbridled progress has to be tempered with prudence or else you end up with an exploding heart.

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    • Also the leading cause of destruction and neurosis I would venture to guess.

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      • You have to break a few eggs to make an omelet… or else buy that disgusting Egg Beaters shit.

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      • “Also the leading cause of destruction and neurosis I would venture to guess.”

        Matt, I think you are spot on. I will take it a step further and say this aspect of our psyche also drives some to drug addiction and frustration bordering on mental illness. Some people feel they must be handicapped in accomplishing what others seem to with minimal effort. Whether the perception of who we should be or what we should have is brought on by the media or already buried deep in our brains is anyone’s guess… it’s just so sad to see it how it can lead to destruction.

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    • Yes- maybe we are hard wired to STRIVE, period, and its just that the idea of what we should strive for has been perverted.

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      • I think it’s our consumeristic society that teaches us from practically birth to want things we can’t have through the magic of TV commercials. I just don’t think that indiginous tribesmen sit around wishing for things they can’t have to the point of depression because they feel inadequate without those things.

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        • I’m not talking about wanting material items.

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      • I think you’re right, Tierney. We used to strive for getting enough to eat, having good shelter, etc. Now it’s moved on to other things because our basic needs are met. First world problems!

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  5. Thanks for this post. My 10-year stumble through the world of fitness, nutrition and weight loss has been like a monk’s journey.

    First the soon-to-be monk is in a dilemma and seeks out ways to remedy it. He finds a spiritual practice that resonates with him and he adopts it and studies all of its tenets. He gets only so far with that initial lay-knowledge and desires to learn the deeper secrets. Then he meets a guru who teaches him some mind-bending esoteric philosophies behind his new religion that the laypeople don’t care to know. Now the monk thinks he has the keys to the universe and he can be a really smug bastard about it (*cough* Paleo *cough*). But even then he is dissatisfied and realizes he’s not much better off. His true enlightenment comes when he realizes that the key to happiness is in the Now, in going with the flow, in being a part of the great Happening. So he abandons his philosophies and just lives, sincerely.

    In the same way, as I think you’ve mentioned before, health comes when you are in tune with your body and the world around you and don’t try to force your body down some path dreamed up in ignorance. Do animals in the wild do anything against their will? They seem to BE their will.

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  6. Myself, as well as a good friend or two, have studied bodybuilders and physical culturists since the 30s, amassing an unbelievable amount of data. One of them has compiled a list of reasons why bodybuilders, on average, only live to 62. Number one was CNS overload. Two, was or is, insulin resistance, and three was high blood pressure. Steroids, believe it or not, was only 16th, but that’s mostly because the data compiled deals with athletes who used rather than abused PEDs. Once we recognize some of these issues though, including those that Matt pointed to in his last article, I think there are definitely ways of combining strength training and bodybuilding and making it a healthy endeavor. Even being on the “lean side” of things. Simply keeping track of basic markers such as pulse, temps, blood pressure, grip strength, etc. can go a long ways towards ensuring a program suited for any one individual… Also, balancing intense strength training with Qigong or Taichi or meditation can go a long way towards increasing overall health…

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    • That’s a cool study! I bet if you took a subset of 70s-2011, steroids would climb higher on that list. Munzer stands out, and although diuretics were the technical cause of his death, they were the inevitable result of the contest prep following heavy steroid use. I’d wager that all of the 30-40 year olds in that “dead bodybuilders” video who dies of liver, kidney or heart failure were all steroid related.

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  7. Holy shit CT is a monster…and yea, I agree with you on the cheeseburgers. I think his heart disease had more to do with stress. I remember watching a Sapolsky documentary where he talks about the impact your place in the social hierarchy has on your health, and how humans and primates who are lower on the dominance food-chain tend to have more markers of degenerative illness.

    Since CT was raised in a house-hold where his father “beat the shit out of him” on a regular basis, I think that probably had a profound impact on his physical development and also on his outlook. What better way to protect himself from the threat of his father than to get huge? I think the problem is that, despite being as big as he was, he never truly achieved the Alpha mindset because his Beta relationship with his father was so deeply ingrained in his outlook. So he kept getting bigger to compensate, until his body forced him to stop. Real power isn’t physical, at least not any more, but in the mind of a little kid, size represents power.

    That being said, his physique is still really impressive, and who wouldn’t want to be that big?

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    • I think you’re hitting the nail on the head. You’d be surprised the insecurities some people harbor when you really get to know them. CT was over-compensating for the demons of his past rather than learning to face and move past them. We all do this and we all play into our compensatory behaviors. Pursuit of physique is not the only route to social status though. I’m thinking of Chris Farley here. He was a genuinely funny man and people adored him, but so much of that was built up to hide his demons. Most people have no idea what he faced. Compensating for your demons is a downward spiral. The more you do, the more you need to do. The only way out is to come face to face with what happened in your own past, accept it without judgment, understand that it is not you, and act from a new possibility (yes, I’ve been to Landmark).
      By overcompensating CT was in a sense trying to signal more abundance and dominance than he felt internally and was able to maintain physically. That is bottom line how I see it and why his heart gave out. Cheeseburgers are beside the point.

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  8. I blame french fries!!!

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  9. Yep, I having been considering all this stuff lately.

    I look at the guys in the gym who have a strong drive to get big and strong, and they are usually the ones that felt smallest or weakest when they were young,
    whether through having a smaller physique, being bullied, abuse etc.

    All of these kind of things;
    where we feel disempowered, weak, helpless etc,
    foster a strong need for power,
    power over others,
    and also power over ones own body,
    and to be higher and more important in the hierachy in our society.
    For men this tends more towards being big strong,etc. ( or having lots of money/corporate power),
    and for women, thin, beautiful, sexy, having sexual power..

    I have pondered lately on my intense desire to be lean and have a certain physique, and why I just cant seem to let go of that in my head.
    It does cause me misery, because when I dont achieve it, I am in a blue funk, and pretty unhappy!
    Especially since I have spent most of my lifes energies trying to achieve this..

    I think
    well, if I can let go of this, would I be happier?
    Can I let go of it?

    Reply
    • My husband empowered himself against bullies when he was a small kid by becoming a black belt in juijitsu. He never got into all the bulking up getting crazy lean stuff. Have you ever seen some of the ex russian secret service kgb systema russian martial arts guys? The master and many of the others have got a belly, but it is mind blowing to see what they can do. You can watch vids on youtube. They are incredibly agile and can stop a violent criminal in his tracks. I find that really hot. When my husband and i first got married i had an anger problem and sometimes i would throw things at him or try to hit him. With minimal effort and movement, seemingly just the wave of his hand he would have me in a hold and i could not move without massive pain. As long as I stayed still I was ok. Then he would tell me I was not getting loose til I calmed down. If I tried to break loose he would tighten the hold til it hurt enough to get me to submit and be still. He did this until I got out of the habit of those behaviors. We had a lot of great sex after these interactions. A strong confident take charge man is hot. A man with a belly can be hotter than a washboard abs guy.

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      • Hi Lisa, I read that you have used berberine to overcome your severe food intolerances. I was keen to give it a try and started taking some thing morning. However, I have a question – did you take probiotics along with the berberine? One blogger wrote that you must take the two together but I’m not certain that this is necessary.

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  10. Has anyone else seen the documentary ‘Bigger, Stronger, Faster: The Side Effects of Being American’? It came off as very fair about the issue of performance enhancing drugs. The filmmaker has a brother who uses anabolic steroids, and briefly used them himself, but felt guilt-ridden over it and stopped. It put him in a good position to make this movie.

    A few take homes for me:
    -The health consequences of anabolics are often over-stated, especially in comparison to other hormonal steroids like cortisone or even as compared to non-steroid drugs.
    - The line between acceptable and unacceptable performance enhancing interventions is fuzzy. You can train at high altitudes to enhance red blood cell count, or reinject your own blood before competition. Same effect, but the latter is doping.
    - We as a culture have a funny relationship to steroids, simultaneously deriding and valorizing them (we’d never talk about an SUV on LSD, but commercials will casually describe an SUV as ‘on steroids’)
    - We also culturally have an inconsistent take on risky behavior and what’s permissible (skiing, or skydiving versus anabolic use)
    - It’s almost as if we want to have our cake and eat it too. We value the competitor and their drive to sacrifice all else for the sake of achievement, yet act indignant when they actually make use of all avenues.

    Anyway, to the bigger point- I think there’s a way to reconcile the ‘just be you’ idea with the fact that we tend to strive for me. You can simultaneously accept where you’re at, and not disdain yourself, while looking to a new future. All suffering is bearable if it is seen as part of a story. The struggle was the necessary preamble- the striving leads to what comes next, and need not accompany shame or self-hatred.

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    • Yeah I’ve seen it. I own it. It’s a good watch. Not a great movie, but makes some interesting points for sure.

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    • That was a great movie. If you have Netflix I believe it is available to watch online.
      Very informative and entertaining. (I used to love wrestling too!)

      However, the bodybuilders shown in that video above used OBSCENE amounts and varieties of drugs. Low grade anabolic use by the average gym rat may be relatively harmless if done properly, but the amounts and types that bodybuilders use are ridiculous! To carry around that level of mass at such low body fat levels requires use of anabolics, hgh, insulin, clenbuterol, methanphatamines, thyroid, and who knows what else. Some even inject an oil called Synthil directly into the muscle tissue to make it look bigger. These guys throw caution to the wind and pay dearly for it.

      Being big is definitley risky, but I would confidently assume that most of those dead bodybuilders were using massive amounts of drugs without any medical supervision, where just a small dosing error could cause injury or death very easily.

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      • Good point Swede. Anabolics on their own are a beast of another sort from the crazy cocktails some of these bodybuilders and athletes are using.

        And yeah, I was a big wrestling fan as a kid, so that hooked me from the opening minute. I broke a shoulder when I was maybe 8 or 10. It took a while to recover and the doctor considered giving me steroids, and my first thought was that I could be like the Hulkster. Never did prescribe them, and in retrospect, it may well have been cortisone or something, not T that I heard him talking to mom about.

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  11. God, Matt, you were so stinkin’ cute in that picture!!!

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    • Cute? Don’t you mean horrifyingly badass and intimidating? That’s what I was going for.

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  12. I am so glad you’ve posted that first video. Was it in the comments here or on facebook it first popped up. Anyways, what is that thing crawling along the floor behind the men as they work out just after 2.15 minutes! It’s been freaking me out all week. Help!

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    • I love that weird thing. We should name it.

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    • Definitely a large RAT… (Gym rat???)

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  13. I was wondering the same thing.

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  14. These obsessions that you’re talking about can best be explained by sexual selection. Like many of our evolved traits that don’t seem to enhance our survival (e.g. oversized breasts), many of our instincts revolve around competing against members of your own sex to impress members of the opposite sex. Many scientists believe that much of culture, including language, music, fashion was created by this drive. Building huge muscles is a reliable indicator of biological fitness because it is costly to maintain (calories, training, protein), thus weeding out the inferior mates. This is called the Handicap Principle, which also explains, for example, conspicuous consumption, like buying a Ferrari even though it is a stupid financial investment to prove that you can afford it. You can see it in other animals, like the peacock’s tail. Notice that these traits almost by definition go against survival and longetivity. Something that enhancing your chances of getting laid does not necessarily make you live longer and often the opposite. Hence, while your rational brain understands that maintaining 5% BF and 150lb of muscle is extremely stressful, your animal instincts understand that chicks dig the muscles (no, not all, but you get the point). There, your lifelong obsession with muscles and health explained by evolution. For more about this topic, look it up on Wikipedia or read the “Mating Mind” by Miller, quite a fun read.

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    • Well, there’s nothing wrong with wanting larger breasts, for example, because it’s a sign of good reproductive health, or a strong physique, but what we’re seeing today is a total perversion of these things (perhaps because we know these attributes are not enough in this less nature-oriented society). I think that’s something we all need to be aware of.

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      • How do larger breasts indicate better reproductive capacity or health? I dont think wanting larger breasts has anything to do with that. Some societies want smaller breasts.

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        • Breast size can signal ample progesterone, the pro-gestation, pro-fertility hormone.

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          • Estrogen is what causes breasts to grow.

            If breast size had anything to do with fertility, Chinese and Indian women would not be so fertile. They tend to have much smaller breasts than American women.

            American women have lots of fertility problems in spite of their large breasts. Too much estrogen causes infertility.

          • Women in my family pretty much across the board have boobs on the smaller side, and there are zero fertility problems. Everyone (mom, grandma, aunts, sister, etc.) have gotten pregnant immediately when trying. Hips and waist signal fertility, boobs do not.

          • We may all have different sizes in mind when referring to ‘bigger’ boobs. I certainly wasn’t thinking of *big* boobs. Having been skinny all my life, and now after finally (at age 34) gaining some much needed weight, much of it has been deposited in this area. Back a few years ago, when I was at my skinniest due to severe stress, my boobs were deflated. I think we all agree that fuller breasts (not necessarily large) indicate a healthier weight, higher metabolism and consequently increased fertility. Breasts on the smaller side can certainly be ‘full’.

          • Oh, gotcha. Yeah, I guess although mine are small they are “full”. I actually didn’t realize boobs could be deflated (I haven’t seen too many in my life!!)

          • Yeah, I just saw your picture and commented on it in the other thread. “Pert” is the description of your boobs. Great picture by the way. Would have liked a little more flesh, because you looked so good. I’m not complaining.

          • Thomas, you are going to give me a big fat ego!! Not that I’m complaining either ;-)

      • The exhaggeration of these traits is exactly what makes them good indicators. It’s the runaway effect (Fisherian runaway), and it’s completely natural, not just a manifestation of perverted human society. For example, the peacock tail: huge energy to grow and maintain, and makes the animal more visible to predators. So why did it evolve to be so darn big? Because at some point, a longer tail was advantageous, and therefore preferred in a mate. Children of long-tailed animals had longer tails, and the longest of those had most children, and so on for many generations. I know it may seem cointerintuitive, but a trait does not need to “make sense”…it just needs to be preferred, even arbitrarily. And it’s not just physical traits, but behavioral traits that can reach such extremes. Look up how elaborate Bowerbird males build nests to attract females.

        Breasts are much bigger than they need to be for milk production. Why? Because men like them big. That’s it….it’s as arbitrary as that. Nature is not always as logical as you would expect. My point in all this evolution talk is to explain that humanity’s current perverse tastes are not “unnatural” per se…they might be unhealthy, but nature has plenty of examples of wasteful use of energy in the spirit of competition.

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        • Yeah and humans are the only animals that walk around with big old engorged breasts when we’re not even lactating. It’s all a big show. All of our cultural craziness with implants and body building and any kind of physical accessorizing is just the result of our uniquely massive brains putting their power into obsessing over our biology, whether we know it’s what we’re doing or not.

          But I think we’re getting to a point where the typical physical characteristics can be overshadowed by more subtle qualities like intelligence and musical talent or sense of humor. Look, I’m never going to have a D cup. But I’m smart! That’s comforting:)

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        • Yes, men love boobies. And I kind of believe that women evolved to have large breasts so that their breasts could be used sort of as a booby trap.

          For thousands and thousands of years women have been setting “Boobie Traps” to catch a man’s attention. And I would have to guess that most women have set a boobie trap at some point in their lives. And virtually all animals can be caught in a trap if you use the correct bait.

          And it just so happens that a woman’s breasts/cleavage are a very effective bait to use when it comes to catching a man’s attention. And the bigger the breasts, the more bait you have and thus the more initial attention you may recieve from men.

          http://nwso.net/2009/03/12/why-men-cant-stop-staring-at-your-breasts/

          .

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          • For most of human history, there’s been no cleavage to supposedly attract the attention of a potential mate. I think males’ obsession with boobs has more to do with our culture and not having been breastfed, or breastfed long enough. In traditional cultures all over the world, breastfeeding was continued for many years, well beyond the toddler years even. As is the case among other mammals. Watch an older child fondle his/her mother’s breasts and it looks very similar to how a grown man behaves! Reproduction and sex are for obvious reasons closely connected, and sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between a yearning for nourishment, and pure sexual lust. At least from what I’ve heard, fondling a woman’s breasts during sexual interaction is not something that’s done in all cultures. In some cultures, it’s taboo to touch a woman’s breasts (for babies only). And only in our culture is it taboo for *babies* to have anything to do with these things!

          • Having big boobs are a great way for a woman to get attention from a man….just ask any heterosexual man or any prostitue.

            In my opinion, most men are just instinctively attracted to a woman’s boobs. I have lived near a “hippie” community my entire life and most of the women in those communities breast feed their sons and daughters for a few years and those women don’t wear bra’s and a little nudity doesn’t seem to be a problem with them.

            But even though their son’s were breast fed for several years and even though their son’s rountinely saw the boobs of other women in the community when those other women were breasting feeding their own children…………. those boys in that community still grew up to become men that are attracted to a woman’s breast.

            Regardless of how a boy is raised, most boys will become men that are attracted to a woman’s boobs. And women that have big boobs attract more attention from men.

            And having big boobs was probably an evolutionary benefit to a cavewomen because a cavewoman could probably attracted more men to them and she would have probably also attracted more “alpha male” types to them.

          • Don’t forget ass men. Supposedly, we grew perma-bosoms after we began walking upright. Since our bottoms weren’t on such prominent display anymore, we had to grow a pair to catch the eye of mates. Some guys still prefer it the old way, and as far as I can tell, there’s no direct correlation between fertility and a great ass.

          • lol, I think quite a few men prefer it the “old way”!

          • When you lactate, the fat that is used off your body comes from your ass, or so I was told by a friend who was breast feeding.

      • Yet I know women with very large breasts who were unable to produce any milk and my friend is flatter than a fried egg (in her words) and she had enough milk to feed 3

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        • Well, your friend might have been producing too much milk because of hormonal imbalances. Happened to many women in my family, including myself and we have a history of thyroid dysfunction. It certainly doesn’t make any woman happy to produce such quantities of milk, it’s extremely painful and inconvenient, nor is it good for the babies either. Too much foremilk/water and not enough hindmilk.

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        • I don’t know that large breasts are good for the female at all, I think that even though they serve to attract a male, that attracting a male is not always to her advantage. If anything, it is only to his advantage. After all, having large breasts makes it really difficult to run away from an unwanted sexual encounter.

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  15. I think it’s a very healthy inclination to want to attain a certain physique, ability or what not. It’s how we’ve succeeded in tribal societies, becoming the best hunters, the best foragers and caretakers, best leaders. The problem is the type of role models available to us today. If you’re thin and ‘beautiful’, you may earn tons of money and respect. Even if it means you’re not capable of furthering the human species! Or mend clothing, or set up a tipi;).

    The best solution might just be to not expose yourself to those images. Less media, and less spending time at certain beaches and the mall. There was recently some study that proved it’s all about what we’re exposed to on a regular basis, that shapes our desires. At first, the subjects were drawn to the usual image of beauty–thin. But as they were shown pictures of healthier, curvy shapes, they began to prefer that.

    I don’t think it’s about wanting what we don’t have. It may appear that way, but only because our society is so fragmented, and we tend to be drawn to the opposite to complete the whole. No rich person probably *wants* to be all poor, just more of some of the good things that come with having less a surplus of resources.

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    • Something that’s really amazing is how easy it is to modify people’s idea of what looks good. People just want to be happy and if thin people in shampoo ads look happy, well then, that’s what they want. I did it throughout my childhood too. It was stupid. But the other night, I went to a meditation class for kicks and I’m talking to these women afterwards and I made them laugh a few times. What can I say. I’m hilarious. So now they like me, think I’m interesting. Then we’re talking eyebrows. Both of these gals have really plucked, groomed brows and I’ve just grown mine out to full bush. I’m joking about my relative unkemptness but they’re all looking at me like “no wow, I think they look really good! Maybe I’ll grow mine out too, seriously!” They were being sincere, too. I don’t think they would have thought that about my eyebrows if I didn’t come off to them in an otherwise appealing way. Think of the stupid fads that get popular and how they get that way. Someone who is revered starts doing it and everyone else sees it and mimics it. If hobos or deathrow inmates started trends, we would not follow. But if someone seems like they’ve figured out how to get good, how to get happy, how to be liked- we’re all over that shit. Think Twiggy and skinny or Madonna and whatever the fuck she wore in the 80′s. It’s too funny.

      Reply
      • Totally. We’re much more easily influenced than we want to admit, or are even capable of perceiving!

        Now that you got these ladies hooked on you, it would be a fun experiment to see what else they might agree to liking all of a sudden.

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  16. That is my favorite picture of you in the entire world.
    that’s all
    haggie xox

    Reply
  17. i think the reason they “censored” it was because it was that yes, it’s possible that you could have become a boxer when you grew up, but no, you could never have grown up to be a black one! and the audience wouldn’t have stopped laughing for so long that it would have disrupted the assembly! so effin cute!

    Reply
  18. yep, my trainer is a slim looking but small muscled man, but put him next to a body builder or a ‘big mucley’ guy, and he can do more chin ups, body weight exercises, power bursts and dips than them- and he has proved this. He says huge muscles isn’t always a clear sign of strength in the form that strength is a number of things- not just how much you can bench press.

    secondly, http://www.thefooddoctor.com/At-last-the-truth:-Butter-is-GOOD-for-you–and-margarine-is-chemical-gunk-Ahealth_press_goodbutter/ finally – in the UK they are latching on about polyunsaturated oils being bad and butter being good- they’ve finally taken notice of various studies confirming the saturated fat myth- here in London this ‘food doctor’ sells a wide range of food products in health sections

    thirdly, I think the elitism ideal, to appear powerful or the ‘high end’ of the human survival chain – for women, whatever society values as a sign of more sexually appealing or fertile- big breasts, slim,pouty lips, round bum etc and for men- big muscles, broadness and so on… It’s like selecting certain features of the body that society advocate as positives indicators of health and they are worked towards to an extreme- again, almost like an attempt to be immune from the human issues of disease, rejection, loneliness- almost like attaining an outward layer that makes one feel inwardly safe and secure in the knowledge that you are immune from all of life’s ails- unstoppable, indestructible, just plain un-human like terminator!!

    I am a big fan of the boxing sport and this is because mot of the stories of boxers are about overcoming adversity and having a ‘warrior spirit’- i think the ‘warrior spirit’ is something that appeals to most human beings i.e.; to speak for myself- anorexia years ago allowed me to be so desensitised to feelings that i stopped feeling anything- no hunger, no joy, no sadness, no pain jut emptiness and pure survival as i grasped control over negative thoughts by shrinking my body mailer and smaller to the point i no longer felt a part of the world i was in a whole other realm- of course- now I’m in the real word and all of the feelings i stopped myself from feeling from age 11-23- i am feeling now- in full effete, and its like wow- my coping mechanism- which for some people will be attaining a huge muscle mass, or having lots of plastic surgery, or dying your skin, or dying your hair, or having botox and so on- once that is taken say, the rug is taken from under your feet and you feel ill-equipped to cope with the feelings that now feel all too raw and real- which in turn makes you want with every inch of your life to turn back to the extreme coping mechanism that you used that made you feel somehow -above- these negative feelings- but as matt said in previous posts- to basically put your health in danger to attain ‘health’ is a dangerous route

    i think the fundamental point here is that age old but fair true saying ‘everything in moderation, including moderation itself’ and in that, basically go too far and extreme in anything, unfortunately there will often be something to counter that, perhaps trying to be the best that YOU can be, rather than ‘better/bigger/stronger/skinnier/big breasts’ than ‘WHOEVER YOU ARE IDEALISING’ is healthier for us because ‘WHOEVER YOU ARE IDEALISING’ i a different genetic make-up, system, lifestyle, soul, brain and body to us.

    Ultimately, I agree that trying to attain excellence is an attribute- otherwise various scientific findings/inventions/ great moments n sporting history would not be achieved- however, there is the thing in your mind of staying authentic and true to yourself and perhaps knowing when something might be doing more hard than good or basically- no longer serves as enjoyable, but a coping mechanism that you simply are ADDICTED to.

    in life there seems no solid answer, some people will be able to attain a certain physical/mental state perfectly easily thanks to their genetic makeup/culture/ evolutionary history etc that may not suit you or your body/mind is not intended to achieve… ultimately, if your doing something out of love for it then you choose to continue no matter what consequences because the consequences seem insubstantial in comparison to quitting the chosen activity.

    again, there are no answers, there are only being authentic to yourself and there is nothing wrong with pushing your limits to achieve excellence, but there is something counterproductive somewhat with ignoring the true motivations behind certain pursuits- we can ignore them and achieve every single goal, hell, become an olympian based on those very insecurities, but when it ends, and everything does come to an end, well then, you’re simply left with those same 11 year old thoughts and feelings that you tried so hard to escape from, and you have to deal with them- except they’ve grown in size the more you have ignored them… this might be why there is a high incidence of footballers/boxers get into drugs/depression/drink once retired- an addiction/coping mechanism for another addiction coping mechanism….. (not all, of course)

    ultimately, i think humans have a fundamental desire to do whatever it is that enables them to feel powerful and we have an inbuilt instinct to avert pain, its only very select wise people who allow themselves to feel the true pain of whatever the problem is, and sit with it, letting it pass through until one day they overcome the pain.

    sorry for essay matt, just i think clearly we’re not all alone in this pursuit- age 18 i had breast implants while my brief momentary one year recovery from anorexia- again, because anorexia was clearly not serving the changing ideals of perfection in my mind- to be powerful, skinny, no appetite (anorexic) met going into the adult world where men liked breasts- (years of anorexia do not equate to breasts!) and so, i think we all succumb to our insecurities, but ultimately, we are faced with them somewhere along the line, if we simply put off facing them inevitably

    Lucy

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    • Thank you for your wise essay! :)

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      • :) thank U for reading!

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  19. I’m really tired of this bodybuilding crap. It’s such an ill approach to become “stronger”. Even those who do it “natural” and with the healthiest motivation end up looking in a mirror every two minutes and start worrying about their body 24h.
    It’s ridiciulous adolescent behavior.
    Bodybuilding as a “sport” definitely triggers body-related disorders.
    It’s like the ultimate excuse for people who are obsessed with their bodies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    People should strive to develop their physics in a more holistic approach. Try gymnastics or learn a martial art. This will ensure that your mind also gets involved.

    IMHO ( exercise nerd for more than 20 years ) even the most “objective” strength coaches ( especially internet ) tend to regularly develop a childish enthusiasm for beefy or extremely ripped bodies.
    That’s all very sad and a very unhealthy approach to training generally.

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    • totally agree with Lars.

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  20. Matt: ‘Poor people want to be rich.’

    I notice you didn’t say the “rich people want to be poor”.
    Why would any sane person want to be poor?

    Reply
    • Actually a couple of years ago,I heard a story of a man in Belgium winning the lottery of a couple of million euro’s and he gave it entirely towards charity bc he didn’t know what to do with it anyway.

      Reply
    • I knew quite a few people who grew up in middle class homes who were envious of my hard scrabble, trailer-dwelling existence. People who have all their needs easily met can feel like they’re lacking in their ability to be tough and self-reliant.

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      • Also, richer families tend to, not all across the board of course, have more distant relationships between family members. Parents might work very long hours and when they feel bad about it, they may buy a lot of crap for the kids to make up for it. Younger kids don’t necessarily understand the privilege of having money, but they do understand wanting to have a closer relationship with their parents.

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  21. Matt, I think you have just hit on one of the most important points–gratitude for what is. As opposed to wanting some else. It is hard one though, especially when everywhere you turn we are given the opposite message.

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  22. Jack Lalanne was ripped his entire life

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    • My thoughts exactly when it comes to longevity and fitness. Jack LaLanne was badass.

      But when I was in kindergarten, I wanted more than anything to be a Harlem trotter. (Yep, I was the palest and shortest kid in school).

      Reply
      • Yeah, you have to take Jack Lalanne into consideration, don’t you? I mean, he contradicts everything we’re saying here, doesn’t he? He exercised A LOT. He juiced. He was famous for saying, “If it tastes good, spit it out.” (I believe that was him)

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  23. My best friend’s grandfather looked like the Marshmallow Man and died at 98.

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  24. I still have to read the article but i have to say I’m shocked… on november 1st of 2012 after happening on matt’s blog, I threw my scale in the trunk of my car and decided to take a much needed break from my obsessive dieting. I decided to do the rest and refeeding and have literally eaten anything and everything I wanted for the last 4 months and then some. Today I decided to weigh myself and braced myself that the scale was likely going to tell me that I had probably gained at least 12-15 lbs but that it was ok…. I stepped on the scale and I HAVE NOT GAINED ONE POUND!!!! OMG, Matt is right! I am thoroughly convinced that i have been dieting myself into obesity! I have been dieting for over 35 years and the evolution of the last 4 months has been interesting. I am still having to reassure myself that its really ok to eat anything but I only eat “real” quality food no chemical crap. like if I want a cake ill bake an all natural one instead of eating a chemical laden transfatty artifically flavored kroger crap cake. but i am still eating whatever “real” food I want. I’m telling you, i should weight about 20 lbs more. I’m totally shocked….

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  25. I’ve been contemplating the importance of consuming polyunsaturated fat to build body mass. I started thinking about the impact of Plumpy’Nut in treating starvation. While most of the fat is monounsaturated, a large portion is polyunsaturated. This got me thinking that it may be effective, in part, because it also decreases the caloric needs so body mass is replaced quickly. The treatment for starvation worldwide, also rely heavily on imported vegetable oils for better or worse. The question remains upon how long the food supply can be augmented with manufactured fats before doing damage.

    In terms of body-builders, I was thinking that slowing the metabolism by eating excess protein and polyunsaturated fat helps to build mass. I’m wondering if metabolic function must be disrupted to get the body to build lean body mass to these levels.

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  26. of course people can be fat and live long.. But most people that live in there 90′s tend to be lean for life..Of course people will justify being fat all they want when the ideal healthy male is lean at 10-12% bodyfat

    Reply
    • i don’t think that is true statistically – and another one is my dad who has always had quite a paunch and is still driving around the country at 92. (i called the DMV and they said a totally clean record!) all his teeth and hair too. plus he’s an angry right winger. so it just ain’t that simple. that’s why i dig 180 – perhaps we really can’t figure very much out .

      Reply
      • I left this quote regarding what a ‘chubby bunch’ centenarians are on another post:

        “Meanwhile, there is a dearth of evidence that caloric restriction slows ageing in humans. Observational studies have found that people of average weight tend to live longest3. Nir Barzilai, a gerontologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, says that the centenarians he studies have led him to believe that genetics is more important than diet and lifestyle. “They’re a chubby bunch,” he says. “

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  27. Just finished reading Diet Recovery 2. Have already read Diet Recovery and 180 Diabetes.
    Matt, any plans to update 180 Degree Diabetes?

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  28. “What I want when I grow up is something I’m still pondering about” as it still shifts but it’s fairly steady…..I want to lift heavy,do kickboxing,have a physical intense job preferrably outside,no more food-quantity-macro issues&eat all/mostly healthily home-prepared stuff(and by healthily I mean not some kind of superfoods or whatever but I guess ‘junk foods such as pancakes,icecream&stuff aren’t really junk anymore when prepared with homemade ingredients),pick up metalsmithing and customizing stuff such as shoes/clothes etc.

    Anyway to get back more to the topic,for years I completely idolized (and wished to be) Gillian Anderson and later on also Angelina Jolie to a certain degree for their natural beauty but also talent&personality/strength.

    Reply
    • Too bad there isn’t an edit post option,bc I forgot to add to my ‘what I want to be when I grow up” i’d preferrably would be living in another country,some kind of sunny place or in a village/town in Canada.

      So,if there are some nice eligble single-men here living in such countries,then please hit me up!:p

      Reply
  29. One of my favourite quotes that I like to be reminded of now and then:

    “True happiness lies not in having what we want, but in wanting what we have”

    Maybe we need to strive to realise that the grass is actually greener on our side of the fence.

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  30. This is totally unrelated but just had to share, and I think peeps here will appreciate. I look at this blog because I like their natural beauty product tips, but they also do “Meatless Mondays” and for some reason are constantly featuring anorexic-type menus. This woman is pregnant, eats what cannot possibly be even 1000 calories in a day, craves ice (which is often a sign of anemia – not surprising given her diet), and this is being displayed as something to emulate. I’ve made comments before, and people go crazy so I’ve stopped, but this just drives me nuts!

    http://nomoredirtylooks.com/2013/02/my-mm-nancys-meatless-monday-menu/

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    • Oh, also she drinks an INSANE amount of water.

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    • I feel sorry for her baby.

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    • OH MY GOD. I’m hungry just reading that! Good god! How much fluid can one person take it! 20 ounces of water to chase some green pepper cilantro juice? ONE SLICE OF BREAD with mayo and hummus for lunch? Following a smoothie/water/tea breakfast? Oh sorry, and a couple of Brazil nuts, some as a treat for her dog as well. Poor dog! Man, I have HAD IT with this people. There is a girl I went to high school with who used to be perfectly healthy looking, but now documents every single thing she ingests on facebook (it’s pretty much exactly the menu on that blog, plus some tilapia and skinless chicken) and proudly shows off her sweat stains from the gym, daily. Just the amount of obsession she puts into this should make people worry. It’s obviously a disorder. But then she mentions that she weighs 107 pounds. This girl is like, 5’7″. And she was never skinny in her life. And now she’s like, 30 pounds underweight according to even a doctor’s chart and everyone just applauds her for being so “healthy” and they all admonish themselves for being so “undisciplined” as to eat a real dinner. Oh my god I’m just so mad right now. And then if I were to disagree with her, people would look at me and assume I’m wrong and she’s right because she looks like she’s just off a train from Bergen-Belsen and I don’t.

      Reply
      • Thank you Julia Gumm…thank you for your passion. The passion that you put into your comments.

        Thank you The Real Amy for posting that story/link.

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        • another Angela Stokes type then…

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        • I second that! Love the passion and the humor!

          And yes, I am beside myself on knowing what to do about this stuff. The problem is they think they’re being healthy – and probably not even healthy enough because no question they binge and aren’t “perfect” – I used to be them, and their mindset gets backed up by the crap they read in “health” magazines and websites. Back a few decades, people would have at least told them something was wrong with them, now people admire them! Craziness!

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          • FWIW, I thought your response was reasonable.

            I was flipping through Key’s Minnesota experiment book on semi-starvation again, recently, and it is interesting to read the symptoms they found. Apathy, feeling cold, night peeing, tiredness, anxiety, salt craving. It’s all there.

          • Amy you did the right thing even if you got hammered for it. I hope her baby’s okay. I blame the professionals who are overseeing her pregnancy. If they sent a single clear message “Eat like a normal person” this wouldn’t be happening. We are really adrift. A generation or two ago only nutcases would eat like that, and even then probably not when pregnant. But now your doctor will say “Don’t gain too much in pregnancy”. They are totally befuddled and it is not okay as their murky, contradictory advice damages people and their babies. I have a daughter with some minor damage thanks to the hospital birth, but it causes her difficulties, and it was avoidable, which I deeply regret. That’s bad enough. But look at this. So very sad:

            A while ago while researching something I found this comment in a 180 blog from a year or two back. “I have an 8 year old daughter that was born with trisomy 9. I was 20 when I had her and never had any testing done since I was so young and healthy.Well, 6 months prior to her conception, I had started a 70% raw mostly vegetarian diet. I ate animal products 2-3 times a week. Well, I did lose weight and had lots of other health improvements in the beginning, but I realize now that I was starving. I remember being so hungry, and just loading up on water and raw carrots to fill the void. So, I am guessing that my body was totally depleted of all those necessary things we get from fat and meat and when I did conceive (took a few months of trying) that combined with apparent PCOS, my body didn’t have what it needed for a growing baby. I kept eating lots fruit and veggies and not a lot of eggs or meat or even milk through the pregnancy. The baby wasn’t growing well and it was a difficult pregnancy.
            It has been 8 years of not understanding how that could happen- I was young and healthy, I was super healthy because of my awesome perfectly right diet, how could she have a genetic disorder? I have searched and searched, and all the pieces fit together today, just by reading this one post which led me to all the other things I found.
            Looking back I can trace a lot of odd symptoms to PCOS and the effects of eating a mostly plant based diet. After the birth of that baby, I got pregnant again soon after and I restricted nothing. That baby was perfect and she is very smart. After she was born my body was a mess. An awful awful mess, which I can now attribute to the so called pure diet I put myself on combined with a hormonal mess. We’re talking IBS, panic attacks, postpartum depression, awful hair, fainting spells and so on, while taking care of a special needs 1 year old and a newborn.
            I started reading your blog a year ago, and answers began unfolding about so many things and I have learned a lot. thanks for being so open minded and willing to NOT have THE answer, but to keep looking for the truth.
            I am still rather floored that I got the answers I’ve been searching for today. I so wasn’t expecting it :) I called my husband and we were both crying- glad we had some answers but sad that it could have been a better outcome had we known what we know now. I know it’s not my fault, because I was doing the best I could with what I knew, but it’s still hard to accept”

          • Thank you both for your support! It actually means a lot because the vitriol directed at me was actually pretty stressful! I probably will not be making any more such comments because who needs that, but I hope maybe someone who reads it will be helped. I’m telling myself they’re probably just “hangry”!!

          • Whenever I post comments about my experience, I am either ignored or dismissed. People I don’t know probably just think I am lying about my experience. The people I have spoken to about my ideas (and I am learning to keep my mouth shut) are convinced that I am on the road to obesity. (My father even spoke to me about King Henry VIII when I mentioned I was pushing my calorie intake, even though I had a BMI of 18.5) I don’t think people are ready for the message. The truth is that you have to reframe what is normal as being dysfunctional on an individual basis and I am not sure that happens without a tipping point.

          • Yeah, I am finding that, too, although I still feel compelled to say something because maybe it will make people think, or they’ll hear it somewhere else and it will begin ti sink in. I’m not sure what caused the outright anger that seemed to be the response in this case, but whatevs, I guess.

            BTW, I have actually thought about Henry VIII several times (and sorry that your dad used that example). I’m a huge history buff. What is interesting is, as far as I have read he did not put on weight until he wounded his leg badly. The wound never healed and festered for the rest of his life. He also suffered a severe brain injury. Anyway, it appears that the obesity was likely caused by extreme inflammation and other health issues, and he also had a lot of fluid retention. He’s thought to have possibly suffered from Cushing’s syndrome, and who knows what else. So, anyway, this is to say that evidence does not suggest that calories did him in! In case you need more fodder for your dad.

          • I’ve actually had luck with getting people to listen to me by telling them to take their temperature to see if their metabolism is in good shape. I know it’s an oversimplification, but at least it gives them a tangible measure to think about the impact of diet. In all honestly, if the pregnant lady wasn’t swigging that much water she probably would have to normalize her calorie intake somewhat. Maybe fluid intake is the issue to bring up… if you still have the stomach to share your experience.

            For Henry VIII, I read that a neuroendocrine imbalance caused his obesity, but that seems to ignore the play between diet and hormones. He had an incredibly high intake of protein which would have been inflammatory and slowed his metabolism as well.

          • Thanks, those are good suggestions. I definitely don’t have the stomach for that site again! But maybe when similar things come up in the future.

          • Yep, he had a very rough go of it after the terrible injuries. Frankly, I don’t know why he didn’t just up and die after the injuries, but he was a stubborn fellow and just wouldn’t die right away.

    • That’s scary. Not enough food! I want to adopt her and feed her baguettes with butter. I would bet her baby is born tiny, colicky and with eczema

      Reply
      • The sad thing is that if the baby is born with health problems, the doctors will probably blame genetics…and the mother will blame toxins or dietary indiscretions from years past.

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      • I babysit a little girl who is being raised vegan and it makes me so sad! She has no pleasure in eating and just seems sickly. Also both she and her older sister have the just crowded teeth i have ever seen on a 14 month old and a 4 year old.

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  31. Wow, so many interesting thoughts. Here’s my perspective. The traits that are attractive in both males and females are attractive both because they are necessary for the survival of the species and because they are difficult to achieve. Being an alpha comes with significant stress and risk. Stanley Stewart talks about this in his book Stop Suicidal Suffering. His take is that the incentives for acting alpha are reversed by modern society (social consequences greatly mitigated) so go ahead and act alpha. We are physiologically wired to act beta. This is the consequences of game theory and evolution coded into our genes. Who wants to be No 1 baboon when you can be No 2? At the same time, the troop needs No 1 baboon, and guess who is the most attractive?

    I’ve come to wonder if body composition is in part a sign of social status. Acting dominant increases testosterone and that’s most likely to give favorable body comp. Your status in the tribe and your ability to deal with stress have big influences on hormonal state. Being a low status male (low testosterone and also high stress hormones) would be the worst for body composition.

    Really in a way it’s about status, control, access to resources, etc. It’s like how in the previous article there was a discussion on gender and control. You can push yourself past what your body and your environment naturally support and gain status through enhanced body composition, but that increases stress on the body. It all kind of makes sense from an evolutionary perspective.

    http://stopsuicidalsuffering.com/products

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    • You are right Aaron, but here’s the thing (and I want to make sure that I am not accusing you of the following, but you’re post made me think of this). These primal cues are one part of us. We can’t ignore them. However, it would seem that we want to become slaves to them….It would seem that there is a tendency to want to reduce ourselves to them.

      A lot of us (I know I have) have become obsessed at one time or another by somebody with those attractive physical traits and primarily for those physical traits. Very often it turned out bad, because it turns out (drum roll) there is more to human relationships than big muscles, big breasts and genitals.

      Now I am not appealing to some kind of politically correct sensibility here. My point is that when we become obsessed by these primal cues and, in fact, even justify our obsession by resorting to talk of genetics, who gets hurt? Well, certainly the reduced, and objectified other person, but ME, the person who is objectifying, reducing that person to a set of tits and an ass, I also am hurting myself, because in the end, I will be stuck with the other 99 percent of that person that I might not like. I have been with some beautiful women, but they can become very ugly, very quickly when it turns out that we are incompatible and that once beautiful smile has a scowl plastered on it all the time.

      Reply
      • We do want to become slaves to them. I wasn’t talking in terms of right or wrong. I was talking in terms of what is. I think there are two tendencies in human nature and I’ve come to this through really studying and thinking about Stanley’s work. One is the desire to be the most desirable and have everything coming to you and feel secure in that way. The other is simply to belong and know you’re taken care of. I’ve been wondering why being alpha or having a strong leader personality type or being a chief should confer so many benefits above the other members of society and the answer is to make the benefits worth the cost. A tribal chief really needs to be looking out for all members of his tribe and have all their interests in mind.
        The problem with modern society is that the communal ties are totally broken. A lot of organizations, including myself, want to deal with this by rebuilding community connections wherever we can while also displaying strong leadership. Some people however have realized the costs for acting alpha have been largely mitigated by society and so go about doing whatever they want. This is destructive.
        You are absolutely right about having a quality partner over just a good looking partner. The larger social environment has a strong influence on the nature and quality of relationships, and media and advertising heavily affect this. The larger society right now is unbalanced. Without feeling a sense of belonging or that they are secure in love and affection, people will make themselves secure in whatever other way possible, including body composition.
        I see a really good physique as similar to the peacock’s tail or the bowerbird’s nest. It’s an obvious waste of resources. The purpose is to signal to potential mates that “hey, I have more than enough resources, come shack up with me and you will be safe and secure.” Resources can be collected as an outer display (lots of money, bowerbird nest) or as physical body comp. The problem with body comp is that it’s not just about good nutrition and training, it’s also about stress and social standing (or your perception of it). So to force yourself past where your body is naturally at is a tremendous strain on the systems of the body (in essence to send a falsely enhanced attraction signal). It is not surprising to me then that you see so much heart failure, liver failure, and kidney failure amongst the bodybuilders.
        The solution the way I see it is on the one hand not to play into these biological drives but on the other hand not to ignore them. We must simply accept they are there and serve a purpose and also that our society is out of balance in an unhealthy way with them. So in a sense you welcome them because they are providing you important information and telling you to take action but you must also be ok with who you are and where you’re at… the always tricky balance.

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        • <<<<>>>

          Completely agree with that.

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        • Love your thoughtful responses, Aaron. This is actually why I love this site: I find the discussion here to wax philosophical and go off into all sorts of interesting conversations that have nothing to do with diet and everything to do with life.

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  32. He don’t take roids? Yeah, neither did McGwire, Bonds or Armstrong. And Matt is still a virgin too.

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  33. Hey Bonds didn’t mean to take them…….

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  34. Matt,

    Speaking of badassery. did you see that rapper Fifty Cent (Fiddy) came out with a book about exercising and diets (pulled an LL Cool J). When I got to the chapter regarding dieting (page 45), I initially thought; Wow! Fiddy is a Stoner!? He started off by writing something like: “have you seen those people who run 2 hrs on a treadmill while eating only a 1,000 cals and never being able to lose weight?…its because they damaged their metabolism so much they can no longer lose..”. Unfortunately, the rest of the chapter turned into a praise the almighty High-Protein diets. I have to give him one prop though, he does mention that eating many servings of fruit is healthy and will help to lose body fat, at least he isn’t a Fructose-Phobe. Too bad he fell short of being “Fiddy Stones” ;)

    Reply
    • High protein trashed my kidneys in under two weeks, I ended up with a kidney infection, and got trashed even more from the antibiotics they used to safe my life. sigh. Now, I focus on carbs and tasty fats. Silly me: what was I thinking??? protein shmotein.

      Reply
  35. A very insightful post. At 45 I’ve been dreaming of a better physique for 30 years.

    What do you make of Clarence Bass who has been maintaining low body fat for getting on for 40 years. He eats a pretty varied carb heavy diet but seems healthy enough. An outlier?

    http://www.cbass.com/PICTORAL.HTM#Still

    I still think strength training is essential for lots of reasons but the physique focus is less healthy

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  36. Dunno, maybe just an outlier. FWIW, I thought the pic of him at age 27 looks pretty healthy while still strong, which the caption calls “a little heavy.”

    Reply
  37. Thanks for this. I can really relate to this post.

    When I was 18 I developed a pretty severe restrictive eating disorder, which damaged my health so badly that I’m still recovering from it today, at age 24. The origins of this problem, for me, were twofold: a traumatic rejection in high school at the hands of a girl I really liked, and then traveling to Europe after graduating high school.

    In museums and cathedrals throughout Europe I encountered many depictions, in painting and sculpture, of a sort of idealized human form, which was generally quite lean, often gaunt, with chiseled facial features and abs. Also, for the first time in my life, I saw beggars starving on the streets of large European cities, sometimes literally feet away from fat Americans eating gelato in cafes. I began to identify with the beggars, to see their condition and situation as nobler, purer, and more worthy of emulation than the luxury and comfort of the rich American tourists. I began to resent my cultural background, viewed Americans as being inherently gluttonous, greedy, insensitive, and overfed, and began eating less and less as a result, as well as exercising obsessively, sometimes for many hours a day.

    I don’t really need to describe the results of this insanity for the 180D crowd, many of whom have been through something similar themselves, but here’s a few tidbits: I lost over 30 pounds, and I only weighed about 145 to begin with. I was so weak that I had trouble hoisting myself out of bed. My hair grew thin and wispy, I was crying all the time, I had no interest whatsoever in sex, etc. Bad shape. Recovering from this condition consumed the better part of the next 5 years of my life.

    Just one more example of the hazards of trying to modify your body to fit some imaginary ideal. Matt is one of the voices of sanity–I’m grateful for having discovered his work. Keep it up, Matt–I like the direction you’re going.

    Reply
    • Brendan, have you checked out youreatopia.com? You might find it really helpful if you feel like you’re still recovering from some of the damage. A lot of posters on here use it. Gwyn Olwyn is awesome and really explains a lot of the physiology behind what happens during an ED.

      Reply
      • Thanks. Yes, I have seen that website. It’s wonderful.

        I guess it would be more accurate to say that I’m still dealing with the repercussions of all the misguided things I did to try to improve my health after I realized that I had damaged it by starving myself. I wasn’t patient enough with my original recovery process, and I probably didn’t eat enough calories during the few months after I resumed normal eating. Later on, I tried things as diverse as being a vegetarian, exercising excessively again, taking medications and hormones, eating “Paleo,” following Ray Peat, and many other things, with the intention of restoring myself to the level of health and vitality I had enjoyed before starving myself. Most of these things were counterproductive, and the stress of not being able to live the life I wanted to live compounded the problems.

        For example, one of the things I did in my hurry to feel better was to start taking Synthroid, because my TSH was elevated in the wake of my starvation period. Looking back, this was the wrong choice, because my T4 levels were totally normal, and the problem with my thyroid function was further downstream in the biochemical cascade (it was probably related to stress hormones inhibiting T3 production and utilization at the cellular level).

        Today, though, I’ve been on Synthroid so long that I have a hell of a time whenever I try to get off of it. I’ve tried going cold turkey, and that was disastrous. I’ve tried weaning off relatively rapidly, and that also caused problems. So I’ve resigned myself to the fact that if I ever get off of Synthroid, I’m going to have to do it incredibly slowly, over the course of maybe 2-3 years, so that the fluctuations in my thyroid hormone levels don’t threaten my ability to function or maintain the good health I’ve come so far to achieve.

        Anyway, the consequences of my eating disorder are long past, and these days I am careful NOT to lose even a small amount of weight, and my metabolism seems to be pretty normal and stable, as indicated by temps that range from 97.8 to 99.3 F (orally) pretty much all the time. But it’s been a long journey getting here, and I still have some holdovers from past periods of ill health, like this Synthroid that I take even though there is absolutely nothing wrong with my thyroid gland.

        Reply
        • Wow that sounds a lot like me, minus the thyroid. I finally figured out that just plain food was needed to regain health. Glad you are in such a good place, and it sounds like you have a good plan with the thyroid meds. Maybe it’s like antidepressants – slow wean is the trick.

          Reply
        • have you tried taking iodoral to help wean off synthroid? many people have reported needing to sharply reduce or stop thyroid meds soon after starting it. but iodoral can do more harm than good, depending on the specific issue with your thyroid.

          as a frequent swimmer in chlorinated/brominated water, an iodine supplement is probably essential for me. people with larger breasts also have higher iodine requirements.

          Reply
  38. Now Matt if I read in between the line you warn about the danger of being addicted to shape up our physics…Which I hear. However where to draw the line? I have stopped the gym for a month and found out that I became super nervous and that lifting heavy weights again procured me a lot of pleasure – while I don’t like cardio at all. And I cannot deny that putting on muscle is something I really enjoy too…So as long as there is pleasure it’s ok right? I don’t limit myself food -wise at all. I have done IF last year and saw some good results, but I was cold in the evenings for sure…Now I believe there might be some benefit from IF still – the idea of giving your digestive system a rest is not lunacy I think. A lot of people intuitively don’t eat when they have an acute infection with fever – as the digestive process takes a lot of stamina.

    Reply
  39. Matt, I LOVE that you keep asking this question! I think it has real power presented the way you have here in the context of health – not just oppositional lip service of “health at any size” – but actual facts about the health reality behind the images we worship. The obsession with achieving a specific body form can partially be explained by primal drives, but can also be explained by the incessant drive of the mind to find problems to solve. It’s just what the mind does. The particular obsession is probably just a function of personality or preference, but we are more than either our primal drives or the mind. It is possible to go beyond mind and primal drives and access our internal wisdom through meditation or awareness practices, or through self-inquiry such as contemplation of the question posed in nondual spirituality “who am I/what am I?”. Discovering the answer to this question is the beginning of the end of expecting perfection or that someone can tell us how to get there because our own internal guidance will lead the way.

    Reply

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