Don't believe the hype

Most of us love the interaction of social media, the ability to communicate with people from all around the world, sharing common interests or simply being humans talking to other humans. It really has revolutionised our existence. Alas, nothing in this world is free, even a ‘free’ app is not really free. Advertising makes the app world viable.

 Our social media feeds are filled with user appropriate advertising. Algorithms take snippets of online activity using it to determine the advertising we’re exposed to. The websites we visit, the words we type, the hashtags and the images we like are all used to personalise our advertising ‘experience’. It’s effective and extremely clever.  

For the last few years I’ve been on a health journey of sorts, so at some point I’ve typed words like ‘wellness’ ‘fitness’ or ‘health’ on my online platforms. I’ve also taken the piss out of ‘green smoothies’ ‘coconut’ and ‘fermented’ ‘miracle cures’. The algorithms pick up on all of this activity resulting in ‘wellness’ and ‘fitness’ products being slotted into my personalised advertising experience.  

Recently an advert for a ‘health food’ processed/packaged nut product appeared in my feed. The advert convincingly stated that their nut product was a necessity for my health food pantry. It boldly implied that if I was really into living 'healthy' that I ought to purchase their 'healthy' product. I commented in disagreement, stating that all you need for a healthy food intake was unmolested whole foods, consumed in balance, with a focus on cooking with more plants than animals. Something most people with the basics of nutritional knowledge would agree with. Surprisingly, the nut product company also agreed.

The world of fitness, health, wellbeing is a super industry. It’s not just companies selling us products we can survive without, products that don’t effectively improve our health, wellbeing or fitness, but it’s a world full of humans promoting certain approaches to life, not all of them are necessarily healthy, achievable or warranted.

 I recently saw a photo online of a super buffed male, probably in his 60’s. The muscle bulk on this specimen was impressive, he’s obviously spent a lot of time working hard at a gym. There was a caption at the bottom of the photo that said “What’s your excuse?” This implies that we should all be working out at gyms to achieve this look. If a bloke in his 60’s can do it, then you should do it too. It implied that to be fit and healthy one must aspire to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. This is incorrect.  

Public perception of this kind of ripped body is that it’s the epitome of health and fitness, but it’s not necessarily the case. Sure the guy works out, and this is a good thing. There are plenty of studies that show exercise greatly improves a feeling of wellbeing while also reducing the risk of most preventable terminal illness such as cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancers etc. Exercise is good, and it’s needed to achieve and maintain a level of fitness but, just because a person has ripped abs, minimal body fat and looks amazing in a mankini does not mean the body is healthy. If you have any anthropological interest, you may peruse the insta feeds of the health and wellness gods. The female form is usually scantily clad in beach wear, or appears in selfies at the gym or white sandy beaches wearing a bikini, tight yoga pants or active wear. They always appear to be very happy to, lucky for them nothing bad ever happens. The male form also appears in many gym selfies, tight tops with cut off arms to expose the massive bi-ceps, a.k.a. the guns, pew pew. In many of these feeds you'll see the fitness god kindly sharing what products they use to achieve these bodies of greatness. Supplements, powdered protein shakes, high protein diets of turkey or chicken meat, egg whites and lots of smoothies. You’ll also see packages of frozen processed ‘health’ meals designed for the health conscious, time poor fitness gods. I often wonder if these gods of fitness and wellness ever consider where all that chicken and turkey meat comes from, or how it's produced, or even how far that lean fish has travelled to their wellness dinner plates. Not to think of all those yolks that seem to disappear into wasteland after all the caged chooks have been through to produce it. But what’s important here is the aesthetics of the ripped body, what’s your excuse?

All my life I’ve been slightly miffed by the concept of extreme gym fitness and equally fascinated by the mentality of the process. What drives a person? Is it an improved Tinder profile? Is it just an obsession with reflective surfaces and the images they send back to us? It’s not really because of health, because you’d be kidding yourself if for a second you believed that any powdered supplement or meal replacement was a healthy option. You’d be kidding yourself if you believed that a high protein diet is a viable long term approach to healthy eating. You’d be mad to think taking vitamins and supplements is necessary for a healthy existence. Not to mention the drugs.  

Whats required for health is relatively simple. It’s not a choice of ours, evolution has determined what is good for us and what isn’t. It’s also determined what is required for a healthy life, we don’t need any of these ‘vital’ health food products in order to be healthy, we need to be eating what nature provides, unadulterated as much as possible. But none of this makes much money for the companies toting these 'healthy' products. Unfortunately for the rookies it’s easy to fall into the trap believing in the power of the product.   

Here's a few tips of advice for those interested. Eat mostly vegetables. Cook them, eat them raw, just make sure they start off as a whole food, not processed. If you want to take it to another level eat organic and local. Next eat some fruit, a few pieces every day, but avoid a smoothy containing more fruit than you'd naturally consume if it wasn't blitzed into a drinkable form. If inclined, eat some meat, a little each week, rely less on red meat. If you’re near the ocean, eat fish, it’s very healthy. Nuts and grains are good also, but don’t overdo it. Keep an eye on the complex carbs, the flour products, pasta, bread etc. Best to eat them at breakfast and lunch time, so you can use up the energy they provide during the day when you’re active, we don’t need to go to bed with full stomachs, not much energy is required for sleeping. But don’t not eat them, they’ve been shown to improve mental health and our bodies do make use of the energy if we’re active enough. Don’t drink too much booze, moderation is key. And finally do some exercise, whatever suites your lifestyle. It might be an hour walk daily, a run, some gym time, swimming, biking whatever. Be active, it’s really good for your long term health and for the present.  

Avoid processed foods. Find out what is a healthy processed food and what is not. Cheese is a processed food, and in moderation it’s fine. But not all cheese products are a healthy choice. You’ll need to do your research regarding processed foods, best to avoid foods in packets that tell you they’re natural or healthy, or have something reduced like fat or sugar. When you eat whole foots, you automatically reduce your intake of sugar, salts and the bad fats. Learn to cook. Drink lots of water. Avoid processed sugars and trans fats. Moderation. Eat a burger, but not every day or week. 

And if you decide to go vegan for ethical reasons (animal welfare or environmental) that doesn’t mean you need to embrace every vegan processed food product made with soy or corn or anything considered vegan. Nothing wrong with whole foods, unmolested. But if you become unwell and are recommended supplements to boost your nutrient levels, maybe reconsider a second opinion. Evolution determines what our bodies require to function well, not our opinions. But well done on the dedication for your beliefs, just don't tell me I'm doing it wrong because I don't share the same beliefs. Thats not cool.  

Simply put. Avoid the bullshit. Ignore the hype. Learn to cook and eat real food.   

Eat well. Live well.  

I’m done.