Friday, 19 February 2010

Another avoidable time bomb...

There was an article in today's local newspaper (I get the news digest via email) entitled "Care costs a ticking time bomb" which basically made the point about people having to work longer before retiring otherwise they'll suffer financial difficulties in their old age. One of the quotes was that "Our study found that more than half of professionals aged 35 to 45 said they would encounter financial problems in old age if they did not receive a parental windfall to bail them out", hence the starting point for my riposte. The article ended with the line "The Government must do more to encourage people to think about their future if we are to avoid the massive time bomb currently ticking", which is what evoked the response below.

I currently fit into the 35 to 45 age bracket and am struggling to get myself out of debt so that I can be more comfortable as I get older. At this point I don't intend to fully retire from work at all - instead, my aim is to move more into work that I really enjoy so I can keep going for longer. I'm also trying to keep myself in good health so that I can keep working for longer. I completely agree that people ought to put more effort into thinking about and planning for their future.

I have one small question: why does everyone always put the onus on the Government for issues like these? We're not sheep who need to be herded in the right direction and most of us are not children so why must there always be some 'greater authority' tasked with making life decisions for us? The devolution of power is always a topic for debate in political circles and, for those with some exposure to it, in psychological/therapeutic circles. The age-old call for 'power to the people' must carry with it the companion call of 'power to the individual', which means each person must, to the best of their ability, take responsibility for their own life. Instead of whining like a bunch a spoilt children, saying "Why doesn't *this person/group/agency*" do something about *this problem*", it's time everyone understood that changing things for the better begins, like charity, at home. If you want something improved, see what you can do to improve it - sitting around complaining about things not being good enough doesn't change anything, it just wastes time, energy and potential. The Government is not there to tell us what to do, it is there to do what we tell it to. The first thing that must happen is that each individual must take responsibility for their own actions, their own lives, both now and for the future. If everyone did that we wouldn't need the Nanny State. The Government would be in much better shape because they wouldn't need to spend so much time/money/energy on trivial detail so the money we pay in taxes would be better spent and, as the Government would have less power over the individual, we would all have better lives. We just have to stand up and do it.
A few celebrated people have said it well:

Seneca: It is not because things are difficult that we dare not, it is because we dare not that things are difficult.

Michael Jackson: If you want to make the world a better place take a look at yourself and make that change. (Song: Man in the mirror)

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Baby got back, front AND sides mofo

To be sung to the tune of 'Baby got back':

I hate fat fucks and I cannot lie
All you other Brothers can't deny
When a girl walks past with a jelly-belly waist
Stuffing doughnuts in her face
You feel sick...

Harsh, unfair, and untrue. But the lyrics hit the music with a wallop and it'd be a waste to ignore it. Seriously though, let's take a proper look at this. I don't know what you think of the fat vs skinny argument; whether the rampant worship of bony bitches has had a backlash effect and created the tubby tarts, or whether one weight extreme is more attractive than the other. Here's what I think...

To be attractive, a person just has to look 'right'. That's all. In my time I've had a major crush on a big woman, a skinny woman, and many others in between. People are naturally built in a particular way and either you like them or you don't. The problem is that so many people go beyond the natural boundaries of their body type and that's where things go awry. What am I on about? Let's take a woman with a naturally athletic build: she could get away with putting on enough weight to be curvaceous or losing enough weight to be slim, but to go further in either direction would look wrong. That's why so many apparently attractive women look awful when they diet down to be skinny – they've taken their body beyond it's natural limits. That's also why so many women look horrible with backsides like sacks of potatoes and guts that hang over their belt - apart from the obvious fact that ANYONE whose stomach hides their belt buckle ought to take the hint and eat less pizza - it simply goes beyond the body's natural boundaries.

We're living in an era of mass media where more people than ever are hyper-conscious of their image and information about health and nutrition is freely available, so why are there so many people who don't take care of themselves at all? The usual arguments sound something like: blah blah sedentary lifestyle blah blah cheaper food blah blah internet culture blah blah blah. No. Those may be contributing factors but I don't think they're the main cause. At this point, someone somewhere will wheel out the old chestnut “What about those of us who can't help it?” Well yes, there are some people who really can't help it. One of the women in the beginners Taiji class I attend is overweight because she has serious problems with her knees and doing anything more strenuous than a 90-minute Taiji session is beyond her physical capabilities. I've also known two people with LMBBS (Google that) and that condition, which is hereditary, means the poor folks would be overweight if they lived on a diet of grilled salmon and steamed broccoli. There are probably one or two other medical conditions which we could comfortably store in the “Really can't help it” box but the rest deserve as much sympathy as David Baddiel displayed during the 'History Today' tour when he said “Oh God, I'm sorry. I forgot all about those of you who can't help STUFFING YOUR FUCKING FACE!”

Back to the point. What do I think is the cause of this run on obesity? Given that it originated in the USA, the home of the spoilt brat and ground zero for the self-obsessed, it's very clearly a strong aversion to two simple words: Personal Responsibility. Yes you heard me right, fatties, you're in that state because you're sitting on your backsides, refusing to take responsibility for yourself, and waiting for someone else to do it all for you. This is one of the by-products of the Generation X baby-boomers who had to go without during the 70's and 80's - they now pamper their kids and spoil them in an effort to give them a 'better life than I had'. Unfortunately, that's only being measured in material wealth and rarely in terms of real quality of life.

Now with reality TV persuading people that anyone can be famous, with Youtube and other websites allowing people to show off to the world at large, people don't do anything without having a potential audience on hand. (Oh the irony: rather than keeping these thoughts to myself I'm writing them in a blog...) And when you're young, who's your audience? Mum and Dad. You get so used to being congratulated on every little thing you do, being made to feel that you're 'special' (Bill Hicks, geddit?) and being able to get what you want by throwing a temper tantrum, that parents quickly evolve from being providers into being servants. Now, some childhood obesity is normal – let's face it there have always been fat kids, skinny kids and kids with all sorts of problems - but those are just normal developmental phases that you grow out of. However, when you've had your parents pandering to your whims for most of your childhood you get very used to the idea that anything difficult can be done for you.

I think Darren said it best: “These Surrey Girls, it's all 'Daddy do this and Daddy do that'” That was in a very different context but the message is the same. The problem is, my chubby chums, that losing weight and getting in shape is not something that can be done for you. Even more unfortunate is the fact that the actual physical act of exercising is the easy part! Eating healthy food is more difficult, due to the addictive nature of bad food, and worst of all is devising a realistic food & exercise plan and sticking to it. If you've ever had this experience you'll know what I mean: It's a new year, you join a gym (or go back to one), get a workout plan drawn up for you, leave buzzing with excitement at the progress you'll make, and then decide you'll do the workout at least 4 times a week until the summer. Meanwhile, you decide to go cold turkey on your bad diet, kick out the jams (and the doughnuts they're wrapped in) and eat 'healthy' foods in small portions from then on. And what happens? Within a month it all backfires, you feel so bad it's like you're actually ill, you're tired all the time and absolutely every little thing makes you angry. So you go back to the old routine, hating yourself for failing and resigning yourself to another bout of several months of feeling like the 'ugly one'.

What did you do wrong? You tried to do it all at once, your body rebelled and you burned out. You cannot make huge changes all at once, the body simply can't cope. Your body takes several weeks to get used to something new so give it that time! Going to the gym? Good, go twice a week for the first month and if you can cope with that take it up to 3 times a week the following month – no more than that: you need a full day between workouts as recovery time is vital. Eating healthily? Good, cut out 1 major 'bad' food group (sugar or dairy first as they're the big 2) – cut it out completely – but make sure you're still eating the same volume of food so you're not going hungry. Example: if I eat a plate of tuna & pasta then fancy something sweet, I eat another (smaller) plate of tuna & pasta so I'm full up – the sweet craving goes. Try this regime. It works. But you have to do it yourself as no-one is going to do it for you. Read that last line again. And again. Until you get it.