Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Modern Health and Fitness: 'one vast, fear-based effort to protect and defend ourselves from the impermanence of the world.'

...Which brings us to the paradox and delusions of the modern health and fitness industry. That is, we put so much energy into analyzing our workouts, weighing our food and micro-managing every detail of our lives, we have to wonder what exactly it is that we’re trying to do. Are we trying to celebrate life in all its mystery and insecurity, through vigorous physical movement? Or are we trying to escape from our earthly predicament? Are we going towards something or away from something?

When we look at the magazine rack, the popular health and fitness industry now comes across like one vast, fear-based effort to protect and defend ourselves from the impermanence of the world. We hear preposterous claims about “turning back the clock” and “age-proofing” our skin and bodies. We read about “injury proofing,” and “stress proofing” as if we might somehow insulate ourselves from the realities of biology. But this effort is destined to fail: When we try to death-proof our bodies, we simultaneously take ourselves out of the natural flow of life. In other words, death-proofing actually becomes a form of “life-proofing.”

If we read between the lines, today’s health and fitness conversation has a tinge of desperation to it: “If we just eat enough kale, do the right number of squats, run the right number of miles, take the right supplements and put the right substances on our skin, then we won’t have to face the unpleasant realities of aging and death.” Of course, this neurotic flight from aging and death is most prominent in the glossy health and fitness press, where “before and after” spreads hold out preposterous promises of infinite sex appeal and immortality. But we also see it in the Paleo community, with its relentless drilling down on biochemistry and fine-grained analysis of every molecule that goes into our bodies. Some have even taken to calling it “paleorexia,” an obsessive-compulsive preoccupation with food, diets and the promise of perfect, eternal health/immortality. ...