I want to say from the onset, that a person’s value in society should be judged only by their intentions, their contributions to their families, their communities, and their workplace. That beyond those things, little else matters in assessing a person‘s character.
And nobody, nobody should be judged by their physical appearance, for any reason, ever.
Still, it’s kind of what we excel at — judging people based on what they look like. It’s our national hobby.
For much of my adult life, I’ve made my living attempting to help people improve their physical appearance, as well as their physical abilities, and physical autonomy. The latter — physical abilities and autonomy are the things that interest me most now as I go about earning a living.
That said, there are still people who utilize my services, primarily as a means of improving their physical appearance. If I’m being honest, I dedicate a portion of each day of my life, as well as direct most of my eating behaviors toward having a socially acceptable physical appearance. How I look in shorts and a t-shirt though, has nothing to do with who I am.
I say often that the world has changed more in the last 5 years than in the previous 10. Of course I’ve been saying that for 30 years. What I mean by that, is that each passing year is increasingly complex. Social, economic, and technical advances are increasing at an exponential rate, the term exponential being literal in this case.
Part of increasing complexity is accepting and hopefully adapting positively to the results and consequences of those social, economic, and technical advances. In a strange way, changing social trends which happen so rapidly, seem to occur gradually. They just sneak up on us. Obesity is a great example of this.
Several years ago I watched the movie Festival Express, a documentary about the Grateful Dead and other bands of the day, on a one week tour across northern Canada by train during the summer of 1970. In the course of the movie, there’s much footage focusing on the crowds at the concert stops. There were a lot of thin young people — the men often shirtless and looking like human xylophones with so many ribs exposed, and the women in sundresses with shoulder blades looking bony enough to cut a finger on.
After watching Festival Express that evening a few years back, I watched the concert DVD from Woodstock 1990. Among the mud and the mayhem, there were few examples of human xylophones and beveled shoulder blades. The attendees were noticeably heavier than the attendees of the Festival Express concerts.
That was the first time I had taken notice of the gradual yet rapid evolution of modern humans. It’s also the first time I remember asking myself if the increasing trend toward obesity would ever reverse.
At the time, primary to my livelihood, was helping to guide people into better eating decisions in conjunction with the exercise that I facilitated on their behalf. On occasion I was successful in helping change eating habits, but most often I was not. That’s because despite my efforts to help people make better eating choices, the complexity of the food system, marketing system, and social eating norms were changing so rapidly yet so seamlessly, that most people didn’t realize what was happening to them or around them.
Marketing got more deceptive. Food composition changed — with a greater emphasis on highly refined carbohydrates, refined sugars, unhealthy fats, and obscene profit potential. Portion sizes, both in restaurants and at home blew up between 1970 and 2000. As this happened, social norms changed. And more to the point, it was a gradual enough process that most people couldn’t see it happening to them or around them. However, between 1970 and 2000 we gained roughly 20% in bodyweight as a nation. (See Greg Crister’s very important book, Fat Land, 2003.)
Through all those changes in dietary habits though, fitness culture increased also. New gyms and chains of gyms opened more frequently and were more accessible than ever. The 24-hour gym was born. Pilates and yoga studios increased in popularity. By 1990, the term cardio became a part of the popular vernacular, when it hadn’t even existed in 1980. And despite obesity levels rising, I put faith in my industry, that fitness would eventually gain traction and thwart the obesity epidemic.
I’m not sure where I was or what I was doing the day that I gave up on the idea of obesity declining, but I have given up. I don’t know anybody, myself included, who doesn’t want to lose some weight, look a little better, and feel little bit better. And there are many who would like to lose a lot of weight, so they can feel and function better.
Through it all, if I’ve got anything right, it’s in honing my ability to see beyond the human form. A part of that, is my increasing belief that I will go on to live somewhere else beyond this life, and so too will everyone else. Heaven perhaps, or possibly another universe, another dimension, or that we might come back as crawfish or woodchucks, but I don’t think the game ends here.
I confess that 20 years ago I was not that good at seeing beyond the human form. Today though, when I make eye contact with and interact with another person, it’s my highest priority to look beyond their shell — to see the essence of who they are by observing their behaviors and listening to their words.
Yes, one can argue about health issues caused by obesity — that it’s a drain on the medical systems, insurance systems, the family, the workplace, and society in general, and I made that argument professionally for much of my adult life. I just don’t see it that way anymore. People are people, so let’s look ‘em in the eye and see them as we also hope to be seen. The complexities of society are going to take us where they’re going to take us, and thus far they’ve taken us to a more obese culture. In the process, we should simply try and be good people.
At the end of the day, if we can be good with weekly mass shootings, an overly racist president, and all people everywhere pointing fingers and calling names rather than seeking to understand, and if within all of that we can simply carry-on, then we can get good with the idea that real democracies have curves.
This is what I think about when I ride… Jhciacb
This Week By The Numbers…
Bikes Ridden: 5
15.2 mph avg
Whether you ride a bike or not, thank you for taking the time to ride along with me today. If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. If you like what you read, give it a like and a share. If not, just keep scrollin’. Oh, and there is this from The Mooney Suzuki. Enjoy…