Media encourages aesthetic fitness as synonymous with health. To be good looking is to be healthy—muscled yet lean like the idols on our screens. Cellulite is overlooked like it shouldn’t exist and averageness is shamed as though it’s the rarity. As if non-celebrity humans have the nineteen-hours a week, eating regime time, inclination and genetics to become a Brad Pitt or Beyonce. Gwyneth Paltrow follows a diet I thought was satire; Moby boasts his morning ‘health smoothie’ and neither are actually that healthy: the first endorses an exclusionary approach to eating rather than celebrating food; an approach that risks developing a fasting relationship with food; and in the second ‘health’ smoothies spike insulin in the bloodstream which raises risk of diabetes II.

While the project to become aesthetically pleasing to an ideal is sometimes said to make one healthier and fitter so is good for mental health (you know, personal growth) given the rise of self-harm from comparison on social media it’s not. See: this great article

Working to become a better version of your body can obviously be pernicious since it implies an inadequacy with what you have already and further implies healthy positive body image ought to come from measurements or even like-button-applause.

The gym going generations of muscle-builders and workouters enjoy an endorphin high and some social prestige, but that is a matter of looking good and feeling pumped rather than being healthy. If we define health as living with few maladies into 90s, 100s (longevity) and working into old age rather than mental decline in a care home (cognitive resilience). The places with populations like this, called The Blue Zones by National Geographic Dan Buettner and his research team, do not have gyms. Instead of allocated exercise there’s consistent activity and social eating.

And given that calorie restriction is a common denominator to all those local diets and to a long-living body; and that calorie surplus is necessary for muscle-gain; and that protein from meat is deemed necessary by most workouters (whey and chicken) contra How Not To Die; the claims that muscle-building is healthy are vastly exaggerated and misplaced.

Being strong can be helpful for lifting or endurance tasks, and visually appealing but mass garnering and body obsession are truly not. ‘Fixing’ oneself to an imaginary mould can be harmful physically and mentally and no amount of peer or media or money interested pressure should divert us or loved-ones from that fact.

If you want to read more about why I recommend

How Not To Die

The Blue Zones

Both of which I read near compulsively, they’re that interesting.

And as I’ve written here about brain training, cardio exercise and meditation have been proven to grow brain cells; muscle-building has not. More hours on the meditation cushion than the cross-trainer is better for almost everyone.

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