My Vomitorium Membership

Anyone who keeps tabs on me will know that about three years ago I started running and by winter of 2009 had lost forty pounds.  I’ve kept all this up, but for all the work I was doing I felt I just needed an extra edge.  I was working too hard to be yet a little over weight, so I bit the bullet and joined a gym.

My gym includes people of all kinds; it’s not the place for an uber-serious bodybuilder.  We say that modern men are not superstitious, but one finds evidence of a belief in mystery at my gym.  Anyone who is serious about getting in better shape agrees with the physicist that F=ma, but many of the people at my gym believe that a kind of magic reigns, as if going to the gym is like visiting Lourdes, the Fountain of Youth, or the nudie bar.

I have struggled to keep a straight face while witnessing some of this.  Old women lay on the ab machines, half-asleep, as if mere contact with the sweat-stained rubber will give them the torso of Michael Phelps.  This while the F=ma crowd paces about nervously, waiting for machines and wondering how fast their heart rates are going to plunge. At other times I’ve seen people young enough to do better walk on a treadmill at some glacial pace for thirty minutes and burn a whopping 150 calories.  At that rate they’d be better off skipping the extra cafe latte and staying home and doing something they enjoy, since exercise is obviously indulged half-heartedly.  The elderly recovering from surgeries and heart attacks is one thing; the lazy middle-aged is another.

Nevertheless, it’s not just the lackadaisical who provide the entertainment.  Just the other day I watched some guy do eight reps on the bench press and then get up and stretch his right leg.  More common is the mistake of jerking the weights around.  My joints hurt just watching it.  One of the disadvantages of being young is that your body doesn’t impose discipline for such infractions, and so the young do this disproportionately.

A few years ago I saw an article which essentially asserted that exercise makes you fat.  This is, of course, ridiculous, but only if you know what you’re doing.  Running six miles isn’t even enough to burn off most donuts.  A lot of people assume otherwise, however, and so, after burning their whopping 150 calories on a treadmill, I suspect they head home to eat like pigs while watching rubbish on the idiot box.  (Many idiot boxes—or, if you prefer, booboisie tubes—are available at the gym, too, since most people can’t stand the thought of being outside the matrix for more than a few minutes.)  Maybe this explains why so many of the people at the gym are downright fat, along with why that stupid article was written in the first place.

I looked around at all this one day and had a sudden vision of Roman vomitoriums.  Are these people here just so they can eat more?  Are they attempting to be thin without giving up even the worst of their eating habits?  Would all cultures in all times consider vomitoriums to be grosser than gigantic sweat-holes?  I’m skeptical, especially since I’ve been frequently surrounded by the hygienically-impaired.  I won’t go further into detail, for fear of anesthetizing the reader.

If you want to go to a gym, and if you want to make real progress, there is one place you can go:  the free weights.  By its nature, this section is limited mostly to people who know what they’re doing.  Most of the members at my gym would be afraid to pick up a fifteen pound dumbbell, so it’s a perfectly safe place to go.  Anyone in that section means business and knows you mean business, too.  Get in, work out, get out.  The shared ambition even increases cooperation.  There are no fat people taking naps on the benches.

If jaw exercise were as beneficial as using a gazelle, I suppose America would be the fittest country in the world.  We love to talk about fitness, to admire supermodels, and to buy gym memberships and eat fat free food-like substances.  But something is obviously wrong, since such a small portion of our society is actually in good shape.  I am afraid that physical fitness is a fad that will pass away, a good wave for smart businessmen to ride until people realize they’re not accomplishing anything, and give up, sliding down Mencken’s proverbial greased pole.  Golf is easier.  I only hope that when that day comes, there will still be a place for me to work out.

The ice cream diet: another update

Back in August–in fact, it was on the same day I began this blog–I started a diet which consisted of running, calorie counting, and eating ice cream. I do a lot of eating at Subway too, if only because the calorie counting is made much simpler.

I began in August at 200 pounds on the nose. I am now down to 162.5. My goal weight is 155, which I hope to achieve fairly soon. (Being the superstitious type, I hesitate to tell you what the exact target date is, lest I jinx myself.) I have used a combination of long-term and short-term goals. I try to lose two pounds per week. Whenever I get to the two pound mark, I treat myself to a nice dinner (and sometimes some drinking, too) and generally do not count calories. I do still run, however. I eat ice cream every day, unless something has gone awry in the calorie or the exercise department. I run every day unless I have a literal time conflict. Too tired? I run. Too hot? I run. Too cold? I run. Rain? I get wet. Too stressed? Well, nothing helps that like a good run. Finally, I don’t cut my sleep short unless it’s absolutely necessary. The human body metabolizes more while sleeping than while awake but at rest. (This is the best excuse for falling asleep in front of the football game that I know of, especially if you’re a fan of the 5-4-1 Eagles.)

In short, in order to lose a significant amount of weight, one must do everything that no one else wants to do. Sometimes, when people ask me how I lost all this weight, they don’t like the answer: Eat less, move more, sleep more. You cannot have your cake and eat it, too. This flies in the face of modern consumerism, which even free market enthusiasts such as Albert Jay Nock lamented, Nock having called it “economism.” Henry Hazlitt talks about the unwillingness of most people to set aside short-term gain for long-term benefit instead. That is probably why so many people have trouble with losing weight.

Well, there it is folks. Eat less, move more, sleep more. Have a good evening.

Running, the State, and Liu Xiang

A few months ago, at the urging of a friend, I abandoned my bike-riding routine in favor of running. This was a fortuitous decision; I am now in much better shape and stand to make much more improvement still.

Over the course of the past several months I have learned what to do and what not to do when it comes to running. Often I ignored conventional wisdom, thinking that it didn’t apply to me. And I was wrong. Being of the more-or-less hard-headed variety, I thought that I could decide exactly how my exercise regimen would go. Period. So, I’d say to myself, “Tonight I’m going to double my run.” Or I would resolve to run faster, only to have side-stitches halfway through. The same thing has applied to my weight loss goals, all of which I’ve met, but in more roundabout fashion than I would like.

There is a fundamental error here which I am having to fight: the idea that, purely by my decision-making, I can bring all good things to pass. This folly, however, does not take sufficient account of the fact that the human body is an organic mechanism and therefore cannot be forced to do something which it is not able or ready to do. These conditions vary from day to day, and perhaps even from minute to minute. Some nights, my body feels great and I far surpass my expectations when it comes to running. Other nights, I may have started too soon after eating, or my knee hurts, or my allergies kick in (an ugly sight, for those of you who haven’t witnessed it). Results are then disappointing.

I suppose the good thing is that I have been smart enough to realize that the best laid plains, well, you know, and I have made adjustments as circumstances dictate. Throughout the course of this learning process, however, it has been on my mind that there is an analogy to be drawn between running and the State. Consider first that I have been fighting a battle between my mind, i.e. the goals I set and the decisions I make, and my body, which is only capable of so much, and which is forced to react to given circumstances. This is not unlike the dichotomy between the State and the market. The State, when it gets its grimy hands on the economy and starts to engage in Central Planning, decides what goals are achievable, and, moreover, which goals are desirable. It is the “supermind” that makes all the decisions. The market–the interaction between various people and businessmen based on their given needs–is like the body, which also performs according to the given needs and circumstances of the moment, in spite of what our minds might like it to do.

Now I must confess that one part of this analogy may well be quite far-fetched. Whereas the human mind is indeed connected to the human body and therefore likely to adjust its expectations to the feedback the body gives off, the State-sponsored supermind is not attached to the “body” of the citizenry, making it much easier to ignore the real circumstances and the real needs of the people, and making it impossible to keep up with said needs in real time. In this respect, I suppose that Central Planning is even more arrogant than my fantasies of being a marathon runner. Think I’m crazy? Read about Liu Xiang.

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