Remember Biosphere? The experiment out in the desert testing our planetary colonization skills. It was an intricate maze of self-contained domes, housing plants, animals, and a few brave individuals. Though the two year test was publicly deemed a failure, many fields benefited from the experience; from psychology, to green energy engineering, all the way to food and nutrition. This is where we pick it up. This is the story of Dr. Roy Walford, and his calorie restricted diet studies in Biosphere. Walford’s claim was calorie-restricted diets slow the aging process.
On more than one occasion, the dangers of sitting has been discussed on this blog. Here’s someone who’s taking action. Blogger Corbett Barr, attempted standing at his desk for most of the week, and then posted his experience to the Zen Habits blog. He discovers, obviously, there are pluses and minuses. The best approach for most of us would be to split our time between standing and sitting throughout the day. It’s all about balance, right?
The Origins of Cybex Space is a fascinating article written by Carolyn de la Peña, and published by magazine extraordinaire Cabinet. Each publication of Cabinet collects art, articles and essay under loose themes. This particular issue (Issue 29, Spring 2008) was SLOTH. In the article, de la Pena delves into the beginnings of exercise equipment, in particular, Cybex machines. Enlightening and informative , it really gives pause to marvel at how awesome and bizarre humanity is. Seriously, where do we come up with this stuff? Truly, if we take a closer look close at the evolution of society, as de la Pena does – down to large metal and wood machines on which we built to exercise – the answers become surprisingly obvious.
All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then Success is sure.
– Mark Twain, Notebook, 1887
I overthink most things. I brood; over plans, ideas and life in general. The dreamiest place i know is inside my head, and it can become so cluttered with thoughts I’m crippled by inaction. It’s kind of like living The Secret Life of Walter J. Mitty. Or, wait! Even better, like this line from the TS Eliot poem:
Do I dare disturb the Universe?/ In a minute there is time. /For revisions and decisions / which a minute will reverse.
Starting projects is not a problem, but completing them is, not because I don’t want to, but because my brain won’t let me. Yes, I’m placing the blame on my over-thinking brain.
How often do we wistfully say, “if only things were simpler.” My longing lately goes more like this, “If only I could be stupid”…by this I mean, less thinking, more action. It sounds wrong, but hear me out. As per usual, it’s all about a healthy balance.
There is a fine line between genius and stupidity; between the mad scientist and then just a really brilliant one. Getting ahead in life according to social mores and making gobs of money doesn’t necessarily make you a genius. Being scattered and unable to move forward in the ways that are deemed culturally correct doesn’t make you unintelligent. Defining what is dumb and smart, and how society accepts both has been contemplated time and again.
The first time I encountered this conceptual debate was in junior high while reading Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. The story goes: A lab janitor yearns to be smarter. He attains it through a radical scientific experiment. The smarter he becomes, the more he ostracizes everything he’s loved. Slowly, the experiment fails and he slips back into a state of mental slowness and his life is better for it…kind of…no. not really. It’s a sad story, expressing the highs are too high, the lows are too low, and best to stick with what you got.
Raphan interviews various people, like Oliver Sacks, and tells the stories of others, like Hellen Keller, who throughout history were once considered dumb, and later, professed to be the great geniuses of humanity.
Advertisers too are diving into the sociological game of what makes you genius. Is it stupidity? Maybe it’s your jeans. At least Diesel thinks so. Based on my earlier self-musings, I tend to agree with them…on stupidity, not jeans…just in a less flashy advertisement kind of way. Here is their latest ad campaign manifesto, “Be Stupid”.
We now know there are different types of intelligence. For several decades, Dr. Howard Gardner has researched how different brains have different, distinct “smarts”. Even intelligence is relative. I’d like to think we are all endowed in one category or another.
Whatever your intelligence/s might be, they are hard to tap into without a little focused action. It’s easy to read this, get inspired for 30 seconds and move on. It’s easy to live in our heads or on a screen, and as our senses become overwhelmed by the multi-media encompassing life, it becomes harder to “do”. So, I lift my coffee mug in a toast and a call to action: Here’s to a little more doing and a little less thinking in 2011. Here’s to balance. Here’s to embracing both the uniqueness of our genius and the wonder of our stupidity. Cheers.
My brother Scott is inspiration for the notion: if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.
I had always been a “gifted” student, able to walk through classes and get A’s in my sleep, which later in life proved to be a challenge for my work ethic. My brother Scott was not particularly gifted in athletics or in education, but he worked hard and believed in himself. Eventually Scott made varsity basketball, received stellar grades, was senior class president and homecoming king. My other siblings and I joke Scott is the “Golden Child” who can do no wrong. In truth, Scott has always fought to accomplish his goals. There is no luck involved.
This past weekend he qualified for the Boston Marathon.
Motivation and determination are big factors in realizing your dreams. The funny thing is, we often assume if we don’t have it figured out in our 20 and 30s, it will never happen. There is nothing further from the truth. The biggest component of the population is aging, and living longer. Older adults, like Olga Kotelko, recently featured in the New York Times, have only taken up new ambitions and athletics in their retirement and are soaring to new heights.
We are all capable of much more than we might believe. Whether you are 20, 40, or 80, the choices are still your own, and with determination you, can do it!
I consider myself moderately attractive. Some parts are better than others. I’ve been known to get a compliment or two on my backside, in a lesser Kim Kardashian way, much to my dismay, because it is one of my least favorite attributes. I much prefer my eyebrows, which rarely get the credit they deserve.
The Womanly Ideal in 1910s according to Encyclopedia of Physical Culture
There is no perfect ideal that crosses all cultural boundaries and personal opinions, not even Angelina Jolie. In the African countryside of Mauritania, Jolie would be considered ugly. Large women are the ideal that the Mauritanian society finds appealing. Skinny is considered poor and weak. Young girls are often forced-fed to grow fat, mirroring Western culture’s less direct food deprivation through eating disorders and quick weight loss diets. Big or small, it’s all in the name of beauty.
We are shaped, pun intended, not only by what we eat and do, but by our thoughts and actions. I’d bet you can think of at least one well-toned person who is unattractive based on their attitudes or deeds.
Comparing ourselves to the world around us can make us feel pretty low. I like to think we are works in progress, never quite finished, each with unique variations. Don’t be too hard on yourself. The scale and the mirror are shallow friends when it comes to support. In most cases, your body and mind themselves are your best friends. Who gets up with you every morning to start the day?
If you are about to undertake an ambitious health overhaul or wanting to improve yourself, keep in mind…it’s relative. Go slow. How you feel is most important. Sure, it’s a canned self-help answer, but it was canned well. If you feel good, keep going. If not, stop. Rethink the approach.
Celebrating the perfect, imperfect you is liberating, whatever your size, attributes, best and worst features. There’s no one else quite like you…that’s a pretty cool thought. Take care of what you have and stay moderately healthy.
Ending this post with the song of the same name. A little inspiration for your day from Nina Simone. Ms. Simone herself a strong woman, perfect in her imperfections.
No Matter how smart and evolved as a society we think we are, we will always look back and recognize the mistakes of the past.
Media seems omnipresent, and advertising is lodged into every nook and cranny of the day, softly and incessantly suggesting how we might want to feel, act, and be. There are few moments in the day to stop and listen to our own thoughts. It’s easy to disconnect from our own inherent knowledge, which is lifetimes more intelligent than the advertising or media of the day.
Being election day, it seems an appropriate time to remind ourselves we each have a unique intellect, different from everyone else. Take time to be still. Turn off CNN. Step away from the computer. Take a walk through the autumn air and discover where your mind takes you. Go with your gut.
Look. You get it…you are supposed to do something more than move between desk and couch. But “exercise” isn’t fun…at least in your opinion. You can continue sporadically riding the treadmill to nowhere, but maybe the time has come to try another approach. It’s actually possible to sneak fitness in like vegetables into a kid’s dinner…just hide it really well.
Here are your general options:
#1. Go standard: Do the gym
Ho-hum. Exercise and health, blah blah blah. Who hasn’t tried this? We sign up for a gym membership in a moment of inspiration, usually in January and then it languishes into one extra payment on the ol’ checking account. Some people thrive on routine. If you can psyche yourself into being accountable at the gym 3 -4 days a week, for 2 or 3 weeks, then this might be the option for you. Gyms offer convenience for fitness and a great fall back when all else fails, but little else that can often be exciting.
#2. Go Group: Join the team…or start your own.
Maybe you need a team effort to get moving. Lots of local sporting leagues exist: softball, basketball, bowling, kickball, dodgeball, you name it. Join in. Finding a buddy to join could make the move easier. No groups you like? Start your own action adventure team.
#3. Go to school: Please grade my fitness
Maybe teams aren’t you thing, but personal exploration and trying new things are. Sign up for a class. Try something totally new. All kinds of sports, movement arts and activities are offered through local colleges. Community, state and/or private universities usually have offerings for the public. Since collegiate classes go in semesters, it is a doable committment for those of us who get bored. This option keeps your brain supple too.
#4. Go Big: Spend a lot and do as little as possible
Invest in the most expensive home gym out there that touts the fastest way to perfect fitness…4 minutes a day. Afterall, if you pay $14,615.00, it must really work. Although, who we kidding, eventually it will languish in the basement and become the worlds most expensive laundry drying rack…ever.
#5. Go Bizarre: Extracurricular odyssey
If you are like me, you need to be entertained. A stationary bike sounds worse than the dentist. Maybe it’s time to give up the Dungeons and Dragons game in the back room of the comic book shop and take up jousting outdoors instead. There are an endless array of activities that classify as fitness. Gym is not required and creativity is by all means allowed. Possibilities are endless!
Find something that inspires you. Even if it’s a dvd or book, a self created 10 minute workout at home, reading my blog for fabulous ideas…whatever. Try to do a little more. I’m still working on the ultimate ab pulverizing couch and desk workout. I’ll let you know when it comes out.
Ah, the joys of doing the presidential fitness test in junior high. As if we all weren’t awkward enough, mix in memories of bad P.E. classes and…well, not a lot springs to mind because I blocked them out. I do remember the mottled red t-shirt and ill-fitting, infinitely uncomfortable polyester shorts.
Looking back, it’s such a wonder why the education system can’t make physical education more adventurous and pertinent. Light anatomy, injury prevention and creative exploration of personal activity goals, could help stave off the obesity epidemic and stress levels, in part. But this is a topic for another day. I digress.
While you don’t have to don the old itchy shorts, you can redeem your junior high years by taking the presidential ADULT fitness test. Yes, this test does keep following you. At least you don’t have to perform it in front of the school jocks. Trying this with a friend could make for a fun-filled hour of laughter… at each other. The test is filled with oldies but goodies observing general flexibility, endurance, strength, and aerobic fitness. Here it is, in brief:
Timed 1 mile walk
How many push ups can you do in 1 minute?
How many half sit ups (or chest curls) can you do in 1 minute?
Sit and Reach: Sitting on the floor, legs stretched out, belly scooped in, how far can you slide your hands along the floor?
Big fun, right? Sometimes, we have to start somewhere, and this isn’t a bad place to begin. Again, a partner in crime makes this more palatable and fun-ny.
I know. What you really want is an award – specifically from the President that says, “You made it. Go you!” Your prayers have been answered. The President is offering a Presidential Active Lifestyle Award, or PALA, for those of us who can’t live without acronyms.
The program has promise. It’s a simple, realistic, attainable goal – 30 minutes of activity, 5 days a week, for 6 out of 8 weeks. Done. Award please. It doesn’t have to be 30 consecutive minutes. Spread it out throughout the day. Taking the stairs at work, counts. Walking the distance of the parking lot, counts. Every little bit adds up.
Did I mention the award looks pretty official? You could place it on the mantel next to your child’s, or your own childhood, trophies.
You can even up the ante with the Presidential Champions Challenge, building on more activity to earn points towards supremely awesome medals: 40,000 points for bronze, 90,000 for silver, 160,000 for gold, and a whopping 1 million for platinum. I’d be sure to wear it around my neck at all times, if I were you.
Once moderate movement sets in, don’t be surprised at how steadily you feel better. It doesn’t take much and it works! I move to become adults in revolt, in the name of reclaiming our presidential fitness award. If you complete it, send me your photo with your award and we will post them. Just remember, 30 minutes of activity, 5 days a week, 6 out of 8 weeks. Good luck. See you on the other side.
The Brookings Institute released a study this week on the direct and indirect costs of American obesity. The number being thrown around is somewhere around 215 billion dollars…an incomprehensible number that doesn’t mean much at a glance.
Let’s break it down in a few ways that make more, if not odd, sense.
The biggest portion of this directly relates to health care costs. An extra 147 billion is spent on obese adults every year compared to those who are of healthier weight. Another incomprehensible number, it basically means overweight people are more likely to have everything from diabetes to bad knees, and even depression.
The less direct costs are more fascinating. Disability and premature death costs seem more obvious compared to the bizarre 66 billion dollar cost in lost worker productivity associated with obesity. Overweight people struggle with absenteeism due to health related issues, and “presenteism” – decreased productivity while at work. Other work related expenses includes higher health insurance and benefit costs.
Fuel and transportation costs are other indirect, yet expensive, costs of obesity. Heavier loads require more fuel, and bigger vehicles. More fuel also means more greenhouse gas emissions, equaling big bad things for the environment.
The most removed and greyest area of the study looks at socio-economic status or “human capital”, with obese people being less likely to attain higher levels of education, marriage, and higher income potential. Again, this research is more difficult to verify and track.
So what do we do? Suggestions run the gamut and include moving to a walking neighborhood, where people tend to be, on average, 7 pounds less.
It is important to remember at the end of the day this study impacts all of us directly, with research indicating two-thirds of adults in the US now overweight
including one-third who are obese. At this time, there is no end in sight to the economic expenses which are anticipated to expand with our waists in upcoming years. Little changes will help, but a major paradigm shift in the way we think of food, health, work and life is needed to make a true difference.