By Dakota Neff–
Everyone wants a great body, right? You have to impress that really, really attractive person in your anthropology class. Can’t do that with that little bit of extra flab over your abs. You can feel the muscles underneath, and you have to find some way to get that six-pack you’ve always dreamt about. I will tell you one thing: starving yourself is not the key to your goals. Having an attractive body does not make you healthy. Thin and/or muscular is not always good.
I was a fat kid. That really is the most simple way of stating it. I was overweight, unhealthy, and usually sedentary. I would spend my nights parked on the couch, watching Cartoon Network with a bag of Lay’s and a plate of fried chicken in front of me. I grew up eating this way; it was all I knew. A typical dinner plate would consist of a fried meat, a starchy vegetable, some type of white bread, and maybe a soda to wash it all down. My mom cooked like Paula Deen: butter it, fry it, salt it, then butter it some more.
Then middle school happened. I moved to a new school, and suddenly I would hear whispers behind my back, “Look at tubby over there. I can see the fat roll exploding from his gym shorts.”
This was obviously hurtful. It was something I would not take. I had to be thin, to look like the guys on MTV; maybe some muscles, and a tan. I began to stop eating altogether. When I would sneak that cheesecake from the refrigerator, I would swiftly and secretly head to the bathroom and purge my indulgences straight down the toilet.
Eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia will destroy your body in the long run, trust me. Short term weight loss is not worth the havoc these disorders can wreak on the human body: permanent brain damage, malnutrition, ashy skin, brittle nails, dry hair, muscle and bone degeneration, throat cancer, severe depression, just to name a few. This exemplifies my point that thin and healthy are not one in the same.
In order to achieve a healthy body, proper nutrition and exercise are in order. I’d like to ask you to make a promise to yourself that you will sweat at least once today after reading this. Exercise does not always mean pumping iron and running 10 monotonous miles on a treadmill. Physical activity can be fun. Ride your bike to the riverfront, take a walk around campus, shoot a basketball in the SAC. Just get your body moving; it was built to move.
Now let’s talk nutrition. Eating less will help you lose weight, but it does not guarantee good health. It is not only how much you consume, but what you consume.
I’d like to share a quote from the absolutely incredible documentary “Hungry For Change:” “The problem is we are not eating food anymore, we are eating food-like products.”
This is the most relevant quote to the American health epidemic I’ve ever seen. Corporations are selling us chemical-infused, genetically modified foods. It’s no wonder our obesity rates and healthcare costs are through the roof. Marketing campaigns have twisted the meaning of thin, healthy, and diet. Drinking a Slim-Fast and popping a Hydroxycut is not a way to achieve good health.
No matter how many hours you log on the treadmill, you will not be able to outrun the negative effects of that preservative-laden McDonald’s burger or those poison-laced Mountain Dews.
The food industry is feeding us death on a fork, all in the name of the almighty dollar. All is not lost though, you can stand up and make responsible choices in terms of your diet. Buy a blender, throw some fruits and vegetables in there and drink up! Eat responsibly by choosing more natural, whole and organic foods. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, don’t buy it.
You may think eating healthier is too expensive. You’ll just eat for cheap until you graduate and until you have a better job. Well let me inform you of something: the food you eat is more important than the clothes you put on your back, the fancy electronic device in your pocket, or the car you drive. Healthy food is not always going to be cheap, but neither is cancer.
This generation must stand up and fight the corporate abuse of our available nutrition. A parent that does not look after and nurture a child is to be shamed; so if we do not stand up and fight for the health of our people and future, we too should be shamed.
A healthy life is the result of a balanced diet and proper exercise. I can only hope that I have in some way inspired you to re-evaluate your body and the things you put in it. Remember, the goal is good health, not physical attractiveness.
Photo courtesy of Flickr/epSos.de