Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Exorcise and Die(t)

It was some point between the 5th or 6th hillsprint, in between a set of triceps pushups and dips, when a woman in an oversized t-shirt and yoga pants leaned over with the novel fact that lack of sleep leads your body to store fat. I looked up at Nate, giggling at my peek-a-boo head, bobbing up and down beside his carriage as I launched into sumo squats, and wondered: how many times did we get up last night? Four? Five? And what are we doing here...a pack of huffing, sweating idiots, dripping milk into our sports bras, encircled by the babies that made us - and apparently are now keeping us - fat.

But, as I discovered later in the week thanks to the ever-tepid, info-lite of Time Magazine, it's not just the babies who are against us. Apparently, evolution has it in for us as well. "Fundamentally, humans are not a species that evolved to dispose of many extra calories beyond what we need to live," writes John Cloud in his gloomily titled article Why Exercise Won't Make You Thin (August 17, 2009). Cloud also complains about having a small roll of fat that hangs over his belt when he sits down, despite his Thursday "body wedge" class. I'd like to meet him and give that little roll a nice hard squeeze (either with needle-nose pliers or perhaps with the fangs of a venomous snake).

I invite you to read the article for yourself, but the main thesis, from what I can tell, is that the more you exercise, the hungrier you get, the more you eat. What's worse, you "treat" yourself to eat something yummy like a blueberry muffin or (and I quote) a bottle of Gatorade (oooo, so naughty and delicious) that you actually undo any benefit (in terms of calorie loss, anyway) that you might have gained. The clever editors even included a very helpful diagram showing what a "154-lb, 30-year-old woman" (umm, I am feeling uncomfortably close to their target demographic) would have to do to burn off the calories of a single blueberry muffin. These include: 115 minutes of weight lifting, 66 minutes of gardening, 230 minutes of folding laundry (not the way I do it, sweety), 33 minutes of jogging, or 92 minutes of vacuuming.

First, there's the redonkulous sexism that hides behind these factoids (if we were talking about a 30-year-old man, would they have included statistics for house work or would they have provided times for golfing, car maintenance, and masturbation - since those are clearly male vocations). Secondly, I want numbers for the real stuff I do - like carrying 4 liters of milk in one hand with a 17lb baby on the opposite hip up three flights of steps and then back down again because I forgot the house keys, followed by a series of squats required to pick up said house keys (minimum of 4) each time I drop them on the way back up the stairs. What do I get for that? A chocolate chip? The muffin crumbs I shake out of Loki's t-shirt at the end of the day? Can I at least eat those?

Wait. It gets worse. As it turns out, not even stern, focused, determination will help us overcome. "Self-control is like a muscle," Cloud reports "it weakens each day after you use it." We're not built to deny ourselves. This reminds me of an article I read in Harpers some time ago, about how we all consist of multiple, discrete selves who - while sharing the same body - do not share the same goals and in general have very little empathy for one another. We are all stuck in the worse possible roommate scenario. For example, the Determined Self (Deedee, for short) goes to the gym, does 30 minutes of cardio followed by a 45 minute pilates class. She drinks a skinny-smoothy on the way home, takes a nap, and wakes up as the Hungry Self (Hilda, let's call her). Hilda, ravenous, stumbles into the kitchen and begins chowing down on leftover chinese food right from the container. She's half-way through her third, cold eggroll when Deedee barges in and the shit hits the fan:

Deedee: Do you know how hard I worked this morning to burn off all that crap you ate last night during The Bachelor? And now, you're eating it AGAIN? Are you trying to kill me?

Hilda: No, you're trying to kill me! I'm huuunnnngggrrry! You sweat it out like a maniac all morning and you think some mushed up banana and protein powder is gonna make it okay? Look, just run an extra mile tomorrow. No biggy.

Deedee: No biggy? I hate running, I hate it. And I only do it because of you. Can't you just drink some water and eat an apple for crying outloud?

Hilda: Water is flavourless and sometimes apples taste weird. I want FOOD! Real Food! [crams 4th eggroll into gaping maw]

Deedee: Oh no you don't, fatgirl. I'm gonna beat that hydrogenated-corn-oil out of you...

Hairpulling and girl-slapping ensues.

It's like Jerry Springer in our brains all day long every day. Why aren't more people in therapy? Why aren't there more tv shows like Herman's Head? (Remember that show? It rocked!) But I digress.

The point is, look, John Cloud, if you're out there, stop adding to the noise, will you? It's hard enough. It's hard enough to squeeze two human beings out of your body, store their nutrition in your boobs like an upright camel, figure out how to take care of yourself and meet their needs at the same time. And if I get to squeeze in a 45 minute workout a few times a week - you know what, f*#king cheer for me. Don't tell me it's useless. I don't want to hear it.

Tonight's Dinner:

Herb's having a late night tonight so I will feed Loki something (potentially grilled cheese and fruit) and we will have a private dinner of:

- Steak (Organic. I'm reading Omnivore's Dilemma and I don't think I will ever be able to eat feedlot beef again. I'm not sure if organic is sooo much better, but I'm hoping it is and I'll educate myself on that one next).

- Salad

- Good bread


  1. I'm saying organic meat has to be better. I think I'm actually more inclined to buy organic meat than I am organic produce.

  2. This post is awesome. Don't let that douchebag Cloud get you down---exercise is soooo good for your brain! It decreases your risk of Alzheimer's, depression, etc. My research currently focuses on voluntary exercise interventions and mental health---I actually have little rats that have access to running wheels all day long. My running rats tend to eat more than the non-running rats---and they are also leaner. And SMARTER.

  3. This blog posting is clever enough to publish, for reals. I am so thoroughly entertained!