This is a follow-up to the Yo-yo post in which we looked at some “why’s” behind food-issues/non-compliance. Now…I’m going to give away the punch line to this post: Focus on performance to achieve better aesthetics. That is some good info but similar to the yo-yo post I want to look at why it is so hard to pull that off. In the yo-yo post I made a case that we are not wired for self control. In this post I want to make the case we are wired to be dead-sexy…and we are acutely aware of who is and who is not.
You may be thinking the terms “economics” and “hunter-gatherer” are misplaced! Not at all. Keep in mind economics deals with resource allocation, not nickles, dimes and shekels. In the case of hunter-gatherers economics describes foraging strategies, division of labor, food sharing and a myriad of other behaviors that made the HG life-way amazingly efficient. Ethnographic studies put average HG “work” at about 15 hrs per week. This provided for food, clothing, shelter, firewood…everything one needed to live. Now this was a very active 15 hrs but once those toils were accomplished HG’s found themselves with vast stretches of time in which to socialize, relax…and beautify. Beautify? Yes indeed. Tinker with hair, tattoo, scar, paint. A commonality of all HG cultures was a strong emphasis on aesthetics and a surprising resource allocation to enhance ones appearance.
Whoa! That can’t be! Looks are so banal, so Western. Is this original sin? An overvaluing of our lowly selves? Maybe. Or maybe that’s a bunch of limiting value judgments that obscure the reality of our situation and our heritage. Looks are strongly influence social status and (perceived) reproductive potential. Whether we like to admit it or not biology, particularly reproduction, is a potent motivator.
My point here is that the desire to look good and to be well regarded socially is woven into our DNA…and it is STRONG. The economic strategy our species is wired to use ties together food, sex and socialization in a synergistic manner and aesthetics are an important part of all of this. Are you still with me? Aesthetics=important…on many levels.
Now lets consider that HG’s were active and healthy. Anthropological accounts describe them as “beautiful, strong and robust”. Bone density, strength and endurance were on par with Olympic caliber athletes. So our default mode is to be active, strong, well fed and rested. It’s tough to look like shit when you have all those ducks in a row!
I hope I made the point that looks/aesthetics matter. Everyone wants to look good but putting looks ahead of performance is frequently the road to ruin. Whether you are a female wanting to be a size-whatever or a guy wanting to “get big” if the goals are purely aesthetic you will tend to fall into neurotic eating behaviors. This does not describe every situation, only about 99.999% of them! A simple google search with the terms “eating disorders by sport” clearly shows that the more AESTHETICS oriented a sport the more likely are eating disorders. Track&Field, basketball, volleyball tend to focus on performance and have a relatively low occurrence of eating disorders relative to dance and gymnastics. Wrestling produces a fair number of eating disorders due to the constant obsession with WEIGHT. Performance is almost forgotten in favor of trying to take as large an athlete as possible, dry him out, then hope you can bring them back to life for the event. In contrast, many jiu-jitsu tournaments require that competitors weigh-in immediately before a match. The scale is actually outside the mat area and you either make weight and you get to wrestle or don’t and you forfeit. I think this is a far more sane approach and it likely decreases the potential for squirrely eating.
In our training practice the folks who are performance oriented feed themselves well. When they know they have 18.973654 pull-ups and they will kill for the 19th we do not have problems with meal skipping or dicey food choices. When people get tired of coming in DFL (dead-fucking-last) they get serious about their food. Then the performance increases and the aesthetics take care of themselves.
The desire to put aesthetics first is strong, and to be sure it IS important and it is woven into our DNA. If you fall into this trap however you will have neither the aesthetics nor the performance that you otherwise could.
Great read Robb.. many thanks.
Zach Mitchell says
I read your blog often. I am practicing Paleo as best as I can. I get all of my info from PM, Art de Vany and CrossFit. I just want you to know that I trust your blogs and I use them as a very strict reference. I thought I would point out that when I was in high school Wrestling we had to weigh-in before each meet as well. I was a lighter heavy-weight and so making weigh-in was never a problem. I usually weighed-in around 225 but had upto 275lbs as tolerance. Not good for my eating disorder of: not-caring-what-I-put-in-my-body. Joined with poor advice from ignorant coaches. In high school it is all about technique; never about building and conditioning one’s body to use that technique as effectively as possible. That was 8 years ago and you can imagine what 8 years of not caring has done to me. 6 months ago I was introduced to this WAY OF LIFE (under no circumstance do I refer to my change as a diet because diet=fad=short term. unless i refer to my diet medically speaking) and have been very successful. I am still learning the ropes but the best weapon I have is two very close friends of mine are opening a CF affiliation in Johnsburg, IL. They met you at their Level I Cert. in Santa Monica (Jennie and Bill). Along with your blogs and the others I am shaping up to be an elite athlete and I cannot weight…ha…I have never had confidence and its growing! I have never been able to appreciate what I see in the mirror and now I see change! I have never been good at sports and now I am conditioning myself to be the best athlete my body can be! Up until I read your ‘Yo-yo’ post I struggled with trying to justify my changes to other people who criticized me. Now I just feel sorry for them as they line up for the “circus freak show” (well put by the way, that post was dead on!).
Thanks for your great posts and I look forward to more!
You totally made my day…huge thanks. Keep me posted on how things are going. You will kick-ass!
Ben Moskowitz says
I went down this road on the Zone to up my performance, but I got sidetracked by the body image thing along the way. That and 3 months of obsessively zoning…
The intuitive approach = way better. Eat to perform, don’t perform to eat.
We have had a few clients go off the rails trying to follow the Zone…too much structure and it brought up some old eating issues. They stick to Paleo and do just fine.
Long time reader, first time poster.
Great read here on eating for performance more than looks. I too went crazy Zoning a few months back, though my results were good the whole structure and constant eating drove me insane. Intuitive Paleo + IF equals personal records for me and much more fun in life.
The Zone is a nice tool to have but sometimes the cost/benefit analysis is just not there. good stuff.
Kyle S. says
I defiently enjoy watching my Fran and Diane time drop, but seeing abs for the first time in my life is butter on my toast. Or perhaps blueberries on my paleo pancakes. A quick aside: A friend of mine made a sly comment about the way I eat, refering to it as crazy. I laughted it off, everything I put in my body (with very few exceptions) has been consumed for thousands of years. Some things he puts in his body probably haven’t existed since the ’50s. So who is really eating crazy?
Painting this way of eating as extreme is as sad as it is ill-informed. Just some of that social inertia that tends to drag people down.
Ben Moskowitz says
I have to say, the Eat Time! video really put me on the right track. The first time I watched it, I was like “are you serious?” but come kitchen time, it did the trick! It was like a mental shift.
I am ALL ABOUT cooking for myself now, enjoying food, eating to satiety (err… stuffedness… I’m bulking, although we all know the craziness associated with that…), etc. P-menu and Paleo all the way.
The next step I guess is to intuitively dial in food, fat, and carb intake to match my performance, mass gain, and body fat needs. Right now it’s just “eat lots, period.”
The Eat Time DVD was planned to be shot in a Food Network style studio kitchen. An Ice storm in Kansas put the kebosh on that so we did it in Rut’s kitchen! The whole thing was an outgrowth of a client who said “I don’t know how to shop when i eat like THIS…” I thought the statement was ridiculous but over time I heard this again and again…and a general cluelessness with food preparation. The DVD has been well received, but I had my doubts!
we teach “food is fuel”, when people get it; that it is an insurance on their performance, they REALLY get it…great read Robb
Ben Moskowitz says
Seriously Robb, I’ve converted from ravenously gnawing on a raw cucumber, deli meat, and spooning almond butter for breakfast to whipping up chix apple hash, spinach omelettes, etc.
The commentary on that video is quite witty, I must say.
What is your definition of an “eating disorder?” Seems to me that someone who gets sick after eating a piece of toast has a eating disorder.
No “joey”, when one gets sick from toast one has a gluten intolerance you fucking jack-off. Your IP address is almost identical to “Chara” below so I should just delete this crap but it looks like I’ve found a fan. fuck off.
Sam Cannons says
Great read, love this blog, keep it up. Quick question Robb, the new DVD is it still going to be useful to someone living in Australia ? Or is it all based on things like trader joes ?
The DVD applies to any supermarket situation. It’s geared for folks who have literally no idea how to shop or cook in a paleo manner. It’s not high-end technical info but it’s practical and the feedback from folks has been favorable.
Great article, I learnt how to swim for a triathlon a few years ago and got very lean by default.
I currently only lift weights as I got bored of swimmers shoulder, runners knee etc. I would like to do another triathlon, is there any cross over benefits from strentgh training as I would like to minimize the endurance training volume?
Thanks and compliments on your website, very informative
Yes indeed there is benefit! check out Crossfit Newport beach for some guidance.
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