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.