Sexualising Food, Competitive Eating And Taking Ownership Of Your Own Journey
The world is conspiring against us living healthy, well balanced lives but you can curate your environment so you are living your best life.
25 Mar 2022
Alan Watts, a well-known author and motivational speaker says, “The reason you want to be better is the reason why you aren’t.”
The underlying message in this rather cryptic quote lies in the fact that we as human beings are always striving so hard to be better that we lose focus during the journey towards self mastery and growth. Our sights are so firmly set on what the future holds that not only do we forget what our initial motivation was, we also completely miss out on the joys of the present moment.
In Episode 183 of RNT Fitness Radio - Ivan, Ed and Akash talk about how today’s world is distracting us from truly being present and engaged in our own journey. The media and the internet with all its information can really cloud our thinking and can skew our perceptions on what is right for us.
Ivan - “Often, we find that we are placing our development in the hands of other people. This reminds me of the story about a monkey trying to save a fish. The monkey is sitting on the shore and sees a fish in the water, he panics and quickly reaches into the ocean to pull the fish out of the water and carefully places the fish on the tree. The monkey says, ‘Don’t worry little fish, I saw you in the water and saved you from drowning!’
This is a classic case we see all the time! People blindly follow others without reflecting on whether it is relevant to their own particular circumstances! We forget that each person’s reality is unique, just because one person thrives in a particular environment, doesn’t make that environment perfect for everyone.”
A lot of us find satisfaction in reading self-help books or listening to motivational podcasts. We think that just by listening to them we are becoming better versions of ourselves. The reality though is listening and reading may broaden our minds and understanding but is still very passive. To make lasting change, we need to apply our minds and energies into transferring that passive knowledge into active behaviours.
Growth Vs Goals
This is why at RNT we focus more on making weekly progress, rather than on fixating only on the end result. If you enjoy the process of training and the journey towards getting into the shape of your life, the end result will naturally and beautifully present itself.
Akash - “In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says to Arjuna, we only have the right to the work and not to the fruits of the labour. The fruit of the labour isn’t in your hands. So when you take away the pressure of the outcome; or the pressure of the goal, and just focus on doing the work, the whole process becomes more enjoyable.
If you take that kind of holistic, process oriented approach to your fat loss goal and spend time in really mastering the mundane, keeping the weight off will be a natural end result.
If you focus on the outcome and not the process, you are going to hate the entire process, the whole time, which means it’s that much harder to stay in the shape of your life, for life!”
This approach is especially important when it comes to building muscle. We can go for months and months eating and training well but with little to no change in our body composition. Then suddenly, we catch a view of ourselves in the mirror or notice our clothes fitting differently, indicating all the hard work has paid off! But you can never be 100% sure it will pay off in a predetermined time frame.
It doesn’t help that our world is filled with distractions - it does sometimes feel like the world is conspiring against us: keeping us from living our best lives.
You can get lost in the labyrinth that is the internet, where one innocuous video can take you down disastrous paths towards self destruction.
Ivan - “When researching about food habits I came across something called Mukbang - it translates from Korean to mean ‘eating broadcast’. All the videos are just about watching people eat! The psychology behind this is very interesting; if you look at our evolution, in the prehistoric times food was hard to come by. Fast forward to the 21st century and although food is far from scarce, watching people eat can still trigger that prehistoric instinct.”
YouTubers posting Mukbang videos can make 1000s of dollars through views as well as through endorsements and sponsorships from food companies.
It is the same with competitive eaters - the amount of food competitive eaters can put away is incredible! A lot of people find watching someone eat 74 hot dogs really fascinating.
The truth is that these competitive eaters don’t eat for a few days before and after they have a competition, which is why most of them are really thin. It is not a sustainable lifestyle and one that can be really detrimental to their health and well-being.
While scrolling through your social media feed, you will inevitably land on a video of someone cooking or baking something absolutely decadent and indulgent. There is something irresistible about watching cheese melt, or seeing someone pour chocolate over a cake. These videos are created to make food look sexy and inviting which is why it’s called ‘food porn’. It’s created to grab people’s attention and lure people into following their social media accounts.
Ed - “All of these videos on social media are a big part of why people have problems with their health. We are inundated with material that enhances our cravings. If you are on a fat loss journey and you are watching a lot of these food videos it’s best you stop as you are heading towards a massive rebound after you reach your goal weight. A few years ago, it happened to me! I was watching Jamie Oliver’s 15 min meals back to back and after I came out of my fat loss phase, I consolidated so badly. It was terrible!”
It goes to show that even professionals in the fitness industry fall prey to this media onslaught. Akash himself wanted to set up a dessert bar after he came out of his fat loss phase in 2017 and had even thought up a business proposal and set up taster sessions!
The trouble with these videos is that they really play into our FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) mentality. We feel like we are being deprived of something wonderful and it makes us want to over indulge.
The Physical Can Be A Crutch
Bingeing or over-indulging on food and alcohol can become an escape mechanism. People turn to comfort eating when they are feeling low or depressed and they need a boost. They are chasing after something and if they can’t find it in the first piece of chocolate they hope they can find it in the next or the next. This same destructive behaviour can be applied to exercise, which can also become a crutch.
A crutch can be defined as a short term distraction that momentarily takes away your capacity to deal with your underlying concerns.
The physical is the vehicle only if you understand that exercise should be something you enjoy doing, not something that you use to numb yourself to more pertinent issues in your life. Exercise can give you the headspace you need to think of solutions to problems. But if instead you are using exercise as an escape mechanism, it can still be detrimental to your mental health. The physical is the vehicle only if it helps to improve all areas of your life.
People who use exercise as a crutch do feed “the muck” in a different way. They have most likely experienced some deep trauma and are too afraid to address it. They then resolve the psychological impact the trauma had on their lives through rigorous, extreme exercise instead. Their activities are the crutch they use to keep the muck out of sight.
Amelia Boone is one such example - she has won the World’s Toughest Mudder thrice and the Spartan Race. She is also a lawyer and works for a major corporation. A little known fact is that she suffered from anorexia for 20 years! She didn’t like to admit that she had a very serious life-threatening eating disorder. She considered it a failing or weakness and she just preferred to ignore it: she hoped it would just resolve itself.
While her exercise did help her cope with her stress, it was also blocking her from finding a path towards healing.
For someone with her prominence and stature to come forward to the media was very brave and the fact that she could speak openly about it meant that she was on the road to recovery. She wasn’t brushing it under the carpet any more. Her journey to recovery still continues to this day.
Finding Your Sweet Spot
Being fit and active can’t only be a means to an end goal, it is instead a way of life, it needs to be relevant to you and sustainable.
This is why there is a big difference in really working hard to get to photoshoot lean condition but thinking you have to stay there is completely false. You need to find that sweet spot where you function at your best and learn to maintain it.
At RNT our focus is truly on showing people how to arrive at that sweet spot - the body weight where they look and feel their best. In most cases their weight needs to be a few kilos higher than when they are at their leanest.
Finding and maintaining that sweet spot is the motivation towards creating a lifestyle solution. Your lifestyle solution will be unique to you, the finer details may change and adapt over time but the baseline structure will be the same, giving you the grounding you need to stay in the shape of your life, for life.
Akash - “This is why being in the shape of your life or at your leanest isn’t sustainable. You may look great, but the low calories and the high energy expenditure will take away from you enjoying your life to the fullest.”