Celebrate the Facts!
Americans seem to love quick fixes. Fitness boot camps and drastic diets where immediate results cost a few bucks and some personal sacrifice and result in short-term good outcomes generate lots of revenue but few long-term health improvements. Recidivism to previous self-destructive measures renders these short-term gains defunct and the subscriber ends where they were or worse.
,Fitness boot camps come from cultural icons related to the military. The United States empire is nothing if not militaristic, with the defense budget of the United States exceeding that of the next 10 countries combined, as discussed in a previous investigation. The United States 13-week bootcamp for new enlistees allegedly reforms their bodies and minds into proper soldiers ready to fight for freedom. Stripes, an iconic 1981 comedy where a ragtag group of ne’er-do-wells performed heroic acts in a Cold War conflict is an iconic example of this philosophy.
The concept extreme efforts can result in great outcomes permeated into society particularly with crash diets and fitness programs intended to turn overfed bodies into glistening Hollywood-ready stars and social media influencers. Corporate workouts, each a bit niftier than the last, and each promising a beautiful body bring millions of Americans with their cash in a quest for youthful vigor and attractiveness.
Squeezing into a Speedo with 20 extra pounds of COVID weight seems unappealing enough to compel a quick fix at the gym and the fitness providers are happy to provide lots of promises.
While the rationales offered by fitness snake oil salespeople are indisputable – exercise burns calories and muscles burn more calories than fat – the details get a lot sketchy in a hurry. Purveyors of fitness programs in many ways are like real estate developers; they provide pretty pictures, waving of hands, and extravagant promises. Whether it be High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), kick-boxing, kettlebells, fitness bands, progressive resistance bodybuilding, marathon training programs, yoga, or weight training hanging upside-down, sellers of these programs promise results, and fast, but with a price.
Studies indicate about 50% of exercise program enrollees drop out in the first six months. There does not appear to be an authoritative study about the whys of that attrition rate so any further discussion would be conjecture or parroting from fitness websites. Traditional low-cost gyms tend toward a model of over-subscription counting on most users showing up rarely, with the best example being Planet Fitness with membership costs at $10 a month. Many people commit to joining a gym and then become that gym’s best customer by not showing up.
Diet programs in common use include meat-only, low-carbohydrate, intermittent fasting, juice cleanses, packaged foods with determined calorie values, uncooked foods only, low-fat, high-fat, and the like. All feature some ‘scientific’ rationale and provide evidence of efficacy, albeit in many cases anecdotal or otherwise questionable. Most of these diets work in the short-term as the regimes tend to proscribe consumption of calorie-rich industrial foods.
While the diets seem to work short-term, long-term analysis confirms these diets are not only ineffective they might contribute to even worse weight gains so the subject becomes even fatter and confirmed in their inadequacy.
Americans spend $33 billion annually for weight-loss products and services and about 45 million of them go on a diet regime each year. There are about 3,500 calories in one pound of body fat so reduction of weight becomes a simple equation of lowering caloric intake or conversely increasing exercise. While exercise can help, running a 26.2-mile marathon burns 2,500 calories, which sounds like a lot of burn, but forgoing 12 Snickers bars is about the same number of calories.
Authoritative studies indicate dietary and other lifestyle behaviors may affect the success of the eat less and exercise more mantra for preventing long-term weight gain. Weight gains over time were strongly associated with eating industrial foods including, in order, potato chips, potatoes, sugar-sweetened beverages, unprocessed red meats, and processed meats, and was inversely associated with the intake of vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts, and yogurt, once again, in order. The best advice is to simply avoid industrial foods full of calories with little nutrition. Long-term mindfulness practice could erode overnutrition without obsession and result in a more satisfactory outcome.
Western medicine has made huge advances in treating acute conditions such as cancer, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease but chronic conditions such as obesity, depression, drug addiction, and pain management are resistant to pharmaceutical or surgical intervention. The cultural lens of immediate benefit through sporadic interventions has clouded the truth that good outcomes with the management of these chronic conditions require ongoing diligence and behavioral changes.
While it seems boot camp concepts about health and fitness are erroneous, and regardless compliance with the recommended program erodes very quickly, the power of habits to corrode existing structures remains available for use. Habits make up a vast share of our daily lives and once molded, they become such second nature that breaking or changing them can be intolerable. Weight management and fitness almost entirely are supported by large numbers of good habits.
Studies about developing habits opine:
Michael Donnelly investigates societal concerns with an untribal approach - to limit the discussion to the facts derived from primary sources so the reader can make more informed decisions.