Perfect By Design

I’ve noticed a trend among my fitness-enthusiast friends lately, which culminated in seeing a giant tractor tire propped against the wall in a small 24 Hour Fitness near my office recently. The way people work out is changing, with the new school workouts actually being very old school ways of staying fit. Now it’s not uncommon to see a group of people in a gym parking lot pushing cars, carrying buckets full of weight either in their hands or hanging from a bar across their shoulders, moving big tires from point A to point B, and so on. And the kettle bell phenomenon is the same idea. They are a bunch of weights of varying sizes with handles so people can do explosive movements designed to imitate throwing stuff, usually over their heads. (Anyone else reminded of square hay bales?) New research has also taught us that the optimum cardiovascular exercise is moderate enough to raise your heart rate, but not so much that your body switches to anabolic mode and begins burning muscle for fuel. In other words, walking at varying inclines (like you might find outdoors) is pretty ideal. Who’da thought?? So it seems that the science of  exercise has come full circle, and we are now doing what people have done since the beginning—moving our bodies in the way they were designed to move before innovation made it possible for us to be lazy all day long.

And so I started thinking… and I realized… pretty much everything comes full circle. We, as a species, keep getting smarter. And we’re learning that the changes we make as a result of new discoveries often need to be undone because when we finally uncover the whole picture, we realize that things were better off left alone.

Remember when everyone thought that eggs were bad for you because of the cholesterol in them? And red meat was banned from the list of acceptable foods for anyone hoping to lose weight. Innovative companies started producing sugar substitutes and fat-free everything. The goal was to allow people to eat and drink to their heart’s content without adding pounds. Fruits and vegetables were genetically engineered to be bigger (but somehow lost all taste). Preservatives were added to everything so no one needed fresh food, ever. Chemicals were sprayed on crops to kill bugs and produce the maximum output per acre. Hormones were given to animals so they would be bigger and produce more milk and meat. The wonder of innovation!

What has been the result of all that innovation? Staggering increases in the rate of mental health issues, including among children. More people than ever are dying of cancer. Dysfunctions that mimic MS are seen among diet soda drinkers. The rate of Alzheimer’s has increased dramatically. Society is depressed, can’t concentrate, is malnourished and disease-ridden, and there’s more obesity than history has ever seen. Innovations in curing disease haven’t kept up with the rate at which innovation has caused disease. So now we’re being told to revert back to the way humans ate a century ago. Eat organic food. If you need to sweeten something, use real, raw sugar. Avoid the fat-free stuff, because it actually causes more weight gain. In other words, eat and drink the way people used to eat and drink… the way God intended us to eat and drink. We haven’t improved upon his creation at all. As it turns out, eggs are one of earth’s perfect foods. We should eat whole grains, lots of fruit and vegetables, and avoid processed stuff. “Stay in the outside aisles at the grocery store” is the modern-day advice. God even gave us caffeine and alcohol! What more could we need?? Food was perfect by design.

Humans seem to have a need to understand and then alter everything. Scientists discovered the smallest particle on the planet, the atom, and then wanted to break it into even smaller pieces. What did that lead to? Nuclear fallout and atomic weapons of mass destruction. Chernobyl and Hiroshima. Oops! Granted, nuclear power is nice, but I’ll still argue that we should never have messed with it. It was perfect by design.

We have even decided that the human body wasn’t good enough as it was. I won’t get into the topic of whether or not it’s morally acceptable to grow organs from stem cells. If I ever need a new organ I’ll make up my mind about that topic. But let’s talk about this on a smaller scale. I grew up in the 80’s, and as a little girl, I remember seeing actresses and models that didn’t look like any  of the women I encountered in daily life. Don’t get me wrong… my mother and her sisters were beautiful women who took very good care of themselves. But they were real women. They didn’t have visible ribs or porcelain skin. I got a very clear message that it was important to be skinny. And just as women were shrinking, men were growing. (Thank you Arnold Schwarzenegger.) It become just as awful to call a man “skinny” as it was to call a woman “fat”. Both genders began using substances to help them achieve an unnatural appearance, some legal, some not. And I’ll admit, I fell victim to the pressure to achieve the “ideal” body. I held myself to an unrealistic standard and hated myself when I fell short. Thankfully, those days have given way to a much more content place of moderation. I personally have come full circle, and while I still work out and eat healthy, I also indulge in my favorite things. That includes the occasional burger, sweet potato fries, movie theater popcorn, Crown Royal, and of course, ice cream. You only live once!

There’s more media attention given to the pressure put on women to be “ideal” than the pressure put on men. But they feel it too. A lot of men put a great deal of time and energy into being bigger and more muscular than their genetics intended. I can’t say that I speak for all women, but I think I represent the vast majority when I say that women don’t like the “steroid look”. When I see a man who looks like a real life version of Johnny Bravo… who might tip over and not be able to get back up because he’s so top-heavy… it’s not attractive. You know the look. It’s as if his shoulders and arms have been inflated with air. Sorry, but I don’t want to cuddle up to that! There’s no room for me! I can fully appreciate a man’s physique when he takes care of himself, and has that V-shaped torso, with broad shoulders and a lean waist. But his delts alone should not command attention. It’s distracting. An overall athletic appearance will win out every time. So guys, chill out! It’s ok to weigh less than 200 pounds. You’re still bigger than us and can carry the heavy stuff that we can’t, and that’s all we need.

Regarding my own gender, I read something written by a man about the things he loves about a woman. He wrote about the way she smells and the primitive manly thing in him that ignites when he sees her in his shirts. He wrote about “the look” that she  reserves just for him, when she suddenly realizes she adores him and is wildly attracted to him all over again. He wrote about the fact that it’s slightly more charming than annoying that she worries about his health and safety. He wrote about the way she fits in his arms, with her face buried in his neck when he hugs her, as if she was designed just for him. What he didn’t write about was physical perfection. In fact he said he liked that her body was soft, and he thought she was crazy when she criticized herself in front of a mirror. She was womanly, with womanly parts. And the “flaws” she saw in herself were the things that made her different from him in exactly the ways she was supposed to be. She didn’t need cosmetic procedures or Botox or even make-up to be beautiful in his eyes. In fact, lots of makeup makes women less approachable rather than more attractive.

My girlfriend took a trip to LA recently, with plans to go out every night and enjoy the LA “scene”. She packed really tall heels and really short skirts. She took every beauty product and tool in her arsenal, planning to be dressed to the 9’s. And when she came back she told me that she was so busy having fun that she spent no time getting ready for the evenings. She went out to nightclubs in jeans and a tank top, with barely any makeup on. And she got more attention from men than she’d ever had in her life. It was probably a breath of fresh air for the guys (especially in LA) to see a woman… I mean really SEE a woman undisguised by all our crap that we think makes us beautiful.

So this blog kinda started as one thing and ended as another. But I guess it all relates. And it all stems from an idea that I was mulling around in my head, which is this:

The world and all things in it are perfect by design. God designed us in a way that is functional, and we are attracted to each other because of the very things that help us get by in the world and produce more human beings. The food he gave us fuels us and keeps us healthy and lean. The improvements we’ve tried to make have actually been steps backwards. God must feel like the parent of a  two-year old… patiently waiting for us to grow up and stop make messes everywhere. But then again, he designed us to be slow learners, so I guess that’s perfect too.