Does it ever feel like the world is against you? Do you find yourself struggling to eat healthy, avoid alcohol and sugar, and workout regularly but it’s just proving too damn difficult? In this article I’m going to examine the causes behind this common feeling.
Its Your Own Fault, Dummy
A common response to this situation is to blame yourself. This response is particularly common in the health and fitness community. The message goes like this: “If you’re out of shape it’s because you made the wrong choices. You chose to be lazy and eat junk food. You should have chosen to go to the gym and eat clean, but you didn’t”.
The this message puts the focus, and the responsibility, on the individual: the outcome of the situation depends on you. Are you good enough? Do you have what it takes?
In a world where we are bombarded by advertisements for unhealthy junk food all day long, forced to sit down all day at our boring office jobs, encouraged (by social pressure and by life stress) to consume large quantities of alcohol just to feel normal, hassled from every direction to earn money in order to pay bills and buy junk we don’t really need, forced to accept a society we have virtually no control over, it’s a wonder anyone is in shape. After all this is considered, blaming the individual hardly seems fair.
Actually… Its Mostly a Question of Privilege
Of course, for those privileged enough to have landed in the upper strata of society, where money comes easy, free time is more abundant and life is not being lived on the edge of poverty, working out probably is an individual choice.
But for the vast majority who must continue to work 40 hours a week (or more!) to survive, the choice is not so easily made. Nor is it so easy to avoid consuming junk – in case you hadn’t noticed, buying organic, gluten-free, grass-fed, individually-nurtured, wrapped-with-a-bow and kissed by the pretty shop assistant food isn’t cheap. Meanwhile, most cheap food is unhealthy, sugar-ridden, chemically sprayed, nutritionally devoid mulch.
The problem isn’t individuals lacking determination and resolve. The problem is systemic. We live in a capitalist society, where companies and individuals benefit from selling you stuff. The more stuff they sell you (i.e. the more you consume) the richer they get. Capitalists have gone to great lengths to find ways to make us consume their junk and we’ve been buying it for centuries. One simple example is the supermarket checkout, which is typically surrounded by junk food, giving you one last chance (psychological jab?) to grab a bar of sugar.
The System is the Real Culprit
Under capitalism, most people are forced to sell their labor in order to survive. This means working. A lot. For those lucky enough to have acquired property, the working becomes a lot less. Owning a house means you don’t have to work to pay your rent. Owning a company means a bunch of other people (employees) are doing a lot of the work for you, while you reap the rewards (profits) of their labor. Seriously, no business will ever hire extra staff unless it expects those staff to contribute to the bottom line.
So yes, there are those who have property, and money, and all the privileges of our modern society. And yes, those people have time to work out, eat healthy all the time and take holidays to sunny destinations during the winter. Of course they look good and stay in shape all-year-round. But for most of us, getting in shape will always be a struggle against the odds and we shouldn’t blame ourselves too harshly when we fail to meet our fitness goals. The odds can be overcome, however, and with calisthenics you can try to do so without adding a gym membership to your list of monthly expenses.
So, next time you feel bad for not being in shape, while at work in your low-paid job, struggling to pay-off you student debt and care for your ageing parents at the same time, just remember its the system, silly! Do what you can with the time and resources you have. And for the rest, get politically active and start campaigning for a fair society where we all have the time to workout and the resources to ‘eat clean’.
Founder @ ModernCalisthenics.com