I’ve talked of health a few times before. I’ve condemned fat acceptance and gluttony and I’ve also written of moderation in diet and my own attempts to be healthy. I’m going to write on this subject a little more, as I have read this discussion on veganism at Vox’s and this discussion at Slate on body-building.
Despite the differences between extreme veganism and extreme body-building, both stem from a similar disorder, the undue exaltation of the body. Health is good; eating like a human, rather than gorging like an animal, is proper; keeping fit is wise. I encourage proper maintenance of the body (even if I do not maintain mine as fully as I should). But both these often go beyond being fit into unhealthy obsession.
My sister is a vegan; even though she’s not overly demanding or insufferable about it, it still demands a lot from her. Rather than veganism being a life enhancer, it is a life constrictor. Even though she’s fairly moderate and non-crazy about her diet. The extreme vegan places so much moral emphasis on his diet, he elevates it to a quasi-religion. Veganism becomes the cause in his life, overtaking other, greater pursuits.
Read about the body builder’s life linked above:
To gain weight, I have to consume 8,000 to 10,000 calories a day. Enough to comfortably feed a family of four. I have a gross amount of supplements and vitamins I’m convinced I need to take daily to grow. I have a collection at home and one at work, which has grown so large it has started to encroach my co-worker’s desk.
At the time of writing, I have three gym memberships; I joke that I collect them, but some gyms just have better equipment for different things. Equinox has the best pool, 24-Hour Fitness has locations everywhere (great when I travel), Golds has better leg equipment … each membership has a purpose.
Monetary expenses aside, bodybuilding is a huge time commitment. I eat every two hours, workout for my lunch break, and sleep promptly at 10 p.m. to ensure adequate recovery time. I don’t go out to bars or stay out late because I worry it will derail my training regime and hinder progress. As a result, I rarely socialize with co-workers and have few friends … but, that might also be because I’m an introvert.
Being bigger makes me happy.
I don’t think this is the reason why most people bodybuild, but for me it’s very simple: I was miserable when I was smaller. I felt so weak, tiny, and undesirable that I once attempted suicide over my perceived inadequacies. I still have a long ways to grow before I’m happy with my body, but I feel better about myself now than when I was skinnier, and my depressive episodes aren’t triggered as easily.
This man has let his size define him. He sacrifices everything else that makes life worth living for vanity’s sake: friendships, relationships, hobbies, liesure, intellectual pursuits, etc. He has become a slave to his body. His post on living with body dysmorphia outlines his mental subjugation further.
He lacks balance in his life.
Balance is one of the things that peaked my interest in the primal diet; it recognizes that health is important, but it is meant to enhance your life, not consume it. The 80/20 rule built into the lifestyle inherently recognizes the need for balance in a person’s life (although, I’ve been listing towards 60/40 for the last couple months). But even then, if you read some primal and paleo places, many put an inordinate emphasis in their lives on their diet.
This lack of balance, this body-worship comes from a lack of order and purpose in life. These disordered individuals have no meaning in their life, so they create one
Spending your life on your body is as disordered as being a slothful glutton. Do not neglect your body, but neither should you obsess over it. Recognize your body, your health, should be pursued to enhance your life and achieve your purpose. If it consumes your life and becomes your purpose, you should reevaluate your practices.
Find a balance; maintain order in your life.
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. (1 Timothy 4:1-10, ESV)