Sunday, July 5, 2009

Your body is not just for display, it's where you live, work and play.

If you re trying to lose weight, and are doing so mainly for the sake of appearance, chances are, you will fail. Again. And you might be sacrificing your health in the process. There is one reason why almost all diets fail:

Usually, a diet is a process of doing something you don’t like...
to take care of something you don’t like.

What are the odds of that succeeding?

Here’s a real life story that illustrates this point vividly. When I was a captain in the Marines, we had a Gunnery Sergeant in my outfit who did not meet the official Marine Corps height and weight standards. Back then, the Marines had a program known as the Weight Control Program. Despite its official wording, it played out as appearance-oriented, and had little to do with health and performance.

Even though the Gunny was deemed overweight, he was in pretty decent shape. He easily passed the Marine Corps physical fitness test (PFT) and he could perform all of the duties required of him. That didn’t matter when the Gunny hopped on the scale. Time after time, the doc had to slide the weight farther along the bar than was allowed. There was no avoiding it; we had to put the Gunny on weight control. Once on weight control, a Marine was given a certain amount of time to lose a specified amount of weight. Failure to lose the weight meant a discharge from the Marine Corps. Despite a great deal of counseling, cajoling, joining the Run for Lunch Bunch, and weekly weigh-ins, the Gunny went quite a long period of time without losing any weight. He eventually found himself with one month left and still a long way to go to meet the standard. He was facing the end of an honorable and productive career because of that stubborn spare tire. Out of desperation, he went on a crash diet. He lost a lot of weight in that last month and met his objective.

He succeeded!
He made it to his healthy weight!
He was off weight control!
Hooray for the Gunny!
Hooray for the Weight Control Program!


The Gunny failed his next PFT. He looked better in his uniform, but he had weakened himself so much in his desperation weight loss that he could no longer accomplish his mission. We had a good looking, physically unfit leader of Marines. My purpose for telling this story is not to criticize the Marine Corps. I love the Marines. They have my deepest respect and admiration, and always will. Physical fitness is paramount in the Marines, and I would never suggest that Marines be allowed to have unhealthy bodies. I tell the Gunny’s story to show that the ultimate purpose of the old weight control program—although ostensibly to improve health—was really to make Marines look better. What happened with the Gunny did not serve the Marine Corps and it certainly did not serve the Gunny. Thankfully, the Marine Corps has a better program today than the one we had back then.

The Gunny’s story is a reflection of our society. Many people resort to unhealthy, even dangerous lifestyles in their quest for that ever-elusive Hollywood physique. People have even died on that quest. Good looks, as defined by fashion and fitness magazines, are mere judgments.

When you eat for the vitality that fresh, whole foods give you, rather than dieting for looks, your health and life will improve.

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