Thursday, November 22, 2007

The case of the dissappearing tohm

I remember Foram Mehta fondly, my first 'real' boss if you will. The Indian expat team leader of my AC&T sales team, a company that got used up and spat out. (They spent so long in training reassuring us they where a high growth legitimate company that was going to be around for a long time, something that told me they were a flash in the pan organisation based on explotation of cheap labour and quick kill sales that was going to be around only so long as their one real customer fancied) but I honestly loved Foram, all suited up on our first day in the field together he took me to watch him close a sale, then dug me up a sale for which I didn't even realise he'd closed but let me book in so I could get paid. I made 2 more sales after that after working for them for 2 months pretty much full time.
Foram though at my first sale sitting in some Carlton Fanatics apartment was the consumate professional to watch in action, turning their every question and concern (not many these folks were woodies) into a benefit of switching phone companies.
Then would flash his phone at me on which he had written the message 'this place stinks' and then and there Indian people shot up to my favorite ethnic group.
He had dated a team member who was German but left him when she returned to Germany, lived in a house in Sunshine with about 8 other guys, (all for the most part salesmen) and somehow, somewhere studied at monash.
What I can say for Foram is that whilst he may not have been exactly an effective executive I do have a lot of fond memories of working for him, particularly his baffling attachment to me as I made no sales but became the second seniour most member of his team in 3 weeks. Foram told me that when he started working door to door after 6 weeks he could see his ribs in the mirror, and he remarked 'fantastic'
he loved weightloss as a perk of having a job that paid very little and kept him walking out and about on his feet all week.
Recently I saw my long lost rib bones in the mirror and had a similar thought. Indeed since coming to Japan in the first two weeks I cracked the 77kg floor I had stayed at for months and dropped to 75kgs which I largely attribute to eating breakfast and running. That being said I thought before closing the matter as fantastic it would be a good time to relay here my philosophy of weight loss and body image, particularly as it relates to modern culture.

Weight loss should be functional:
My weightloss has occured in a specific context, it is the sideeffect of my desire to once again be a long distance runner, in Highschool I weighed 63kg, when I last checked I weighed 75kg that's a 12kg difference and to be honest 63kg is probably not recommended by the BMI, although at 173cm I recently found a net BMI calculater that said I could get down to 54kg without being 'underweight' probably from LA, it seems they are inconsistent.
This I will discuss later on, the major point was that weightloss for me was not an end in itself but related indirectly to another goal altogether, which is to get up to 20km fitness and stay there (for a while) I'm as of today up to 20km and running 8km real comfortably with hills. My knees probably kneed more strength and conditioning or switching to more supportive shoes, but this is a pretty dramatic step up considering just before I left although riding 30km a day just about I could barely run two blocks.
The weight loss occurs because my fat is a repository of fuel my body is using on long 8km runs. For the first time on Monday I ran 16km and afterwards had not only run out of sweat but salt had dried on my face, I'll post pictures on my facebook account later.
But weightloss as part of a package to be functional I think is the first criteria of being a healthy past time and also indicating a healthy mindset (hence hencely a philosophy of weightloss), this would also be okay say when you are losing weight because you current overweight situation is causing you to be sick or making you particulalry vulnerable to sicknesses such as diabetes, heart disease, infertility etc.
What I feel is unhealthy weightloss or the indications of an unhealthy mindset (I do want to take any personal kind of judgement out of that because this is a societal issue) is when weightloss occurs purely motivated by body image, with functionality being the biproduct.
For two reasons, the majority of the world is still dismally poor, if everyone who has clean water, safe housing, some method of heating for winter and the ability to light their dwelling at night is the cutoff point for being rich it is sobering to think that the vast majority of the population is still effectively living in the dark ages.
Yet it is so. And these people don't have enough to eat, but here in contries that are super rich, rich enough that you can read blogs, we have whole buildings dedicated to burning off all the surplus energy consumed, and burned off (or energy expended) to no functional purpose whatsoever.
I started going to the Gym at Honda to gain muscle and increase my fitness for playing basketball, thus making myself more able to do my volunteer work (which I also love playing basketball to death) and so to me whilst not the noblest outlet of some agrarian expenditure of energy it was to an end beyond something so self centered as wanting to be viewed as 'attractive' to not just the opposite sex but the public in general, which generally most people don't give a shit what the general public looks like anyway.
So if you aint satisfied with rolling around in your wealthy first person fat, you not have to only consume to excess but expend the money (the stored value of your productive efforts at work) and your energy (the stored energy of your over consumption) for the soul purpose of looking attractive vis a fucken vis body image, I'm not saying there aren't functional benefits to having a good body image but attitudanally this behaviour is a behavioural indicator of an unhealthy mind set.
Because the concept of using a gym, purely to look good is a new one, the girls at work that did use the gym when I was there did for functional considerations (one for health the other for kickboxing) and I think there is much to gain and very little personal cost to actually tie the process to a greater goal of some performance achievement eg. able to run 6km in under half an hour, being able to complete a 6 hour hike. Something that gets you out of the gym, out of the work/home grind and into an environment of personal enrichment.
Being attractive is not very enriching at all, because as the old cliche goes 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder' which usually is tied in more with the whole 'one man's trash is anothers treasure' for say me and whoever courtney love dates next.
But what we should focus on is the appreciation of your achievement is no longer contingent on you and you alone. Sure when I score a put back in basketball over a taller opponent on the rebound I like to high five my teammates, but nobody appreciates the achievement more than me. I consider it an achievement even in a game when everything else goes wrong because I manage to get my timing and positioning right and have boxed out my opponent. I'd give my self a hi-5 if I could play alone.
When running I self talk all the time, and most of the time I am the only one who appreciates my achievement. When running with Shona I think I encouraged and congratulated her (although often my form of encouragement takes the form of 'come on you mother fucking pussy') but I lay it on just as thick to myself when running alone, infact running for me is often more about mental strength than physical strength.
Now if I ran to lose weight not to build my own stamina mental and physical and losing weight was so I looked good in a polo shirt (though my haircut always fucks that up anyway) I would be reliant on people I found attractive finding me attractive in return. Thus thusly suddenly all my efforts are moot if someone (and often in terms of attraction complete strangers) doesn't validate it. I've surrendered control of any esteem to be gained from my weightloss. And the sad thing is there's a myriad of components to attractiveness.
The other sad thing is that I don't believe anyone really cares, and I mean to say to a lot of people looks are important in picking prospective partners but I mean the emphasis is on the operative word cares how you look anywhere near the degree to which they care how they look.
Most affairs are motivated more by seeking reassurance that our ability to attract has not deserted us than love or necessarily in any shortfall in our partners I have read. And I believe part of that, I think there's more to it, but the myriad disastrous choices in affair partners I've seen people pick over the years definitely indicates that they often have an illconcieved basis.
So that's why I think often, infact the motivations for weightloss that I most often observe lead to an unhealthy attitude towards oneself in the first place. In a way it is submissive, it is unempowering. I'm not advocating people gaining weight, and definitely not suggesting people with low self esteem relating to weight don't act on it, but merely to tie it in with something functional so that you own it, because the only thing worse than someone overweight with low self esteem is someone formally overweight who has kept their low self esteem, and these people I have met plenty.

Weightloss should not be cultural:

I think destinctly there's a cultural reinforcement that I'll examine again in a later post here because I want to discuss Gender issues as I see them at length in a workplace context but for now I think Gender plays a big role in this, particularly at the moment tipped towards females and especially young girls but am worried at the emerging metrosexual trend that I succinctly hope is just a fad. Just as I hope Movember one day becomes the all important world festival.
That is to say idols. Boys have a distinct advantage self esteem wise by having athletes more readily available as idols. Particularly athletes that are percieved as cool, only in Australia I assume is swimming artificially boyed up as cool because we are good at it, but overall its a slow boring sport that observing in persons leaves an overwhelming impression of chlorine. Nor are Grant Hackett or Ian Thorpe really cool to anyone who isn't under 10 or over 75.
But the likes of Karl Lewis and Michael Jordan, Charles Barkely (in this context a particularly fine example), Anthony Koutafides, Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Chris Judd, Anthony Wirrapundah (in his heyday), Maurice Green, Matt Shirvington, Mathew Lloyd, Scottie Pippen, Alonzo Mourning, Shaquille Oneal, Kevin Johnson, Shawn Kemp, RUN TMC, Pistol Pete, Steven Kernahan, Wayne Carey, Simon Black, Michael Voss, Jason Akermanis, Steven Silvagni all provide idols that though promote body images that are unrealistic for anyone who isn't a fulltime pro athlete (or African American in the case of the NBA players) but whilst unrealistic are functional. For the most part when growing up, their body image had everything to do with sport and indeed excelling at it and almost nothing to do with sexual success. Particularly for AFL although the recent horror show that is the Brownlow Red Carpet Special (probably enough to turn someone away from a career in Aussie Rules) has to some extent started to do that for a young boy it is the furthest thing from their mind. It is all about the ability to dunk from the free throw line like Jordan or rip the backboard down like Shaq. Or leap up on the man in fronts shoulders and take a specky like Lloyd or boot a goal from the center square. All relating to the functionality of athleticism, even though sports are really just games as entertainment that people pay for, it was still all about what you could do and if it became about who you can do that was a happy byproduct for adolescent boys (and sometimes the downfall of their pro careers).
Contrast that with a girl growing up, first competitive sport as played by women gets aired obligatorily by the ABC, simply because although fun to play, netball is not fun to watch, lacking in controversy and the rules more or less prevent any play from ever being deemed 'spectacular' and as such Australia's elite netball players for the most part don't earn enough for it to be their primary source of income. It's almost like a voluntary thing. I think the plight of netball in itself has much less to do with sexism or any deliberate structuring to keep women down in this world and more to do with the market forces that value a sport.
Certainly taking sports that are inherently exciting fast paced spectator sports such as football and basketball I still believe in my heart of hearts that consumers at large when aportioning media coverage between the two genders would still lean towards 99% male comp because mens physical endowments of testosterone factories tend to make them stronger and faster than women. That being said if their was one women who played as explosively as Jordan it could shift the balance in favour of that whole league, you never know.
But the point is female athletes as idols don't really cut the mustard, which personally I think is a shame. Without competitive sports to define heirarchy the next logical choice I believe is the downfall of the female species and certainly the biggest waste of their childhood 'maturity'.
I hold the belief dearly that 'maturity' is one of the most misused words in the english language, in economics there are two key terms the difference of which is ambiguous to a lot of highpower decision makers and some analysts and that is the key words of causation and corelation.

Just so there's no confusion for you I'll explain them here:

Causation: something that causes something to happen ie. eating too much energy will result in you becoming fatter.

Correlation: Two seperate variables that behave simalarly due to an indirect relationship but one does not necessarily cause the other. (much harder to provide a succinct example) ie. as the population of teachers increases in a country so does the volume of one sales, an idiot concludes that teachers cause an increase in wine consumption, infact it is only a correlation because it follows that in other studies wine consumption increase with any increase in the population irrespective of profession.
Another one highlighting the fallibility of correlations is that of the study that showed that children whose parents owned books (not children who read books) did better on their school papers than children whose parents didn't (in other words children in the presence of books where magically better learners whether the read them or not) which was a correlation resulting from a genetic cause
but a politician on seeing this study assumed that books magically caused kids to be smarter just by being present and thus started a program that bought every child in the state a book every week month etc at huge expense to the tax payer which had no real benefit because parents who recieve free books are not going to improve the genetic intelligence they have already passed on to their child.
Correlation is used as it is merely a clue or insight indicative of a deeper cause, many studies are presented with correlations only and no causes because that is the highest level of assumption they can scientifically prove.

And that's that all for the purpose of helping define the problem I have with weightloss and body image as a disadvantage to girls, and that is the possible cause of it to comprise a much more significant part of a girls self esteem and to more often result in an unhealthy lifestyle than it does with boys.
And that is the missapropriated favorite of mothers, teachers and womenkind in general as describing girls as inherently more 'mature'.
But what is 'mature' for me as I have observed it is certainly optional, the adult working world is certainly populated with a vibrant society of immature professionals. Some of these are even some of the most valuable and productive workers. Furthermore some of the most mature people I've met spend the majority of their time acting playfully childish. So the question that begs asking is for me what does 'maturity' mean.
When we talk about wine or cheese a mature wine is generally speaking something that has adged to the point it achieves optimum flavour. It is its most enjoyable.
When talking about people I believe that maturity generally correlates with a high sense of self esteem, good self knowledge, high ability to empathise with other people. I think maturity is personified in behaviour that is such as, putting the needs of others before oneself when appropriate, knowing which behaviour to choose at which time, engaging in behaviours that actively build others sense of self worth, taking responsibility for the outcomes of one's own actions. And that's it.
I think reflective thinking and empathising are the practices that lead to maturity. Generally speaking there is a weak corelationwith age, that is after a certain age there is a higher probability that someone will achieve maturity (and I would put that at 16, probability increasing till about 25-28ish depending on what the average age to finish uni/move out of home ends up being ie. the last behavioural causes that may lead to maturity) but note that age is not just a corelation only, a matter of probability it still remains optional that maturity is ever achieved. Plenty of men certainly behave as callously as 5 year olds right until there 40's plenty of women also are still daddy's princesses at alarming ages.
And thus the first inappropriate cultural misunderstanding, maturity is associated with age, boys I believe want to be older when they are young for recreational purposes, being taller, stronger and hairier will result in being even better at sport, it may also be related to driving and drinking beer and other activities that are percieved as fun or cool rather than mature and in later stages so they can not live with their parents and have sex with girls their parents would not approve of.
For girls from what I have studied the upward pull relates to this 'mature' concept which in turn because girls withhold generally (though this is much better now in australia all the hot girls at my school where in the seniour girls football team) from competitive sports, also fighting to settle disputes and establish heirarchy and instead resort to behaviour that is anything but mature. Petty mind games is the first one, or psychological bullying which is far more vicious than physical bullying (unless carried to extremes, that being said psychological bullying is carried to extremes that are probably far worse aswell not only do kids die, they feel awful about themselves when they do it) but the big one is: they try to be more mature. Instead of being taller, being faster, being a better fighter or stronger, girls resort to maturity in their teen years (and now tweens and probably younger) thanks to the missapropriation of a deep and rare quality called maturity.
I had a presentation from Libra or U or one of the fucking tampon companies about their website and their research on their target market teenage girls yeilded the result that the girl who knew the most about sex and other 'mature' things was the Alpha wolf in their school, thus access to Cosmo was a highly prised possession.
Cosmo of course is a bullshit rag that thanks to well meaning adults reinforcing a stereotype that girls are 'more mature' (my mother believes this wholeheartedly) girls have learnt faster and faster how to give blowjobs, select the right g-string, get the vaginas waxed or as was articulated in the book '100 ways America is screwing up the world' "selling fuck-me clothes to teenagers" thanks to a bizarre byproduct of the sexual revolution, some of the biggest perpertrators of commodifying women are now women themselves.
In the pursuit of maturity the girls instead seek sexual maturity and sexually maturity is in most of their learning sources linked to body image.
Girls idols are to use the words of Ariel Levy from 'female chauvinist pigs' "fuckable and saleable" that is the primary ability of a girls aspirational guide is being able to attract a man to fuck, and you are probably already thinking but most idols are hollywood stars and pop-idols who do something functional. Well firstly this bit isn't about functionality so much as it is culture, and that is that Kathy Bates is functionally one of the finest Actors in the world yet more girls aspire to Jolie type body images which is validated because she now dates Brad Pitt. Infact I can't remember the last time I saw an actor or popstar on the front of a magazine that was fully functional with a realistic body shape.
These people have more resources than most professional athletes to maintain there body image and most of the time for actresses of the school of Eva Mendez, Jessica Alba, that bitch that dates Tony parker, Lauren London and such is to score bit parts beside the actual interesting characters in sitcoms and movies.
Therefore whilst a boy growing up is more likely to idolise an athlete and thus develope body image in terms of functionality (even when it comes to actors the association is easily broken with the likes of Jack Black, Robert De Niro, Jack Nicholson, Anthony Hopkins, and even actors like Will Smith playing action roles with high degrees of physical activity [often non sex related]) and girls develope body image in terms of increasing their chances of having a 'immature' boy defile them with their filthy immature concepts of sex. (possibly also nudging somegirls towards believing that having sex with a thirty year old teacher is a good way to be more mature).
And that means that I believe if weightloss takes the form of achieving a cultural paradigm of being a desirable temptress it can lead to an unhealthy mindset, basically once again healthy weight with low to no self esteem.

Last but not least weightloss should be smart.

Give me a minute. I calculate that 58kg is when I hit underweight. Due to gaining muscle mass this year I don't want to get anywhere near that close to a BMI of less than 20. So whilst I wish to continue running should my weight drop below 68 I will have to reassess my diet, particularly given the nature of the way I've been losing weight. I'm running and burning more energy than I am eating in a typical day which means my body starts converting my fat deposits back into energy to be used to propel me. Furthermore my muscles in my legs particularly and probably lower back are reshaping themselves from pure bike riding applications to be better suited to the stresses of long distance running, so I'm not only consuming more energy than usual but consuming more protein than usual as my muscles go through the motions of damage and repair.
That said once I run out of surplus fat, my food intake particularly protein must go up. So it's imperitive I set a minimum weight. And this handles the S and M of SMART goals, specific and measurable, but remember my weightloss is functional, so my goal is actually related to running not weightloss for pure weightloss. Weight is one measure of my progress towards becoming an athlete and setting a minimum weight means it becomes a specific task, so I have a stop point.
Think about someone losing weight for the purpose of pure body image and making a SMART goal becomes very difficult. Firstly the measure of success, of achieving the goal is going to be in the power of the person(s) you are trying to attract, therefore your measure is not one you can just hop on the scales periodically to monitor your progress, there's so many variables at play, consider you lose a measly 300g (not measly if you already weigh only 40kg) and the next week at the local you meet an attractive guy/girl and hit it off, are you likely to stop then anyway? probably not, then in terms of the power to attract (from my experience for the most part a boyfriend is one of the least important opinions on this matter) goes on as an ambiguous measure. Or alternatively your personality is unbearable and it will be hard for you to attract anyone period unless you look like Naomi Campbell and last time I checked almost nobody else does.
So that takes care of specific and Measurable, how can you then put a Time limit on it, in the above example if you attract people too early on with godforbid you personality then your body image renovation timeline gets all screwed up, if you never manage too when or over what period do you stop. What amount of weight? fortunately now there are personal trainers with which to engage in this shallow exploit but for the most part weightloss for body image purposes only will only stop when you are satisfied with your own image (you can do this though without losing anyweight so its highley likely that half the time it won't directly relate to the weightloss) or it will stop when you percieve a general conscensus from the public that you are hot (oh but you have to stay that way now because its all you've got so you can't drop the ball) or when someone says you're annorexic, bulemic, depressed and intervenes, or when you die.

Fuck, long post, the ones I think I can say quickly, explore deeply in a short amount of time seem to take the longest, but to wrap that up in short. My philosophy of weightloss is that it should be purely functional (relating either to athletic ability or preventitive health concerns), it should not be based on cultural pressures/social modelling (it should be for your own personal benefit above and beyond anyone elses) and it should be a definite and structured activity with a point at which the process ends and one can determine whether one has succeeded or needs to replan.

That's it, now wouldn't the world be a better place if that's all that weightloss was ever about.

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