Marc Armbinder had a fascinating article in the The Atlantic. The article is wide-ranging and thoughtful. The author makes many good points particularly on the subject of national health policy.
I agree with many of Armbinder’s points. However, he poses a thought experiment which I can only characterize as irresponsible. He says:
There is a way to beat obesity. But it is radical and expensive. No other diet or weight-loss approach is remotely as effective as bariatric surgery….The only way to cure obesity is to radically rewire the relationship between the stomach and the brain. Diet and exercise can’t do that as quickly or as well.
This perspective troubles me deeply and illustrates the vast gulf separating the CrossFit community from everybody else. Here are few thoughts:
Bariatric surgery might make you thin, but can it make you do a pullup? Body mass is an important corollary to good health, but so is functional capacity. Having a stomach the size of a walnut won’t help you do useful things with your body.
Anyway, who says being healthy should be quick and easy? The consumerist mindset that makes us think we shouldn’t have to get out of our car to eat a hamburger is the same mindset that makes us think we should be able to buy our way out of obesity.
The notion that our stomach/brain circuitry is responsible for obesity is too slick for me. We’re not robots guided by microchips. We make choices. Yes, the agribusiness lobbies make it harder to eat healthy, but YOU are the one holding the fork, and wielding the pocket book.
As a former obese person, I have great empathy for Marc Armbinder. When you’re fat, the world around you feels like an obstacle course devised in an evil lab by a bunch of hateful thin people. I know this.
Who knows, if I hadn’t discovered CrossFit I might have tried bariatric surgery. Luckily for me it didn’t come to that.
The Summer I started CrossFit I had a 44 inch waist and weighed about 240 pounds! After about eighteen months of CrossFit training three times a week I weighed 160 pounds. (Today I walk around at 170.)
But body mass is only part of the health picture. Let’s look at functional capacity.
I’m 43 years old. I snatch 205 and dead-lift 415. I’ve done 10 consecutive muscle-ups. I run the mile in 6:00 flat. Those are respectable numbers for a twenty year old. They are very good numbers for a 43 year old. Would bariatric surgery or fad diets have given me the physical abilities I have today? Not a chance.
Working on myself has not been even remotely easy. After a fifteen hour work day I want to eat Ben & Jerry’s and Doritos in front of the TV just like everybody else. Many days, working out and eating healthy food is a struggle. But I refuse to be part of a culture that is pathologically devoted to convenience and quick fixes.
Nothing in life is free. I learned that in CrossFit.