Are You Sacrificing Your Health for Appearance?

August 19th, 2009

Diet PillModern society has become so obsessed with appearance that people are sacrificing their health and wellbeing just to look better. Are you one of them?

Unfortunately, most people don’t realize that their efforts to improve their appearance may ultimately be compromising their quality of life. In addition, the physical improvements they seek rarely lead to the satisfaction that they expect. Although an attractive appearance can be a great source of satisfaction, it’s certainly not worth compromising your health, and in turn, your ability to live a fulfilling life.

The following are some of the more common ways that people are undermining their health in order to improve their appearance.

Restricting Calories to Lose Weight

It’s well known that most prisoners of Nazi concentration camps were barely fed enough food to stay alive. Today, many people who are desperate to lose weight are willingly subjecting themselves to a similarly restricted diet.

Although a reasonable amount of calorie restriction can indeed facilitate weight loss, doing so in a successful and healthy manner involves much more than simply counting calories. As is typical with modern society, most people embrace the mentality that more is better and restrict their calorie consumption excessively. This promotes nutrient deficiencies that can lead to poor health and disease, especially if the calories consumed are not from highly nutritious foods. Furthermore, the body naturally slows down it’s metabolism to conserve energy when calorie consumption is low which makes it more difficult to lose weight and is likely to cause fatigue and moodiness.

Exercising Excessively to Lose Weight

It’s not uncommon for people to restrict their calorie consumption and still have trouble losing weight. Not realizing the flaws in the oversimplified approach of calorie counting, many of these people try to make up the difference with excessive exercise. In many cases, the additional exercise is merely compensating for excessive consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates.

People who are having trouble losing weight will often spend up to an hour nearly every day doing intense aerobic exercise. Aerobics classes or spin classes are notorious choices and anyone who’s participated in either of them can attest to their high level of intensity. This type of activity is a tremendous burden to the body, and when it’s done on a regular basis, it promotes a chronic state of stress and breakdown. In addition, the calorie restriction that often accompanies this type of exercise makes the physiological burden even harder to recover from. Not only does a chronic state of stress make it harder to lose weight, it can also promote health problems such as adrenal fatigue.

Using Artificial Methods to Lose Weight

Whether it be because of laziness or desperation, many people turn to artificial measures such as diet pills or surgery to lose weight.

In some cases, diet pills are a complete waste of money, and in others, they’re downright dangerous. In fact, some previously common ingredients of weight loss supplements, such as phenylpropanolamine and ephedra, are now regulated by the FDA because of their respective association with strokes and heart attacks. The typical means through which weight loss supplements work are by increasing metabolic rate, suppressing appetite, or blocking fat absorption. In addition to the risks associated with consuming unnatural ingredients, stimulating supplements that increase the metabolic rate tend to also invoke a physiological stress response, and the suppression of appetite and blockage of fat absorption promotes nutritional deficiencies that can lead to poor health and disease.

Surgery is by far the most drastic way of losing weight, and in my opinion, is one of the most blatant examples of modern medicine’s arrogance in thinking that nature can be outsmarted. Most weight loss procedures are designed to either limit overeating by reducing the size of the stomach or restrict fat absorption by bypassing part of the intestines. Both methods alter the natural function of the digestive tract, and in turn, promote nutrient deficiencies and the development of poor health and disease. Evidence is already indicating that people who’ve had weight loss surgery are more likely to experience bone fractures, and this is just one of the many possible outcomes of impaired digestion.

Using Artificial Methods to Increase Muscle Mass

Although it’s not as common of a goal as weight loss, there are many people who are desperate to improve their appearance by developing a significant amount of muscle. Like diet pills, there’s an abundance of supplements available that are intended to increase muscular development, and many of them contain questionable ingredients. Furthermore, most people who are looking to build muscle tend to rely on processed powders to meet exaggerated protein and calorie requirements.

The intense strength training required to promote significant muscular development puts a tremendous demand on the body and greatly increases it’s need for high quality nutrition. Protein powders, protein bars, and meal replacement powders are an inferior source of nutrition for anyone, especially someone who is lifting heavy weights and has an increased need for nutrients. As top powerlifter Eric Talmant agrees in this interview, these synthetic and convenience based forms of nutrition are over hyped and unnecessary.

The most drastic and unhealthy method of increasing muscle mass is through the use of anabolic steroids. Despite the dramatic side effects, steroid usage is more common than most people realize, even outside of sports and professional bodybuilding. Anabolic steroids can cause liver damage, heart damage, heart disease, high blood pressure, hormone imbalance, and aggression based mood disorders that sometimes lead to suicide.

Using Chemicals to Alter Appearance

There are hundreds of thousands of synthetic chemicals in circulation today and we’re exposed to many of them on a daily basis. The human body is not evolved to handle such a significant exposure to such chemicals and is sometimes incapable of properly eliminating them. When the detoxification system becomes overloaded, many of these chemical toxins are stored throughout the body including the most critical organs and glands where they can cause major dysfunction. Despite this, many people dramatically increase their exposure to such toxins through the frequent use of products such as cosmetics and hair dye that have no purpose other than temporarily improving appearance.

Over the past decade, Botox has become a popular option to eliminate wrinkles. Botox, formally known as botulinum toxin, is a strong toxin that paralyzes muscle. The potential consequences of using Botox include headaches, flu like symptoms, allergic reactions, and the unintentional paralysis of eye and jaw muscles which can inhibit blinking and chewing respectively. In my opinion, using such a toxin for something as trivial as removing wrinkles is an indication of an unhealthy obsession with appearance.

Wearing Dysfunctional Shoes to Be Fashionable

Despite the sedentary lifestyle that many of us live, walking is still something that we still do on a regular basis. Complex movement patterns like walking are made possible by a network of adjoined bones and muscles. Through this system, the condition and action of one joint can have a significant impact on that of an adjacent joint, and this influence can spread throughout the body. As such, the repetition of improper walking mechanics can cause problems in a variety of places.

Most modern shoes, especially those which are stiff, narrow, or have elevated heels, can easily alter walking mechanics. Although wearing such shoes on occasion is unlikely to do much harm, wearing them on a regular basis can cause muscle imbalances and joint dysfunction that may lead to pain and injury. An easy way to prevent this is to walk barefoot as often as possible and wear shoes that promote a natural gait.

A More Attractive Outlook

Ironically, many of the physical characteristics that society is so obsessed with, such as excess body fat and premature aging, are often the result of unhealthy lifestyle habits. Although there are a variety of unnatural ways to address these issues, nothing can replace the vibrancy and longevity provided by optimal health.

While there’s nothing wrong with making an effort to improve your appearance, it shouldn’t be driven by self hate or unrealistic expectations. Most importantly, such an effort should be balanced with pride and a healthy appreciation for the unique physical attributes that you were born with.

A truly attractive person is one who has a balanced and grounded perspective on life that builds admirable character, is based more on emotional fulfillment than materialism, and motivates them to pursue the optimal health that will fuel their passions and promote a youthful appearance. Health is a significant aspect of beauty, and in short, the longer you’re able to remain healthy, the longer you’ll be able to remain attractive, both physically and mentally.

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