Bad Habits #12 – It’s a Monk’s Life In The Online Heathbrosphere

I’ve noticed something while spending time on Twitter.  And I know that I should stop spending too much time on Twitter.  It appears to make you angrier, meaner, less happy, and dumber.  Tech geeks figured out Twitter’s impacts the hard way.  They tried to train an AI’s social interactions by putting it on Twitter.  It didn’t go well.  But in the relatively tame parts of Twitter where people discuss health and fitness, I’ve noticed a peculiar trend among some of the healthbros who tweet there.

Well, I’ve noticed more than one.  This includes generally positive things, like their willingness to lift and put down heavy objects.  And not so positive things, such as their peculiar phobia surrounding grain-based food and odd tendency to occasionally starve themselves and treat it as an act of manliness and virility.  

Somewhat related to that “dudes daring each other” mentality is the strange infatuation many of these healthbros have towards an austere lifestyle.  I mean, anyone who successfully loses weight and gets healthy knows that success requires permanent lifestyle changes.  But some of these guys take it to extremes.

Often, guys act like the process of obtaining good health requires that we exercise a level of superhuman self-denial that Buddhist monks would find excessive.  And also train with the lifting of heavy objects until your arms are larger than most people’s legs.  So, apparently good health requires you to become some highly trained warrior monk.

The whole point of writing this blog was to try to share ways I got in shape without having to completely upend my entire life. A few key changes will do for most people. So, to be helpful to the general public (and kind of a d*ck to the warrior monk elite on Twitter), I figured I’d go through some of their more common dictums on fitness and explain why you don’t have to go that far to be healthy.

One particular bugaboo that the overly muscled workout dudes of Twitter seem to have is…Netflix.  Yes, Netflix.  I mean, sure, being a couch potato can make you fat.  All sorts of sedentary lifestyles can be bad for you in excess.  I wrote a whole piece about how video games contribute to obesity.  But the bro-elite appear to treat indulging even slightly in streaming of movies and TV is a third rail of healthiness that must never be touched.  Trust me, it’s okay to occasionally Netflix and chill.

Especially since young people often mean the word “chill” euphemistically for a somewhat more active and…amorous form of exercise.  Which, amongst other things, is decent cardio.  Of course, I never understood what good having Netflix on would be while engaged in that form of “chilling”.  Einstein once said that anyone who can drive a car while kissing a pretty girl isn’t giving the kiss the attention it deserves.  Well if you can “chill” while watching the latest episodes of Bridgerton, you’re really not paying enough attention to the “chilling”.  Pay more attention to the bored look on your partner’s face.  It’ll focus you.  

The other downside of Netflixing while chilling is that you may confuse our future overlords.  If Alexa is plugged into your Smart TV, she might get confused by your verbal exhortations while “chilling” and start playing porn.  Or just do that weird evil laugh she used to do at random a few years ago.

But I digress. Occasionally streaming something isn’t the only thing the health obsessed denizens of Twitter like to lecture about.  I can’t turn around without seeing some health bro give out a lengthy lecture about the dangers of alcohol.  I mean, they’re not completely wrong.  I’ve written before on how too much alcohol is a problem for a diet.  And marriages, social lives, livers, etc.  But you don’t have to go full Mormon and drop it altogether.  Unless you’re a Mormon.  For the rest of us, a drink or two a day is fine.  And some drinks, like wine, actually contain essential nutrients.  So if I have a drink or two with the boys after work, or a nightcap or two with the wife before bed, it’s completely fine.

And don’t get me started about the endless lectures I see about “junk” food.  Don’t get me wrong, reducing consumption of food that is truly “junk” is a good idea.  Having said that, I’m a little leery of the phrase “junk food” since many of the foods we might consider “junk” (like burgers) aren’t that bad for you.  There are lots of foods out there that we think of as unhealthy, but they’re just fine in reasonable quantities, and often quite nutritious.  On the other hand, dessert and candy (especially Girl Scout cookies) can be really unhealthy.  But if these are occasional indulgences and not dietary staples for you, you’re fine.  You don’t need to spend the rest of your life only eating tofu and kale to be healthy.  A cookie or two won’t kill you.

The health fascists also like to insist on the habit of “early to bed and early to rise”.  They routinely brag that they get up at ungodly hours in the morning.  Screw that.  I’m not a farmer.  I don’t have to get up hours before dawn to plow the northern forty.  I can sleep in a little bit.  I mean, getting enough sleep is essential.  Lack of sleep can slow your metabolism and stress you out, leading to stress eating, which is more dangerous for a diet than being hungry at the grocery store.  But all that really matters is that you sleep seven or eight hours.  You don’t have to be some stud who gets up at four in the morning.  As long as you slept long enough (and aren’t late for work), when you wake up isn’t that important.

Healthbros also like to lecture us about having too much inactivity.  This is somewhat tangentially related to the Netflix phobia they have.  Obviously, not enough exercise is a problem.  But the bros appear to only take time out from activity to post on social media.  Usually, this means posting self-aggrandizing pictures of the superhuman exercise feats they just finished.  But you really don’t have to kill yourself like this.  If you exercise thirty minutes to an hour a day, go ahead and be inactive a bit.  You’ve earned it.  Read a book, lie down near the pool, or take a nap in the hammock.  Or, Netflix and actual chill, not the euphemistic, salacious “chilling”.  You don’t have to be a perpetual motion machine to stay healthy.  A moderate amount of activity is all that’s necessary to be healthy.

And in the final irony, the fitness referees of the Internet constantly finger wag about too much social media time.  Perhaps you see the incongruity of a bunch of guys on Twitter lecturing you about spending too time on Twitter.  Sure, too much is a problem.  We recently found out, for example, that Instagram is a particular problem for girls.  And Twitter may seem like a cesspool, but if we focus on that part of Twitter where things apart from politics are discussed (fitness, food, cats, etc.) it’s not so bad.  As with anything else, as long as this is an occasional thing and not an obsession, you’ll be fine.

Maybe you’re seeing a pattern.  We don’t have to completely cut these things off.  Use in moderation.  Live a little.  I mean, you can try to be one of those badass warrior monks.  But your life would suck.  The key to staying in shape is healthy eating and getting at least thirty minutes of exercise each day.  Once you’ve done that, you can afford to goof off a bit.  The key to losing weight (and life in general) is to handle your responsibilities first, then enjoy yourself.  If you do that, the leisure time feels good, like you’ve earned it.  You don’t feel like a lazy bum.

In fact, I’ve often felt that too much austerity is a problem for healthy living.  Restricting yourself too much produces the risk that you’ll just get sick of the whole thing and go back to your bad habits.  I mentioned before that the whole point of this blog is to introduce people to simple ways to stay healthy without too much disruption to their lives.  This is the reason why. Too much disruption increases the risk of failure. If healthy living makes your life boring, then you’re destined to fail.

You’re getting in shape.  You’re not joining the SEAL teams.  Well, maybe you are.  And if you are, you might listen to actual SEALs who talk about health and fitness and not some Twitter broscientist.  You’re also not some monk seeking enlightenment, sequestered in some cell high in the Himalayas.  I know you’re not, because clearly you have Internet access if you’re reading this.  If you’re someone interested in getting in shape to slim down and live longer, there’s no need to pursue the ascetic virtues pushed by some of the more extreme health bloggers.  The diets that work are the ones that don’t require you to give up your entire life.  You can be healthy and still live a little.  You don’t have to live like a monk to do it.

Published by drilldowndiet

Formerly obese CPA/health humorist using Cronometer and FitBod to lose weight. Sharing assorted life hacks to squeeze nutrition and exercise into a busy schedule. Also on Twitter at @drilldowndiet and Facebook.

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