It occurred to me the other day as I was in the gym that the whole concept of going to a gym to work out is a little odd, isn’t it? Not that I don’t love going, but the body, either human or otherwise, is set up to intake energy in the form of food in order to support its daily activities. If you are, say, a wildebeest or something these activities include running around a plain or savannah or polar ice cap or whatever and you intake food as needed by killing your prey. The point is, they don’t really tend to get fat.
Look at ancient history. There were no rooms with heavy rocks meant to be lifted and replaced in ancient Mesopotamia. The Greeks weren’t developing machines that allowed you to pretend you were walking stairs. Most of the people who were not rich had ridiculous amounts of physical labor to do and many went hungry. Though the agricultural revolution made it possible to provide enough food for everybody, I think you would be hard pressed to find a Spartan complaining about excessive portion size.
And so we arrive in 21st Century America. We are the first society, thanks to a lot of things, to have such an overabundance of food that we must find ways to burn the extra energy in order to stay healthy. We must invent pointless work to do in order to make sure we do not die early. What a strange, strange concept this would be to someone from a civilization of centuries past.
Could you imagine someone from, oh, say, the Persian Empire time traveling and showing up at a Bally’s in LA? “So, let me get this straight: You pick up that circular rock over there, lift it repeatedly over and over again for no reason, and put it right back where you found it. Then you go over to that machine over there and run as fast as you can, making sure you go absolutely nowhere? Then you finish off by sitting up then lying back down over and over and over again? And YOU pay HIM for the right to lift his circular rocks? What the Hell is wrong with you people?”
It’s true. What the hell is wrong with us? We have gotten so good a preserving our physical energy insofar as machines do the bulk of the work we used to, that most of us do not have to expend any energy aside from walking to and from our cars. And we have gotten so good at massive food production that there is now too much food and we must either consciously limit our consumption or find new and inventive ways of burning it off that have absolutely nothing to do with our vocation in life.
I love America, and the obesity thing is no longer exclusive to us. But I do believe we were the pioneers. So while it is certainly a pressing issue in this country, it is pretty funny to sit back and think about the problems of societies past, and think that our main problem is that we do not physically work hard enough and get too much food. So much so that we now pay people to tell us how to eat less and work harder. Back in the day, those people were called slave drivers. Now they need advanced degrees. We pay people for the right to lift their weight and run in one place. Awfully silly if you think about it. But I guess we do what we can. I am off to burn off some excessive energy intake now, and I suggest the rest of you do the same. Lest you end up looking like some 15th century nobility.