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The various forms of body abuse

The human body has evolved over time to become what it is today, a complicated ecosystem, a complex web of smaller sub-systems, each geared to perform specific functions, individually and as a whole. Most of this complex working happens without our cognition. We go about life and living unaware of this balance and power, till it gets disrupted.

For many, health and fitness is often a pursuit in response to some breakdown of this functioning, a health scare, or a doctor’s advice. Which may all be fine, except for the basic reality that without a deeper understanding of the source of the problem, any solutions sought may, in all probability, not be the best or most effective.

We are guilty of assigning extraneous reasons to any deviations and collapse while, in reality, we need to be delving within. The human body, by nature, is resilient and designed to help us achieve near-impossible feats. Its power, unfortunately, also lends itself to a great deal of abuse on account of our ignorant (at best) or stubborn (at worst) ways. Not giving due respect to the body is setting it up for revolt. Before embarking on any health and fitness plan, we need to first understand the myriad ways we tend to abuse our bodies, turning them more into foes than allies. This abuse is more pervasive than we realise and so much second nature to most of us that we don’t even recognise its presence.

The most common abuse is, of course, indulging in dietary excesses. The fact that certain foods are not just worthless in nutritional content but may be downright harmful in larger doses is not as lost upon us as we pretend.

That some of these are addictive, making it difficult to break dependency, is well established and several studies exist to demonstrate their habit-forming effect on the body. It would serve us well to learn the full extent of the damage, recognise symptoms of dependency and become aware of the various forms these foods take.

It’s no coincidence that there exists an industry aggressively devoted to researching what excites the taste buds and what makes consumers reach out repeatedly for more. Addiction to alcohol is often interpreted as excessive drinking, without quantifying what “excessive” is. It’s not simply consuming large amounts. Daily consumption could well be another form. Not being able to say “no” to regular drinking is as much an addiction as not being able to regulate quantity. And many fitness plans regularly fall by the wayside or fail to deliver on account of this denial or ignorance.

Not following a regulated eating schedule is another common form of abuse. Skipping breakfast, long gaps between meals, skipping one meal and bingeing on another, substituting wholesome meals with food supplements, regular consumption of “diet” sodas, sugary juices, fast food and fried savouries — pick your choice of abuse.

Not doing justice to this beautiful creation of nature, the body, by moving it and using it, but instead allowing it to rust by embracing inactivity and sloth is the bane of modern life. Indolence is also an addiction. We are guilty of leaving a beautiful gift unwrapped all one’s life. On the other extreme of the abuse spectrum are excessive regulation, excessive exertion, inadequate resting and chasing away anything that does not promise to be “healthy”, “fat free” or “low calorie”. Going overboard is dangerous and abusive too. The more intense the activity, the greater is the need for rest to allow the body to recuperate, and the need to provide it the right fuel in terms of what you eat, when, and how much.

Calculating nutritional content is a more wholesome and intelligent process than randomly reading some numbers off the box or blindly following the latest fads and deciding whether it’s your ticket to health or not. Eliminating entire food groups recklessly (read carbohydrates and fats, especially) is not only unintelligent but can have dangerous consequences. There is also the case for scientifically determining intolerance to food items versus mere premises, blind suggestions and tips of the day.

Everything has a role to play in the body’s health and balance and the list presented above is by no means exhaustive. Recognise abuse and aim to restrict them. Seek advice when in doubt. Let intelligence count for something. All enjoyable things need not be thrown out of the window. Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed. But let’s be in control to decide what, when, where and how much.

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