When ‘Unhealthy’ Is Mainstream, Become Countercultural

I remember spending hours and hours sitting around the house, talking to my mother about the Sixties. I was born in 1973, so I obviously missed all of that, but Mom was there.

Deep in her heart, she wanted to be a hippy. She hated the Vietnam War and loved the music, but she was just a bit old for that culture. Plus, she was married to a man enlisted in the Navy, which might have played a factor.

Anyway, she would talk about the countercultural movement of that era with a certain reverence.

My father is still a dedicated smart-ass who was known for doing things others were afraid to do. Yes, that includes running into burning buildings despite his asthma.

I appear to be a combination of my parents, but I didn’t realize just how much of one I was until this morning. You see, I’ve become countercultural in ways I never expected.

I was mulling through Facebook and looking at the various posts and there was one that was captioned “Me trying to get in shape” or something like that. It was a video of a dog sitting at the edge of a treadmill and it would put a single paw on the track and watch as it moved right back to him.

It was, really, kind of adorable for a pet.

If it were a human, though, it was absolutely pathetic. Luckily, it wasn’t.

Yet I thought about how much I see on a daily basis flowing through my feed featuring not just unhealthy eating and exercise habits, but celebrating it.

People aren’t just unhealthy. That’s one thing and it’s bad enough.

However, in an effort to be “inclusive,” the media is celebrating people being unhealthy. Tess Holliday made the cover of Cosmo. The woman isn’t plus-sized. She’s morbidly obese.

Yet was Cosmo attacked by the mainstream media for promoting unhealthy lifestyles? Not so much.

Instead, the magazine was celebrated. The media covered it as a positive development, for the most part. Only a few of the more biased sites–you know, the kind of places I write for on a daily basis, so you know I’m not judging here–took issue with it.

They were labeled “haters.”

Through it all, Holliday was celebrated as some kind of hero. In fairness, she was…to the fat acceptance movement.

And that’s a whole other issue. There’s a movement that’s supposedly above criticism that actually promotes being fat.

Look, I think people should be treated as human beings despite anything external. Fat or thin, black or brown or white, American-born or from elsewhere, I think everyone is deserving of basic human decency from us.

But on the same token, the fat acceptance movement goes beyond this. They want their weight to be celebrated. They don’t want it tolerated but approved. They even bitch because doctors have the absolute nerve to tell them to lose weight.

Yet I hate to say it, but they’re in the ascendency. They’re the ones who are being accepted by society at large (no pun intended).

Even people who I know who took issue with the Holliday cover and the associated approval for such morbid obesity aren’t immune to a bit of this either.

Look, I get it. When you’re overweight and not happy about it, it’s easy to bury yourself in self-deprecation. I was notorious for it. I was in excellent shape because “round” was an excellent shape. I had the body of a superhero, it was only too bad it was Baymax.

I had a ton of them.

Regardless, though, unhealthy behavior is the norm. It’s acceptable. It’s celebrated.

Because of that, I can’t help but look at healthy living as a countercultural act. It’s the equivalent of wearing your hair long at an era when men kept their hair sort. It’s a middle finger to the day-to-day way society wants you to march on.

And honestly, I think maybe it’s time we start to treat it the same way, too.

“Hey, kid. You want to rebel against society and your folks? Awesome. Let me show you how to deadlift.”

“Excuse me, Miss? I see you’re looking for something different. Can I talk to you about the bench press?”

“Dude, I get it. Your folks are a drag. Let’s talk caloric restriction so you can really get their goat.”

Alright, maybe that’s a little extreme, but if the culture is going to turn against the idea of healthy living, it’s time to accept it and adapt as we move forward.

Of course, there’s a certain hilarity to the idea. I’ll be the first to admit it. Fitness is still a $30 billion per year industry. That’s $92.11 per each American.

The idea that an industry that large is somehow not part of the mainstream culture is baffling. However, keep in mind that the annual cost of obesity is $147 billion. These are the medical expenses alone. When you couple in the revenue created in providing products designed to cater to obese people, and you start to see where I’m coming from.

Roughly two-thirds of all adults in the United States are overweight or obese. Out of the remaining 33 percent, how many are genuinely healthy? Not too many, I’d wager.

So yeah, society isn’t exactly pro-healthy living. In addition to the culture, we have the economics balanced toward supporting unhealthy lifestyles over healthy ones.

Because of that, getting healthy is a countercultural act.

The thing is, though, I believe most people want it. They want it badly. They just don’t believe they can do it.

Last week, I posted a before-and-after photo here and on Facebook. I got more than 200 positive reactions and dozens upon dozens of comments. People did respect what I’ve done, and a few talked about their own desires to follow the same path.

The thing is, it’s simple.

Simple doesn’t mean easy, mind you, but it’s not overly complicated. Not at the beginning. When you get to my point that changes, but by then you’ve made a massive change and it’s easier to start learning the more complicated aspects because you’re charged up. You’re ready to roll.

To start with, though, it’s simple.

Yet society works against these people. It creates barriers and distractions. It throws up roadblocks to try and sway you from those goals.

It doesn’t make it easy.

Then, of course, there’s the fact that the “fitness industry” is infested with snake oil salesmen who want to tell you they have the true path to enlightenment, that they can help you become healthy without actually changing your lifestyle. They have the way and can help you get there, all for the low, low price of $299.99 on a monthly basis.

So now that we know that good health is a countercultural act, and we’ve embraced it, what do we do now?

Simple. We keep doing our thing. We keep living our lives. We keep getting healthier and stronger and understand that society doesn’t particularly approve.

More importantly, though, we don’t apologize for it. This is who we are and what we do. We also happen to think everyone should be doing this and don’t mind telling people.

We reject the idea that being unhealthy is acceptable. While we shouldn’t treat people badly because they’re not healthy, we shouldn’t pretend that we approve, either.

Basically, we become living examples, a personal embodiment of who and what we believe so others can see it.

We are the counterculture. Embrace it.

Author: Tom

Tom is a husband, father, novelist, opinion writer, and former Navy Corpsman currently living in Georgia. He's also someone who has lost almost 60 pounds in a safe, sustainable way, so he knows what he's talking about.

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