Discover more from The Mmm...Letter
The Faux Fit and Fake Rich Wreck Fitness and Deform Capitalism
One of the biggest myths of both fitness and capitalism is that they focus on the acquisition of “stuff.”
In fitness, “stuff” takes the shape of flat bellies, toned arms, chiseled calves, and perky butts. The “stuff” is what we put on display to impress (and torture) others on social media. With the best stuff-havers getting likes all day on the Internet, it’s no surprise we perceive them as exemplary case-studies in the practices of fitness and capitalism.
These people achieve peak stuff-acquisition, flaunt their ability to acquire said stuff, and act in an unbecoming manner. These gregarious stuff-havers end up overrepresented in the media by virtue of their exhibitionism. Meanwhile, fit and sensible people everywhere remain quiet or simply refuse to flaunt their things.
But what does it cost to acquire all that “stuff?”
Flashy Has a Price Tag
Let’s take a look at the number of ways people self-sabotage in the pursuit of stuff. In fitness, some are driven by superficial outcomes. They want to acquire “glamour muscles" to attract mates and show off to their friends. Much like conspicuous consumption works in consumerism, fitness fanatics fall prey to a keeping up with the Jones’ effect.
Just as consumer credit enables us to buy stuff we cannot afford, fitness comes with its own set of shortcuts. These cheats help us reach peak hot-girl-summer without putting in the requisite work. Beginning with the obvious: plastic surgery. A bit of liposuction, skin-tightening, and butt implants help the wealthy go from fitness zero to fitness hero. But affordable shortcuts exist too.
Photoshop empowers thousands of fitness “experts” to look impossibly hot on social media. But an even cheaper and dumber trick exists that models and movie stars use to look their bootylicious best on set: water. And no I’m not talking about downing 8-liters a day, I’m talking about downing no water at all.
Dehydration shrinks the fascia tissue between your skin and your muscles. By reducing fascia mass, you bring your skin closer to your bis, tris, abs, glutes, and patoots. That’s one of several techniques bodybuilders use to reach their inhumanly fat-less appearance. I don’t have to tell you that dehydrating yourself is antithetical to proper fitness, but it’s right on point for stuff-wanters.
You should know by now, we cannot measure our fitness by our sex appeal. No matter how we appear on the outside, our insides know the truth. We can look exceptionally fit, but be closer to a heart-attack than an obese person of similar age.
The unregulated supplements, excess workouts, and other extrema pursued in the name of “stuff” can be as, if not more detrimental to one’s long-term health than sitting on the couch noshing Doritos.
Back to capitalism. Consumerism, which is what we’re talking about here, is a corruption of the underlying practice. It’s an extreme addiction to one key benefit of sound capitalism: wealth creation.
To understand why one skips right to consumerism, we need to understand how capitalism generates wealth. I love this example from Ammous’ book, so I’ll paraphrase it here.
Why (& How) Capitalism Works
Imagine a community in which two people, Susan and Bob, catch fish with their bare hands to feed their families. They both fish 8-hours per day, catching one fish per hour. 8 fish per day, 8 hours of labor.
One day, Susan forgoes 2-hours of fishing to improve her technique. She fishes for 6-hours, catches 6 fish, and spends two hours becoming a better fisherwoman.
After several weeks, she unveils a fishing rod. Meanwhile, Bob remains an avid fisherman, fishing 8-hours, eating 8 fish. Susan, with her new rod, catches 2 fish per hour. She spends 4-hours fishing, catches 8 fish, and doubles her free-time; time she now spends inventing a boat.
Months later, the boat enables her to go into deeper water where she can catch bigger fish. Imagine this pattern continues through generations: Susan creates capital, Bob creates dung heaps. Susan’s children inherit her capital (the inventions and the knowledge Susan generated) to further improve those inventions while providing for themselves and their families.
This empowers Susan’s descendants to support larger families and explore careers outside of aquatic creature-wrangling. Meanwhile, Bob’s descendants remain trapped in a vicious capital-free cycle.
The compounding benefits of capital generation become the elevated wealth of its descendent benefactors. When provided to the community, in exchange for equitable value, the capital works to enrich all to whom access is granted.
The “stuff” part, or consumerism, only appears once the capitalist hierarchy is firmly in place. Those with capital compared to those without, jealous of their wealthier neighbors, attempt to acquire the trappings of wealth without building its underlying source. They don’t want to do the thinky-brainy-save-then-spend part.
The self-serving benefits of sound capitalism (having more stuff) and sound fitness (having a sexier figure) are clearly mere side-effects of their diligent practice, not their designated purpose.
Serve Yourself to Serve Others
If all your fitness was aimed at impressing others, you would likely neglect well-rounded nutrition, diverse forms of movement, adequate stretching, and the risks associated with shortcuts to a sexually-desirable figure.
Likewise, if your only purpose in acquiring wealth is to purchase enviable objects and experiences, you will incur an unhealthy amount of debt, fail to plan for your non-working years, and leave little behind for your descendants aside from a mountainous pile of debt.
In fitness, when you improve your physical health, and consequently your mental (as the two are inextricably linked), your choice adds value to your community. It may appear counterintuitive at first, but hear me out.
Healthy people live longer lives, and thus contribute to society for greater periods of time. They also enjoy and provide for their families for longer and pose an insignificant burden on the healthcare system at large. Consider we all improve our personal health, the reductions in chronic illness would be dramatic, as would the reduction in our dependence on medical interventions.
In capitalism, we gain net benefits from individual acts as well. When someone discovers a superior solution to an existing problem, the community grows wealthier as a result over time. How does this happen?
Superior methods reduce the cost of solving the original problem. The organizations previously responsible for solving that problem either adopt the new method, and thereby provide competition to the new-comer as they drive the prices further down, or they get out of the business entirely and find new problems to tackle for which their unique skills may provide similarly superior solutions.
At that point, everyone in society can solve the original problem with less money, leaving them with more to save or invest. Over time, the solution becomes so inexpensive that those at the bottom of the hierarchy have access to goods and services previously the sole privilege of the highest classes. We saw this happen with TVs, commercial flights, and even seemingly trivial commodities such as food and plumbing.
In the end, practicing sound fitness and sound capitalism lifts oneself and one’s community to higher heights. Focusing exclusively on the side-effects is a one-way ticket to stupid down, and likely, an early grave.