Sunday, 25 July 2010

Call me Mr Nobody

It seems to me that conversations have different levels that are obtained in sequential order. When people initially meet, they grab the first rung of the ladder which is social chat; chit chat and the like. Nothing of any depth, just conversing about whatever. Like two boxers eyeing each other up in the ring…circling and throwing the odd, testing jab to see their opponent's form, style and reach. During this stage of conversation two people get a gauge for if they like each other and how much they enjoyed each other's conversation and general countenance.

If people are driven to spend enough time with each other, or if they just connect strongly enough, they move up to the next level of conversation where things are more meaningful. They may discuss on their opinions and views of things, now safe that their companion is sympathetic to their views. They may be more candid about their life situations, or they may discuss in detail about the things that interest them now they know their companion is reciprocal. As people tend to like people with similar interests there is more range of things they can talk about in a more in-depth manner. If sense of humour is similar then they can add a humorous angle to their experiences, or bring something into conversation purely down to the fact that they found it amusing. It is from these types of conversation that lasting friendship can spawn.

The thing about me, and I guess most people with Asperger's Syndrome, is that I am actually a socially boring person. I'm not a boring person, I can converse in-depth and with articulation and knowledge on many, many topics. I also have a pretty good sense of humour and can throw the odd joke or humorous observation into most topics. When it comes to the upper-rungs of the conversation ladder I can hold my own along with the best of them, I just can't handle that first step. If a stranger were to come up to me and attempt to spark up a conversation they'd soon find themselves frustrated and bored, as general meaningless chit-chat isn't something in my vocabulary.

As you can well imagine this is quite frustrating. I know I'm a fairly decent guy with a lot to offer, but no-one else does. Not through any fault of their own, but mine. I have things to say and discuss and talk about but no-one to really share my thoughts with. I realise I give off an impression to people that I'm curt and uninteresting and I suppose in these initial moments of meeting they're right…I am a socially uninteresting person.

Even though I can converse at those upper rungs of the ladder, I myself still can't instantly jump there. I can't approach a stranger, or have a stranger approach me, and converse on higher subjects right away; I too need that initial phase where you get comfortable with people, but for me that stage involves much less conversation :) So how do we get past that first rung of the ladder? How do we convince people to persevere with us? How can we drag them to our heights? If I had the answer I'd bottle it.

For me anyway, two things do help. First is working with people via your job. That way you're forced to be around each other and spend time with each other. In this captive situation you can conduct the "getting to know you" stage at your own pace. On-line situations also help where people tend to be in the same community due to a shared interest, and again you can get involved in a level you're comfortable with.

I mentioned the frustration before; having all these things inside you that you feel are going to waste. But the other aspect of frustration is when other people insist that you "just need to come out of your shell" and "stop being shy". I have no shell and I'm not shy. Yet again it is just that our worlds don't align, that I'm a square peg trying to fit your round hole because your round hole is what is considered to be correct.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Health and Fitness Myths

In the interests of that classic Asperger's Syndrome trait of honesty, I thought I put together some bits of information regarding health and fitness. I'm not the first person to ever say these things, but no-one wants to listen to the truth as well-packaged lies are always more alluring. These basic truths just get lost in a sea of disinformation, so if you're looking to lose a few pounds then read on and do with this what you will.

1 Why am I fat?

You eat more calories than you use.

When you take in calories that you don't expend, those calories are stored as fat. When you use more calories than you eat your body makes up the calorie shortfall by converting previously stored fat back into energy.

2 Spot Reduction

Spot reduction is the theory that working a body part makes that body part slimmer. Spot reduction is a myth, it doesn't exist.

Will sit-ups give me a flat stomach? No.
Even if I do 1,000 a day? Even if you did 1,000,000.
Will squats give me thin legs? No.
Will thigh/leg/bum exercises give me thin legs? No.

Think about what spot reduction is implying...if working an area reduced the fat in that area it is implying that your muscles somehow absorb the energy it needs from fat in the surrounding tissue. If that is how muscles work (which they don't) then how do you move your jaw to talk all day? How do your fingers work all day? How do your toes work? There is almost no fat in the surrounding area of those body parts so where do they get their energy?

Compare it with your car...chances are the engine is in the front, but you put petrol in the back however the car still moves. That is because your engine doesn't absorb petrol from the surround area through its is fed petrol via fuel lines that come from your tank in the rear. In the same way your muscles are fed oxygen etc from the blood pumping around your veins. Your muscles get their energy supplied via your body's distribution system, not the surrounding tissues.

Fat is just excess energy that has been stored, and you lose fat when that fat is turned into energy for your body to use. So how do you get a flat stomach, thin legs etc? The bad news is that you cannot control where you body stores or loses fat. Think of your body like a balloon. As you blow into it do you get to control the shape it takes? When you let air out do you control the shape as it deflates? Can you make it inflate or deflate more in one place than another? No...and your body is the same. When you gain weight your body decides where that fat is stored, and when you lose weight your body decides where the fat comes off. Rather than trying to target an area for weight loss, you have to aim for general weight loss and you lose it where you lose it.

Something else to think about...when women gain weight they tend to put it on the chest and hips, and when men gain weight it tends to go around the belly. These are also the areas the weight is lost from too. If where weight was lost from was a factor of what kinds of exercise you do then why do women gain/lose from the same areas and men gain/lose from the same areas? The reason is that where you gain and lose fat is not a factor of what exercise you do, it is dictated by your body and genes and you have no control over it.

3 Endless leg exercises

This is mainly one for the women and carries on from spot reduction. Observe most overweight women in the gym and they go from one leg machine to another, lifting very light weights on each. What good is this doing you? None. You now know that spot reduction is a myth and you're not losing fat on your legs, so what are you doing? If you are lifting a lot of weight and pushing your muscles then you're just building muscles underneath your fat which is going to make your legs bigger, not smaller. If you're not pushing your muscles by using sufficient weight then you're not building muscle, so what good are you doing? Honestly? None. You're spending the calories it takes to move your legs, you might as well just go for a walk.

If you're overweight and want to lose weight then resistance exercises (where you use weights) won't really help you much, you have to do cardio vascular work; you have to cycle on bikes, or row, or do anything that gets your heart beating. That is the best way to burn a lot of calories (see point 1). What happens to people doing pointless resistance work is that they never see any results so just give up going to the gym, and instead lament to their friends "oh I've tried everything, even the gym didn't work."

Why do women want slim legs anyway? Let's imagine for a second that spot reduction does work and isn't a you really want slim, slender legs but a bloated torso? Wouldn't that just look odd and imbalanced? So forget the endless leg exercises, get on your bike instead.

4 SlenderTone etc

These devices simply cause muscle contractions which use minute amounts of calories. Nowhere near enough to make a difference to your weight (see point 1) and the working of the muscles does nothing for the surrounding area (see point 2). Save your money. This also goes for anything that vibrates, shakes etc.

5 Toning exercises

Toning exercises don't exist, there is no such thing as toning. Being "toned" is a term given to the dual conditions of having muscle mass combined with having low amounts of body fat. Think about huge, husky men...they can have a lot of muscle but it is under a lot of fat so they just look fat. Think about lanky, skinny men...they have low body fat but look scrawny because there is no muscle under their skin. Being "toned" is the middle ground of lowish body fat over some muscle mass which gives your body an athletic shape. There are two things at play here...gaining the muscle and losing the body fat; they are two separate processes, no exercise both increases muscle mass in that area and also reduces body fat in that area (see point 2). If you want to be toned you need to work on gaining muscle and losing body fat as two separate tasks.

6 Excuses

I have a slow metabolism. No you don't.

Here's something that'll probably shock you...if you're fat you will have a faster metabolism, not a slower one. Fat is a living thing, it needs blood and maintenance just like everything else in your body. As well as your fat needing a blood supply, your skin is the largest organ in your body and it needs life too. When you have so much mass, so much area and so much weight your body is working overtime trying to keep it all alive. My resting heart rate is 60 - if you are overweight then take your resting pulse and I'll eat my hat if it is under 90.

Your biology is no different from anyone else's on the planet. You are not unique, you are not special. If you are fat, see point 1. Those women you see on chat shows saying "I've tried everything and nothing works...every diet, even the gym" are lying. Mainly to themselves.

7 Low-fat food

Eating low-fat food will help me lose weight. No it won't.
If something is low-fat it will help me stop putting weight on. No it won't.

Ever heard of a beer belly? It's well known that alcohol makes you gain weight and is very fattening. How much fat is there in alcohol? None. Zero. Zilch.

Your stomach is like a giant blender. It doesn't matter what form calories come into your stomach, they all come out in the same that is either used or stored. In terms of weight loss it doesn't matter if those calories have come from fats, saturated fats, non-saturated fats, trans fats, sugar, carbs, protein, really doesn't matter. They all go in your stomach and come out as calories, their original form is irrelevant. It is excess calories that make you fat regardless of where they came from. See point 1.

Have you seen foods advertised as low-fat? Have you seen foods advertised as low-sugar? Ever seen foods advertised as both? Things that are high in calories taste good (it is your body's way of tricking you into getting it fuel). Things that are high in fat taste good and things that are high in sugar taste good as sugar and fat are both high in calories. If something is "low-fat" then it will be high in sugar to maintain the taste, and if it is "low-sugar" then it will be high in fat to maintain the taste. Either way it is high in calories and that is what counts.

8 Should I do any resistance training?

I've mentioned above that resistance training with low weights is useless, and resistance with high weights just builds muscle under the fat you already have. However if you're looking to lose weight then a little bit of resistance work is still a good idea. First of all it gives you some wants to just huff and puff on a bike at the gym all day. It also helps your body maintain a good structure and posture, keeps things in place and a bit of strength is always good, and it can also help bone density etc.

The crucial thing that might well tip it for you is that muscle takes more effort for your body to maintain than fat. Just having muscle makes your body burn calories at a greater rate, even at rest and while sleeping etc. It helps raise your general metabolism too.

I don't want to do weight training, I'll get big and gross. No you won't.

If you're a man then it will take a lot of very hard effort over years to look like a "beefcake". You're not going to turn into Arnie with moderate weight training. If you're a woman you're more likely to use this as an excuse not to use weights, but here's another secret...see those butch women you see on TV shows with gross muscles? They’re injecting massive amounts of male hormones, steroids and all sorts of things. You will not ever look like that, ever. Not even remotely. If you're a man the same thing goes. Those guys on body-building shows...steroids. Stay off the gear and you'll never look anything like that.

9 Spending hours weight lifting

Let's say you're hitting the weights pretty hard, how much muscle do you think you build after one hour of weights? None. After two hours? None. Three hours? None.

You don't build muscle in the gym, what you do in the gym is stimulate muscle growth and that growth actually occurs when you are resting. Hitting the same muscles over and over and over in the gym is pointless. Work them then move on.

10 Big effort but little reward

You might kill yourself for half an hour on the bike or the rower and the calorie counter on the equipment is telling you you've burned off two bags of crisps, then wonder what the point is. Well for a start at least it's two bags of crisps, however exercising at the gym doesn't end when you leave. Exercise kicks your body up a gear and increases your metabolism for the hour or so after, so you're burning more calories in the hours after than you would have done normally. If you're building some muscle too then that's also helping on an ongoing basis (see point 8), and if you're pushing your heart and getting fitter then some time in the future you'll be burning three or four bags worth of crisps in the same half hour.

11 I hate running and jogging

Good. If you're training for a marathon then I'm afraid you have to run to get your body used to it. If you're not training for a run then don't run in the gym and don't jog either. Every step you land is a big impact on your ankles, knees and hips. Just imagine your whole weight banging down on your knees over and over and over. That is why those exercises are called "high impact" exercises.

Instead do "low impact" ones, ones with no big or sudden jolts. Try using the exercise bikes, the hand bikes, the rower or even just go swimming. There is no point in hurting your joints if you don't have to.

12 Getting on the scales

Don't use the scales, use the mirror. There is one saying that actually isn't a myth, and that is that muscle weighs more than fat. If you're working on your cardio to lose weight and also doing some resistance training for the reasons in point 8 then you're losing some fat and gaining some muscle. Your weight might go down, stay the same, or go up. Your weight is just a number though, go by what you see in the mirror. Do you look better? Yes? Isn't that all that really matters?

Don't obsess over the scales, especially when you start an exercise regime. If you do want to weigh yourself then weigh yourself when you get to the gym, not when you leave. Your arrival weight is your true weight. That weight will lower as you sweat (a litre of sweat is 1kg or 2.2lbs) and go up as you drink water. By the end of your routine it will either be artificially low from fluid loss (the weight will go right back on when you drink) or artificially high if you drank more than you sweated but that will also go when you go to the toilet. For similar reasons as point 9 you don't lose any fat when at the gym. Yes, you heard that right…none. What you do is use up the chemical energy that is floating around your body for instant use, and that energy is replaced by depleting your fat stores when you're at rest and that is when your fat goes. Just to reiterate…any weight difference between you arriving at the gym and leaving is down to fluids, not fat.

13 What is fat?

Here's something you might not neither gain nor lose fat. You have fat cells around your body (mostly under the skin) and those cells enlarge and deflate as fat is stored in them, or taken to be converted back to energy. So the cells themselves get bigger and smaller, but you don't ever gain fat cells or lose them.

So what happens when you have liposuction? When you have lipo those fat cells are physically lose them forever. The areas where you have lost those cells now do not grow and shrink like the areas where you haven't had lipo. So if you have lipo then put on a lot of weight you're going to look pretty odd indeed as you'll have patches and areas where you lack fat, and the surrounding area will be bloated like normal.

This is also why you can't just keep getting fat then having lipo. Fat isn't something that is introduced via your mouth (see point 7) and shoved under your skin for a surgeon to just come along and remove, then be replaced and removed again. Your fat cells remain consistent in number; it is their size that changes, so lipo should only be done in certain areas under certain circumstances.

It's not the panacea you might think it is.

14 Wait a minute...

So what you're saying is that diets are a waste of time? Yes.
Those exercise programmes I see in magazines to tone up for Summer are a waste of time? Yes.
Those products I see advertised are a waste of time? Yes.
So the entire health and fitness industry has been lying to me? Yes.

Think about it...if diets actually worked then the health and fitness industry would be over. What industry wants to bring about its own destruction? When that diet fails you go back to them to buy the next diet, and the one after that, and the one after that. When your SlenderTone doesn't work you go back for the Roller Ball, then back for the Twister Stepper and so on.

Have you also noticed how these days it is almost as if losing weight requires a PhD in nutrition? People talking about all of these chemical processes and scientific terms, and dictating that it's not how much you eat but what you eat, when you eat it, what it's chemical make-up is and yadda yadda. When you hear all of this mumbo jumbo science just remember one single thing...point 1. It’s not rocket science, trust me. Eat less, move more...that's all.

They want weight loss to sound complicated so that you think you're too stupid to be slim. They want your diet/exercise regime to fail so that you keep going back to them for the next solution that this time might work.

But why do people keep going back? selling you a product and that product failing, it is the product you blame, so the answer might be a different product. However, what if the problem wasn’t the product, what if it was you? If you finally woke up and realised that, you'd also realise that no product they sell will ever be the answer as it’s you that is the problem.

See point 1.

Monday, 5 July 2010

It's 2am on a Saturday

The streets are filled with energy and anger. Mostly anger. In nooks and crannies men are trying to bring their women around from some situation or other, or people are shouting on the phone to people they've become separated from probably by design rather than accident.

I see striped shirts are out now and checked shirts are in. The streets are a sea of check over blue denim and men loiter in gangs whilst shouting. Spatial context is gone and they roam and wander with no regard for anyone else and you're constantly dodging some zigzagging 80s arm chair in a world of his own, oblivious to everyone else. Women strut down the street in defensive stances, their arms crossed and tucked squarely, only breaking form to occasionally pull their skirt down from 1 inch below their ass to the maximum extent of 2 inches. Packs of men hunt down the solo females and posture in a contest to devour them as the females strut on, eyes fixed forward and praying inside. Being the biggest, loudest fucking asshole you can be is obviously appealing to women.

Homeless men sit on benches and call out to you as you pass. I don't hear them as I'm listening to music through my earphones but I know they're calling out as they always do. Homeless females prefer to sit in doorways looking downtrodden, luring men into their lair. Men always want to save women when they're drunk…not because they want to free them but because they want to own them. Men kneel down in their check shirts to offer trite words of advice about giving up drink and drugs, which the homeless women toss away, and money which they keep, ready to be saved by the next man too.

Outside the popular pubs are schools of men in check shirts, and women of all sizes in short skirts. Fake tan and pink Stetsons cause a feeding frenzy that I have to carefully pick my way through as I know the slightest knock or nudge could alert the sharks to my presence. Voices are raised everywhere as men either pick out victims or look down at illuminated faces of phones, women flirt with doormen while they pull their skirts down, some sit on the pavement with kebabs in their laps and their knickers on show while the pavements around them are a collaboration of streams coming from doorways where men are pissing like animals.

I get to my destination; a small shop just beyond where the pubs thin out. "No alcohol" the angry man barks as I come in, the same as he does to everyone. I take a diet coke to the counter which he rings up in silence. I look at the price on the till display and pay, then he hands me my change in silence. I think "no alcohol" is the only English he knows and as I leave a gang of men dressed as marathon runners pour in to a chorus of "No alcohol".

Walking back the way I have come I once more walk through the chaos and anger, the fear and the desperation, and the further I walk the more the women thin out having all but been picked off. The city seems to work as one; a predatory eco-system with everyone hunter of some and victim of other. Men have returned home with their trophies, or their hangovers, and I have returned home with my diet coke.

I don't even need diet coke…I just have an urge to be among people that are, like it or not, my peers. I need to prey on them, I want to experience them even if it is at a distance. I hate them but it is the jealous hatred of a child who can't have what he so desperately wants.