The constant refrain on the cover of every men's fitness magazine. Given the generous bellies sported by the vast majority of dudes of all ages at amusement parks (the most abundant place to observe regular people doing living like a huge number of other people), I can understand the marketing potential of such a desirable promise. A gut isn't all about appearance. When you're young and capable, a gut is part of the older guys who look fondly back on their glory days. They're fading. The gut just seems to signify that the best of times are behind us. Fighting against that slowly expanding girth is really a fight against becoming the old guys we mocked when we were young.
All those lose your gut remedies involve eating the magic diet and sticking with some complicated workout routine. The steps are really just a way to increase self-control and develop better habits. An even better remedy is to live a very simple life focused on feeling rather than feeding. Bloggers of various ilks all seem to believe in minimalism, meditation, and some variation of a vegan/vegetarian diet. Part of this comes from reading each others stuff and part of it comes from not having enough money to have a high-level consumerist lifestyle. That's kind of snarky and jaded of me, I have never talked to one of these guys to really understand their life, but it's a satisfyingly simple explanation for the common elements of the self-improvement self-help internet scribe.
The simple life is certainly not gut inducing. At least it makes it easier to stick with activities and diets that tend towards a leaner body. If I pursued a simple life (or did not have the means to do things like buy Diamond Club tickets for a Washington Nationals game), my wife and I would be out hiking down by the river or exploring some mountain trail rather than sitting behind the net at Nats Park while a server brings us food and drinks (that are included with the ticket price). We were at the park on Tuesday night. I had two beers, a huge thing of nachos, and a bunch of popcorn. A simple life would me walking around while eating very little. My more complex consumerist life has me sitting around watching elite athletes while I consume all kinds of high calorie goods. The complex consumerist lifestyle is much more fun and pleasurable.
Staying gut free would be easier if I had programmed myself to abhor consumerism and capitalism when I was younger (or if I had been programmed that way). Viewing pleasurable activities as evil would make them far less appealing. But I had absolutely no shot of being an anti-consumerist radical. I was injected into the respect authority and consuming is fun world. I've never felt the need to turn away from it. I love going to Disney World, the ultimate consumer paradise, and have absolutely no interest in living small. Beers are one of the small pleasures of my life. I've found that I can get by without lots of candy and baked goods, but fatty, salty food is much harder for me to resist. I love meat and enjoy reveling in the abilities that nature has bestowed upon me as a sexually functional male. Fatty stuff fuels that part of my nature.
The extravagances of the consumer life are not constants. Trips to Disney World or a day at the ballpark are occasional events. The constants that make up the scaffold of these special events are where simple choices are made. Running is a simple thing made all the more complicated by our culture's need to find scarcity and build a market around the desire to have that limited thing. The Boston Qualifier time is the ultimate aim of many runners (I'm way too slow to even consider that at the moment. My fastest 5K ever, which was largely downhill, was run right at the pace I would need for a BQ time. And that only happened because the standard was slightly lower for me once I passed age 40). Equipment of all kinds, from shoes and socks to treadmills and foam rollers, accumulate around the simple act of propelling our bodies forward at a slightly elevated pace. Races are pricey, with those prices only getting bigger as bigger medals and post-run parties are added to enhance the appeal and eventness of contests that have been run for millennia.
Despite all the complexity the market builds into simple things, there are few things simpler than getting up and going for a run. I use a fancy watch that tracks my run and allows me to know just how far I've run and how quickly I've covered that distance at any given time, but there is no product that compels me to get out of bed when it's still dark and head outside to run a few miles right when the birds are just starting to get going. I have a fancy rowing machine in my garage. I may use a TV show as a reason to get out in the garage, but I could choose to just stand on the treadmill to watch the show. I chose to row while I'm watching the show.
As I write these tortured paragraphs, I'm struck by the thought that all of the advocacy of certain lifestyles is really nothing more than one person framing the limit of their consumer opportunities as a desirable state. I'm really doing nothing more than justifying my own choices. The real question is why I feel like I have to justify anything in the first place. My life is my life. Whether I decide to adopt the worldview imposed on me by the conditions of my birth or choose to rail against everything that more rebellious factions of society say is poison and evil is ultimately entirely my decision. It affects me and my family. Whether some hipster in Harlem would make the same choices is irrelevant.