Showing posts with label Physical. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Physical. Show all posts

January 10, 2019

Gay Singer Songwriter Oily Alexander: Why Do Gay Men Hate Their Bodies??



Openly gay British singer-songwriter Olly Alexander, the voice behind pop project Years & Years, was photographed for the pages of Teen Vogue when he was 18 years old. What would be a dream opportunity for most young adults was a nightmare for him because all he could think about on set was the catering: a "big delicious buffet with cake." It gave him anxiety because he was expecting cigarettes and water.


Today, in a series of tweets, Alexander, now 28, addressed how he had an eating disorder when he was 18, consumed for years with what he was or wasn't eating. In the spirit of New Year's reflection, he is healthier and no longer triggered by those experiences, but rather, empowered to speak publicly about them. And while he's definitely not alone, as a gay person, Alexander highlights an experience of negative body image that is both isolating and all too common.


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At the start of every year, Americans all set and flaunt their "resolutions," which time-honored tradition shows. Most of them concern the tenets of "happiness," as ingrained as ideas of patriotism, and we don't mean life or liberty. In 2019, happiness is the amount of money in your bank account, where you've traveled, and how hot you look. If you're gay and cisgender, and especially if you're white and/or particularly privileged, resolutions can be about any version of the above.


But ideas of what it means to be gay and "well," promulgated by seeing the same forms of media over and over that tell women they're never thin enough and men they're never buff enough, have had a historically and statistically unfortunate effect on LGBTQ people everywhere, regardless of how they identify.


"Much of our culture tells us that we won't get the things we want in life if we don't achieve these aesthetic conformities," said New York-based writer and editor Alex Blynn, who identifies as gay. "Nothing makes me feel less satisfied with my body or guiltier about my choices than the January-barrage of gay 'fitness influencers' sharing near-naked photos of themselves on Instagram. They show off their hairless chests and abs and quads while beaming ear to ear with impossibly white teeth and a large plastic container of protein powder in their hands. They're usually on beaches or on a balcony somewhere in LA."


For Blynn, who is six feet tall and weighs 245 pounds, because of these messages, and especially at the start of the deluge of New Year #fitspo, he is often left wondering what's wrong with his body. "I can run a couple steady miles, I occasionally lift weights, I practice yoga regularly, I even enjoy hiking," he told PAPER. "I adore pizza and marijuana. I also have a plethora of body hair, a gut, and thick thighs. And most of the time I do feel happy in my natural body, but the majority of mainstream gay culture certainly does not help me feel that way."


Although wellness is a spectrum of thought, habit, and experience, this concept narrows for cis gay men. It is most evident at the dawn of a New Year, when we are bombarded with posts on social media, on which gay men post before-and-after progress photos with vaguely spiritual captions; on which gay men talk and write breathlessly about their fitness journeys as if doing so is totally disconnected from the size of their bank accounts, where they get to travel (and how they fly when they do), what clothes they wear, who they surround themselves with, and what they look like.


As if a post on social media is just for them and not for an audience of occasional thousands; as if being seen as the hottest person in the room isn't inextricably linked to social currency, and all that affords; as if reinforcing a standard of beauty for those who look like you and believe the same things you do doesn't harm or exclude those who don't look like or believe the same things you do.


But what does that mean, really? And is any of it attainable? When is enough good enough?


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Andrew Power, a New York-based graphic designer and erstwhile drag queen who performs as Hellvetika, hit a raw nerve on the Internet's reactive current this month, when he posted this tweet, despite having also shared his #TopNine images of shirtless 2018 selfies beforehand. "I just want gay men to be honest with themselves," he wrote, calling out "fitness journeys" as being a disguised gateway for social and sexual access.


The ensuing thread prompted a polarizing discussion online, with naysayers accusing Power of being a bitter and hateful gay criticizing the whole of fitness culture, who was probably also just ugly and jealous. They also called him a hypocrite due to his own online shirtless selfies. Those who agreed with Power said that he was most likely confronting an inconvenient truth and calling out the privileges of those holding this "truth" sacred.


When PAPER spoke with non-binary Brooklyn-based performance artist Blvck Laé D., they echoed similar sentiments as Power's. "I think that we as gay and queer people tend to focus on fitness, not for ourselves, but for other people," they said. "Usually potential suitors."


London musician Neo 10Y (real name: Nik Thakkar) acknowledged the historical pressure tied to all this, citing a "Tom of Finland meets Venice Bitch/Beach aesthetic" that's become a gay goal, but feels that as a community, we've made strides forward. "I feel that queer progressives over the last few years have been leading the body diversity conversation, and helping us all to accept who we are on the outside," he said, though he's shared plenty of ToF-leaning thirst traps online over the years.
"It's hilarious," Power wrote on Twitter. "I've been called ugly & lazy, people assume I don't go to the gym myself and that I'm lashing out because I'm jealous and bitter, several people have made fun of me for being short lol."


Another user responded to Power's thread: "I go to the gym because I desperately need serotonin. Also, I definitely would be healthier if i lost weight. All the shit you talked about is at the back of my head as part of a melange of negativity saying that I'm not worthy. I try to work out in spite [sic] of all that." Another chimed in: "You called out 'gay men.' Which refers to all gay men on a 'fitness journey.'"
Power doubled down, writing: "People know that someone going to the gym a normal amount and trying to be healthy is not what I'm talking about right???? Like I'm referring to fitness obsessed guys who do steroids and are always talking about how they need to get bigger."


A video posted to his YouTube further clarifies his position and shows that Power knows he struck a chord of discomfort that also yielded discussion. But he said it is a necessary, and essential step for progress in helping gay men transform the way they see themselves.


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According to a 2016 study, of 131 gay and bisexual men deemed the "sexual minority," 32% of them reported having a negative self and body image. Objectification theory is used to explain this experience, which poses the idea that men in the sexual minority face an increased pressure to achieve and maintain an "ideal" body — lean and muscular — in order to obtain the attraction and validation from male sex partners, not unlike straight women.


However, the ongoing negative effects of self-objectification include a cyclical pattern of monitoring one's own body, but focusing more on how it looks than how it feels or functions. Naturally, the study found that this level of physical dissatisfaction, the constant comparison to an ideal, leads to depression, anxiety when having sex, and overall, the undertaking of risky sex decisions. (For example the study found a direct link between HIV transmission between men who have condomless sex with men and elevated levels of body dissatisfaction).


In this 2008 study, co-authors found that among gay men, lesbians, and heterosexual men and women, gay men reported the worst sex quality of life as a function of their body image, with 42% of gay men stating their body image negatively impacted the quality of their sex life.


The perceived lack of transparency around the relationship between idealized gay body image and sex is something else Power called out, writing on Twitter: "You wanna be one of the guys standing in a line on a beach in Mykonos just saaay that [...] I'm not saying you can't DO IT, just stop bullshitting us omg."


Rembrandt Duran, a buzzy New Yorker who's been referred to as the city's most popular top on a mission to normalize gay sex, has arguably leaned into embracing desirable physical traits inextricably linked to having even more gay sex. But it's something he's felt less pressure to conform to, as he's become more comfortable with himself.


"I definitely learned that I had to [conform to gay attractiveness standards] when I first came out, and I was more expressive via the clothing I wore," Duran said. "But as I got older, it bothered me less, and maybe because I became numb to it, but it truly doesn't bother me anymore to 'play the game', especially if it's just a quick hook-up. I've turned it into almost a role-playing experience, but I'd never do that when it came to dating. I'd never date anyone I had to masc it up for or be performative."


Despite stories like Duran's, research might suggest that the widely held assumption of all idealized, hot gay men having the best sex in the world with other idealized, hot gay men could be little more than a myth. Regardless, that assumption continues to be reinforced by pressure within the community that many gay men know intimately.


Power remembers when he first moved to New York at age 22 and struggled to fit in: "I was very blind to what the whole fitness culture entailed," he said. "I didn't know what was possible and who I could be friends with, so I kind of wrapped up in all the wrong stuff. And I definitely spent a few years just working way too hard in the gym trying to look a certain way, trying to gain. Basically, I felt like that's what I had to do. How do I make friends otherwise? Why would people even pay attention to me?"
But this experience is shared by many across the divide.


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Let it be known that gay men can engage in fitness for any reason they desire, and are not obligated to share their motives. Let it be known that this is true for everyone. If one's goal in going to the gym is to use the accepted standard of chiseled attractiveness to gain social and sexual capital, that's also an individual choice. But for choices that are so personal for gay men, why are they so aggressively reinforced within the community?


For New York artist and graphic designer HeyRooney, who identifies as queer, the reinforcement of a "gay adonis" standard means that the culture of wellness, then, fails to be an inclusive one. Take, for instance, what feels like an endless stream of Instagram accounts dedicated to showing only the bodies of toned gay men.


"We have to consider how or whether we invest energy in perpetuating that culture," Rooney said. "That doesn't mean everyone cancels their gym memberships, and it doesn't mean we shame fit bodies. It just means we spend less time worshipping them or feeling bad we don't look that way."


Tommy Hart works as an instructor for Equinox, an international, high-end chain of gyms, in which some clubs are considered gay meccas. In New York, an "all-access" membership runs well over $200 a month. For many members, it's simply a luxurious place to work out, accommodating of aspirational lifestyles. But in many ways, it also represents an undeniable intersection of social status and body politics. How can a toned, taut physique get you ahead, and what does it take to keep it up? Few feel that pressure more intimately than gay men. And for Hart, his literal job involves staying in "ideal" shape, and helping others achieve similar fitness goals.


"We're kidding ourselves if we say we're spending at least an hour a day lifting weights six times a week because 'it's good for your heart,'" Hart said. "Whether it be the movies that glamorize masculine men with massive shoulders, social media 'celebrities' with shredded abs and hundreds of thousands of followers, or even a lot of the porn that I watch, I feel like I'm not sexy or worth anything as a young gay man if I don't have a strong back and a big chest to show off when I post a photo or when I'm at the club. The real problem is, I feel like I need a great body so that I get attention from people who wouldn't otherwise look twice at me."


For Paris-based artist and musician Casey Spooner, who is one-half of electronic pop duo Fischerspooner, working toward having a "great" body became part of a performance, a personal politic, and ensuring his success. "I was under immense pressure to perform as my career was in free fall due to the banking collapse of 2008," Spooner said. "I started chanting, My body is a weapon, my body is a tool, my body is a language, my body is for you."


This chant became a mantra that he explored through his music over the next nine years. When his album  SIR was released last year, Spooner debuted an archetypal new image, complete with an aforementioned Tom of Finland physique, handlebar mustache, leather chaps, and all. This visual narrative was intentionally employed to take a close look at homosexuality and its relationship to the ideal cis male body, but this artist's experiment had its own real-life consequences.


"In my pursuit for visual perfection, I found myself struggling with self-esteem and dysmorphia," Spooner said. "I never felt that I could fully achieve the body I wanted so that I could draw connections between art history and gayness." Where life imitated art, Spooner, too, became lost in an image, though he said he did attain what he was after. "I've learned happiness and perfection are painfully allusive."


Like Spooner, Power also once believed he could achieve a fit body if only he tried hard enough. "I've spent all this time thinking that I could become a certain kind of image," he said. "I really thought that I could do it by being healthy and that it would be maybe three or four years in the gym really pushing myself that I could become this ideal. Once I realized that there's often so much dangerous risk and sacrifice at stake, I let a lot of that go."


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A legitimate danger of chronic body dissatisfaction among gay and queer people, and especially gay men, is overdoing it. In addition to more mental and social symptoms of body dysmorphia including depression, poor job performance leading to unemployment, sexual anxiety, and high-risk behavior, there are more severe physical symptoms resulting from dysmorphia: steroid abuse, muscular injury, and disordered eating habits including overly restrictive diets, such as over-reliance on dietary supplements are a few.


According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, at least 30% of people diagnosed with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) also have an eating disorder. BDD is also a form of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), and people with OCD may feel as though taking action on those thoughts is the only way to make the thoughts stop. It's easy, then, to see how an obsession with muscles, translating to hours in the gym, could be considered part of an OCD lifestyle.


Most of the people quoted for this story mentioned any of the above afflictions affecting how gay and queer people view themselves. Still others only wanted to speak off the record about their harrowing experiences with forms of body dysmorphia.


About three years ago, I was in a place of financial ruin that I'd never previously experienced. I had just returned to New York from Indiana after two years away "finding myself." I returned, nursing the wounds of a breakup that left me feeling unlovable and worthless. I was 26 going on 27; I struggled to find work for months, and had to settle for a string of minimum-wage service jobs to make ends meet, and one of them was working the front desk at a downtown Equinox. I had to pay my rent in installments as money slowly came in, both from those jobs and kind loans from friends. I survived for months on one $1 pizza slice per day, and I lost some weight and got compliments from men who had never noticed me before the weight loss.


The sole perk of my gig at Equinox was a free membership, and so, at the pinnacle of high social standing, class privilege, and attractiveness was me, a Black, non-binary, queer, femme-presenting person, spending up to two hours at a time on a Stairmaster. I lost even more weight, could fit a 27 waist for the first time since high school, and still more gorgeous gay men told me how good I looked and that I was skinty. I posted my first-ever shirtless selfies online and my sex life improved. I loved the attention. The broken heart was buried with idealized self-image. I really loved that, too.


After about a year of this, I got higher paid jobs, dropped that free luxury membership, and my monetary outlook improved. I started eating more regularly because my body craved it, and I noticed my body return to a more "normal" weight. Though I was fully self-supporting financially and started looking and generally feeling healthier, the compliments and sexual attention stopped. That's when I started throwing up. At first, once a day, then, after every meal.


I told a friend I felt myself spiraling, and I got psychiatric help. It has taken years of professional opinions and personal choices, but I have a fuller view of myself than ever before. And even though I still feel invisible in a Venice Beach lineup of shirtless gays — because, to so many of them, I am — I don't feel pressure to look a certain way. I do feel obligated to make sure I feel my best. Sometimes that's in tandem with a regular, manageable (for me) fitness routine. Mostly it's about my support system. And in the three years since my body-image rock bottom, I've become more grateful for the strength of it, and the strength within me.


And thankfully, for every story like mine, there are other antidotes to toxic sides of wellness culture. One online trend that emerged at the end of 2018 was #TopNine posts. Here is one from activist and writer Adam Eli, who told PAPER, "I thought it was true for so long that in order to have a voice or a platform in the queer community you have to look a certain way. But now I know it isn't."


Additional reporting by Brendan Wetmore


Photo via Getty

April 25, 2014

Gay Men Don’t Get Fat, Why?


                                                

   


 I wish this was not true but I myself have always had a fear my body was not good enough! When I was in a relationship I let me self go but within limits. Always not too far to catch up with a few rounds of running around the house or the property and quit the cheese cake and the Ice cream and volia, back in shape! Always with the fear that if he left me or I left him, I had to be in shape and prepare for a descent new catch. Of coarse this is simplistic and there is more at the bottom of the cheese cake but this is the peak of the mountain of WHY GAY MEN TEND NOT TO GET FAT.

We can talk about how superficial this most be but it’s really more realistic for a reason than anything else.. It does goes down deep on a lot of gay men psych’s. We never had until now any support system except our selves. Take any people that have gone through decades and decades of extinction and societal combination see how differently  cope with life afterwords.  

How about the gay men that wear pants with a Waists of 36-46 in their 40-50’s? That is a different crowd altogether. A lots of these folks have been in a straight marriage or gay relationship for many years. This were people that thought or at least were use to the idea that they will have a companion  most of their older life. No need to worry about inches on your waste and it usually done together, eating the same foods. What have been a cause of hurt and shock were those that for what ever reason after a committed relationship end up alone due to illness or death. They find them selves with a good opinion inside of themselves but no one can see that. Gays look at your crotch  first and then the waste line.

This is one of the side affects of how we have been living. Gay marriage is not a cure for all but it is for many things for people that want a change of lives and want to commit themselves. But the truth this is how it stands today, the day Im typing this into a computer.
Adam Gonzalez, Publisher



There is only one thing that keep gay men in shape: fear. Yes, every gay—at least those of the stereotypical abdominal-obsessed physique that populates Fire Island and Palm Springs—is brought about because gay men are afraid that they will be alone for the rest of their lives. If a gay man is not "serving body" while competing to find a trick or boyfriend in one of the more muscle-bound climates of gay culture, he will be sorely shut out. That is why gay men don't get fat, because if they don't have pecs, guns, and glutes, they're going home alone.
Gay men, unlike their straight counterparts, don't have the luxury to stay in "fighting shape" just long enough to find a partner before letting their bodies fall to shit afterwords. No, gay men have to get buff, get married, and stay buff. Why? Because of three-ways, obviously. I'm going to let you in on a little secret: There are countless committed gay couples out there who like to either play on the side or invite guest stars into their beds. And you're not going to get any A-list guest stars if you're giving D-list torso with a four-star gut. Yes, gay men go to the gym to stay competitive, but since the man-eating marathon doesn’t end after marriage, they just keep on competing and competing until death do they part.
The funny thing about the gay competition is that, because men (especially of the gay variety) are so visually stimulated, the only piece on the chess board that matters is having that traditional lean body. If straight men are lacking in some area, they usually make up for it by becoming rich or powerful, things that some women (see: Real Housewives of Orange County) find just as attractive as a washboard stomach dusted with natural body hair. But for gay men, only body will do. If a gay guy is a little short, his solution is to go to the gym. Got a shitty job? Go to the gym. Busted in the face? No biggie! Head to the gym and no one will look above your neck. Totally shy and doesn't socialize well? Gym, baby, gym! A good body is the only currency in this game.
What also makes this unique for gay men is one of the other strange quirks of homosexuality. Gay men are attracted to, essentially, themselves. No straight man wants to look like a woman (and certainly not the reverse) but gay men find what they are physically attracted to and often remake their bodies in the image of their ideal mate. Since society tells us to want muscle-bound athletes, that's what gays want, and that's what they make themselves look like in the pursuit of their ideal. If you want to bed muscles you have to have muscles, if you want to land a twink, you better be a twink (or at least some other type that is easily cast in any gay porn movie).
Still, gay men come in all shapes and sizes (embrace the rainbow, people) but still gay culture and iconography is largely dominated by the same juiced-out body type (and awful tribal tattoos) that you'd find on Jersey Shore. While there are plenty of average-physiqued homosexuals (who barely merit mentioning) there has been a reaction to all this body fascism over the past so many years. Yes, the "bear" movement, spearheaded by gay men who are hairier and chubbier than average, is forever gaining steam. Mostly it's because these guys gave up on the regular competition and decided to host a competition of their own. Theirs, instead of relying on protein shakes and bicep curls, relies on barbecue ribs and beer guts. These men only socialize (and sexualize) with other men that are as big and burly as they are. While they might be reversing the normal aesthetic ideals of gay culture and American culture at large, they still discriminate just as much based on physicality as their circuit party-loving brethren.
Doonan is trying to capitalize on those skinny gay men of legend, but what governs them and governs the bear is really the same thing: fear. Many gay men spend their adolescence as outcasts or misfits, and when they finally get to a place where they can join the gay culture at large, they react to their years of social solitude by conforming with the sort of fervor usually reserved for packs of teenage girls. That means looking the part, which, of course, means joining the gym and becoming a regular. It has nothing to do with being healthy or looking good, it has to do with that deep-seated fear that one day you will wake up and it will be just like high school all over again, with people hating you or picking on you for being different. Never again!
That middle-of-the-night terror is not an easy thing to teach, and it's not really the kind of advice that you can slap a sassy cover photo on and get millions of people to pay $22 for. Most gay men get it for free, and now, with this book, you too can be a pariah for years, then enter a conformist culture of casual sex and glistening bodies, followed by a lifetime of hookups with your significant other and the waxed dolphins you pick up on Grindr. That's the secret of how gay men don't get fat.
For me, well, I’d much rather be French.
The funny thing about the gay competition is that, because men (especially of the gay variety) are so visually stimulated, the only piece on the chess board that matters is having that traditional lean body. If straight men are lacking in some area, they usually make up for it by becoming rich or powerful, things that some women (see: Real Housewives of Orange County) find just as attractive as a washboard stomach dusted with natural body hair. But for gay men, only body will do. If a gay guy is a little short, his solution is to go to the gym. Got a shitty job? Go to the gym. Busted in the face? No biggie! Head to the gym and no one will look above your neck. Totally shy and doesn't socialize well? Gym, baby, gym! A good body is the only currency in this game. 
  What also makes this unique for gay men is one of the other strange quirks of homosexuality. Gay men are attracted to, essentially, themselves. No straight man wants to look like a woman (and certainly not the reverse) but gay men find what they are physically attracted to and often remake their bodies in the image of their ideal mate. Since society tells us to want muscle-bound athletes, that's what gays want, and that's what they make themselves look like in the pursuit of their ideal. If you want to bed muscles you have to have muscles, if you want to land a twink, you better be a twink (or at least some other type that is easily cast in any gay porn movie).
Still, gay men come in all shapes and sizes (embrace the rainbow, people) but still gay culture and iconography is largely dominated by the same juiced-out body type (and awful tribal tattoos) that you'd find on Jersey Shore. While there are plenty of average-physiqued homosexuals (who barely merit mentioning) there has been a reaction to all this body fascism over the past so many years. Yes, the "bear" movement, spearheaded by gay men who are hairier and chubbier than average, is forever gaining steam. Mostly it's because these guys gave up on the regular competition and decided to host a competition of their own. Theirs, instead of relying on protein shakes and bicep curls, relies on barbecue ribs and beer guts. These men only socialize (and sexualize) with other men that are as big and burly as they are. While they might be reversing the normal aesthetic ideals of gay culture and American culture at large, they still discriminate just as much based on physicality as their circuit party-loving brethren.
Doonan is trying to capitalize on those skinny gay men of legend, but what governs them and governs the bear is really the same thing: fear. Many gay men spend their adolescence as outcasts or misfits, and when they finally get to a place where they can join the gay culture at large, they react to their years of social solitude by conforming with the sort of fervor usually reserved for packs of teenage girls. That means looking the part, which, of course, means joining the gym and becoming a regular. It has nothing to do with being healthy or looking good, it has to do with that deep-seated fear that one day you will wake up and it will be just like high school all over again, with people hating you or picking on you for being different. Never again!
That middle-of-the-night terror is not an easy thing to teach, and it's not really the kind of advice that you can slap a sassy cover photo on and get millions of people to pay $22 for. Most gay men get it for free, and now, with this book, you too can be a pariah for years, then enter a conformist culture of casual sex and glistening bodies, followed by a lifetime of hookups with your significant other and the waxed dolphins you pick up on Grindr. That's the secret of how gay men don't get fat.
For me, well, I’d much rather be French.

August 24, 2013

Video of Fight that Breaks Out During Sermon at Riyadh Mosque






A Saudi cleric had been praying for the downfall of both Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Egypt's General Sisi. (File photo: AFP)  Al Arabiya
A fight broke out between Saudis and Egyptians attending prayers at a Riyadh mosque on Friday after a Saudi cleric was reported to have blasted Egyptian Defense Minister General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi during a sermon.
Pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat reported the incident at the al-Ferdous Mosque, while a 46-second videoof the fight went viral on YouTube showing a Saudi man taking off his traditional headdress and hitting another man, who was reported to be Egyptian.
According to al-Hayat, the Egyptian was initially angered when the Saudi cleric blasted General Sisi, the man who played a leading role in the overthrow of Egyptian Islamist President Mohammad Mursi in July.
The report said the Saudi cleric had been praying for the downfall of both Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and General Sisi, prompting uproar from the Egyptians who were in attendance.
An Arabic hashtag on Twitter “#Ferdous_Mosque_Fight" has attracted users on the microblogging site to voice their views on the incident, reported a blog post on Global Voices Online.
One Twitter user @iar_98, named Ibrahim al-Rasheed, wrote: “The people of Egypt are more knowledgeable of their affairs and it is of bad taste for this preacher to employ himself as a guardian over Egyptians.”
Others attacked the Saudi clergyman for talking politics.
“Next time, those praying should break the preacher's jaw so that he learns his lesson and stops including his political opinion in sermons,” a Twitter user posted.
Another user, commenting on the incident using the hashtag, said the violence was unacceptable.
“No to violence. Political differences should be peaceful, and resorting to violence and excusing it, by any side, is unacceptable.” @WaleedSulais posted.
“Cursing others is unacceptable and beating up whoever objects to that is vile. People have dignity,” he added.


October 24, 2012

Cooked Food Allowed The Brain to Grow During it’s Evolution

cooked brain
A new study suggests that cooked food was the reason why the human brain was allowed to grow so big. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

If human beings had not invented cooking as a way of increasing the number of calories they consumed, they could only have supported the 86bn neurons in their big brains by spending an impossible nine hours or more each day eating raw food, according to a scientific paper published on Monday.
The research, the authors suggest, explains why great apes such as gorillas, which can have bodies three times the size of humans, have considerably smaller brains. Though gorillas typically spend up to eight hours feeding, their diet influenced an evolutionary tradeoff between body and brain size; supporting both big bodies and big brains would be impossible on a raw food diet.
The brain is so energy-hungry that in humans it represents 20% of the resting metabolic rate, even though it only represents 2% of body mass, suggest Professor Suzana Herculano-Houzel and Karina Fonseca-Azevedo of the Institute of Biomedical Sciences at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
"Why are the largest primates not those endowed with the largest brains as well? Rather than evidence that humans are an exception among primates, we consider this disparity to be a clue that, in primateevolution, developing a very large body and a very large brain have been mutually excluding strategies, probably because of metabolic reasons."
Gorillas, they suggest, already live on the limit of viability, foraging and eating for 8.8 hours a day, and in extreme conditions increasing this to as much as 10 hours a day.
In contrast, humans' move to a cooked diet, possibly first adopted byHomo erectus, and their bigger brains yet smaller bodies, left spare energy which allowed further rapid growth in brain size and the chance to develop the big brain as an asset rather than a liability, through expanded cognitive capacity, flexibility and complexity.
"We propose that this change from liability to asset made possible the rapid increase in brain size that characterises the evolution of Homospecies, leading to ourselves. We may thus owe our vast cognitive abilities to the invention of cooking – which, to my knowledge, is by far the easiest and most obvious answer to the question, what can humans do that no other species does?" Herculano-Houzel commented on the paper, published in the journal PNAS, the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences of the USA.
The paper builds on the earlier research by Richard Wrangham, a British primatologist, now professor of biological anthropology at Harvard University, who suggested the invention of cooking was a crucial point in human evolution.
Wrangham said he hoped later work would look at tradeoffs within the body allowing energy from smaller organs to be diverted to the brain – for instance our relatively small guts. "Human guts are about 60% of the expected size for a primate. The small size of human guts (combined with our having the same basal metabolic rate as any other primate, relative to body mass) means that we have some spare energy, which contributes to explaining how we can afford a relatively large brain. And the reason we have been able to evolve small guts is that we have been able to rely on eating our food cooked.”

October 21, 2012

Eugen Sandow "The Perfect Man"

  Eugen Sandow in three different poses   
By Vanessa Barford and Lucy Townsend

Wearing nothing more than a fig leaf, gladiator sandals and a handlebar moustache, Eugen Sandow was once an image of masculine perfection. He was the celebrity poster boy who made fitness popular. But how impressive is his physique today? As a youth Eugen Sandow would visit museums and study the Grecian ideal depicted in the statues. These bodies became his formula for the perfect physique and he would adopt the poses as he flexed his muscles in picture postcards  But Sandow was a very modern man. As a body obsessive, he gave us the idealised image of ripped abs that have become the Holy Grail for many body conscious men.
Before him, no-one believed that a human could achieve the sculpted perfection of classical art.
But he not only made the look popular, he made it achievable.  
"He was an early modern celebrity, an example of personal brand like a Madonna or David Beckham," says David Waller, author of The Perfect Man, which tells the strongman's now largely forgotten story.
Eugen SandowHe eventually managed to acquire celebrity endorsements and a reputation that won admirers around the world.

  • Height 5ft 9in - same as Sylvester Stallone
  • Waist 29in
  • Chest 48in (62in when flexed)
  • Neck 18in
  • Biceps 19.5in
  • Forearms 16.25in
  • Thighs 27in - same as Chris Hoy
  • Calves 18in
  • "There are lots of parallels with today - he made it in a talent competition," says Waller. He was first successful in the UK, then in the US, and it was at a time when the media was expanding rapidly, so photography images could travel around the world."
    So who was Sandow, and would his perfect body still impress today?
    Born in Prussia in 1867, Waller says the man who became a symbol of physical perfection spent his early years travelling Europe as a wrestler, living like a poor circus tumbler. His big break came in the UK, in an elaborate competition to find the strongest man in the world. It was "the late Victorian equivalent of X Factor," says Waller.
    "He was an ordinary looking man, he had blond hair, and almost looked quite girlish. But when he took off his clothes, to the astonishment of the audience, he had this amazing torso.
    Daniel Craig and Tom HardyRugged: Daniel Craig and Tom Hardy are considered the male ideal today
    "He immediately got a contract on the musical scene in London and became an instant celebrity," he says.
    As a music-hall sensation, Sandow demonstrated his strength with feats like bending iron bars, snapping chains and supporting horses and soldiers on his back.
    He also found fame in the US, at times posing in a specially constructed wooden box which shone light on his individual muscles.
    Eugen Sandow
    Towards the end of the century, music halls were undergoing a transformation, from the bawdy drinking dens to something more respectable.
    "They were a bit like Stringfellows is today," says historian and television presenter Tessa Dunlop.
    "By the turn of the century you would get a mix of social classes there, and many ladies too. Beyond the Victorian etiquette, they were still human," she adds.
    Sandow quickly became a sex symbol.
    Ladies would pay a surcharge to attend private viewings backstage, where they were encouraged to fondle his muscles. But it is also believed he had a gay following. Rumours circulated that he was a bisexual philanderer, but shortly after his death his widow and daughters started a huge bonfire, burning anything that related to his personal life.
    "I think he got away with it as he made the body be seen as healthy and respectable," Waller adds. "He created a craze for physical culture."
    Sandow sought to capitalise on his success by patenting his own dumbbells, setting up personal fitness coaching from his Institute of Physical Culture, and publishing his own monthly fitness magazine with hints and tips on how to achieve his physique.
    His methods and marketing would have fit in well with modern society.
    "Men are conscious of how they look, there are trends in body shape which people follow, but it is also that people want to be healthy," says Mike Shallcross, deputy editor of Men's Health magazine.
    "For a long time, the ideal was David Beckham, very lean and toned, but over the last few years the cover stars that have done really well for us have been slightly bigger, but still functional and athletic.
    Shallcross describes Sandow's vital statistics as "pretty exceptional" - generally much larger than the average man, though with a slim 29in waist.
    He had quite a scientific system, which was based on about 18 or 19 exercises with dumbbells, and boasted famous followers such as James Joyce, William Butler Yeats and even the Royal family, Waller says.
    He was considered so perfect that the Natural History Museum took a plaster cast of his body as a representation of the ideal form of Caucasian manhood.
    It is not surprising that men wanted to emulate him.
    His biceps were an impressive 19.5in. His thighs were the size of Chris Hoy's. But what was perhaps most eagerly sought after, was his eight-pack, and his sizeable chest, which at 48in, could be flexed to 62in.
    It only takes a cursory glance at men's magazines to see that his eight-pack - or more moderate six-pack - is still desirable today.
    "Six-pack on a plate," "the TV Six Pack" the "10-minute six pack" are just three headlines on the Men's Health's website today.

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