Mainstream society is becoming increasingly damaging to personal health. It is more important than ever to balance exposure and one’s own health.
Turning Luxuries Into Staples
Modern society turns an ever-greater number of luxuries into staples. We’ve all reaped the benefits in terms of technology, from planes to cell phones. Things like daily bathing, clean clothes, and drinking water on tap were once things available only to kings, yet now so mundane that we don’t think twice about them.
What we consume is subject to the same effects. We’re awash in a sea of cheap calories and intoxicants. Fat, sugar, and salt are so appealing precisely because they were rare to find in the ancestral environment. Fruit used to be less sweet. A slice of pizza is a combination of fat, carbohydrate, and salt that is perfectly molded to excite pleasure centers within the brain. Food scientists design processed garbage precisely, to activate bodily responses that typically were designed for only the rarest treasure of a meal. Today, these artificially addictive foods are not only readily available, but often cheaper than other options.
Society Changes To Match
As we shift luxuries into the staple column, our society changes itself to encourage consumption. Here in New York, pizza might as well be at the bottom of the food pyramid. Every couple blocks, there’s a place selling dollar slices. The lines go out into the street every Friday and Saturday night, and often on weekdays.
Availability of plenty creates customs of gluttony. Think of “light” beer, essentially designed so you’re able to drink more without feeling full. With it came the rise of beer pong at fraternities, binge drinking at sports bars, and keg culture. Think of Netflix and the like, putting never-ending video a click away. With it comes widespread binge watching; hours upon hours spent vegetating in front of a screen.
There is no refuge from ill health in a society where it has become the norm. The average American is overweight, and in many states the average is obesity. Binge drinking is routine in colleges and universities, and spills over into post-graduate life. TV bingeing means you’re expected to have kept up with dozens of shows to participate in a pop culture conversation.
It is increasingly difficult to regularly participate in society and guard one’s own health. For example, I am a low-carb eater. Even in New York, a fitter city than most (at least in Manhattan), it is a struggle to find low-carb options on many menus. It becomes almost impossible as you venture into Real America (no sarcasm, Manhattan’s a fantasyland). It is essentially necessary to prepare one’s own food to have a healthy diet. This, in one of the crown jewels of the richest country in world history! Likewise for, say, workplace socialization; which takes place in bars even on weeknights, and even in places where you need to drive to get around.
Isolation For Health
To be even moderately healthy requires some level of abstention from mainstream society. It’s simply not possible to live like most people do and maintain health, as most people are unhealthy. This means that you must withdraw with some frequency for the sake of your own health. And that’s just to be averagely healthy. Optimal health requires a whole new level of removal from the norm.
This puts the person who minds their health in a bind. We are social animals, and there are costs to mental health in constantly withdrawing, or fighting temptation and social pressure.
Success requires comfort with solitude; increasingly, the simple act of maintaining one’s health does too. When society enforces a norm of comfortable ill health, to live a life of purpose requires ever more discomfort.