It’s no good, I’m going to have to give up and buy some new jeans. I just can’t get them done up round the waist anymore! But whereas most people, with this issue, are becoming resigned to middle aged spread, I’m excited about the wonderful pelvic expansion and increased abdominal volume. I’ve been so scrawny for so long that I’m still wearing 30 inch waist jeans, but that’s all changing now and I’m going to have to furnish myself with a new wardrobe.
Over Christmas my father remarked that I was putting on weight and that, in his view, this wasn’t good and I ought to be careful not to get fat. I tried to explain that it wasn’t a case of ‘getting fat’ and that it was actually an exciting development, but he struggles a little to grasp the concepts behind the structural engineering of the body. Before all the years of pursuing Advanced Bio-Mechanical Rehabilitation and the continuous structural improvements we have produced, I lived with what now seems unimaginable depletion in the quality of my body. I had so little core volume that you could feel my spine through the front of my abdomen and feel the top of my shoulder blade by poking your fingers in above my collar bone. My chest had little more depth to it than the width of my arm and my back was simply missing, leaving a flat spine devoid of its curvaceous form. Over the last thirteen years we have made slow but steady progress in rebuilding the structure of my body, layer upon layer, and although walking still seems like a dream, I don’t resemble the person I was when I began this process and now live with an extremely strong, large, solid body by comparison. Walking is the icing on the cake, but despite this being some way off still, we are continuing to improve my condition after more than seventeen years of living with a spinal injury and are proving that paraplegia is not a permanent condition and that there is hope of recovery.
When I was standing I was 5 foot 8 inches and my father was a good 6 foot and so he was always a bigger man than I. My father is now 80 years old and by his own admission is shrinking. At the same time I am gaining more stature than ever and for the first time I sat at the dinner table and felt like I towered above him. I also felt that there was a small element of truth in his notion of ‘getting fat’. I seemed to be at a stage where it took effort to hold myself well with the increase of bulk. That stage has now passed and the increase in bulk has consolidated to be an increase in inner quality and rather than taking effort to hold myself it now allows for a greater ability to simply be, without effort.
This stage that my body has gone through in the last couple of months is only one of many phases of development that has been increasing the bulk of my body over the last thirteen years of therapy work and although I have never been concerned, for one minute, about ‘getting fat’, it has led me to ponder the notion of ‘getting fat’ and ‘putting on weight’ and our perceptions of this. There is definitely a correlation between food on the one hand and the size, weight and shape of our bodies on the other, but this is in no way as simple as the equation the scientists would lead us to believe of, ‘calories in equals calories burnt plus fat stored’. It is true that if you don’t eat you’ll get thin and if you eat excessively you’ll get fat, but then there are plenty of thin people who eat like a horse and plenty of fat people who eat very little in comparison. I have a husky and in autumn she gets fat for winter and in the spring she slims down for summer and yet she eats the same amount of food all year round. Part of this is extra fur, but it is mainly the fleshy layers of skin that are thick and blubbery in the winter. I also keep geese and they look much the same all year round and yet they eat more in the summer than they do in the winter. Geese are grazers and not only is there much more grass in summer, but they desire more supplementary food in summer. Of course a good diet is important, but trying to understand the bulk of our bodies in terms of food alone is unhelpful and misleading. It is far better to gain an understanding from a physiological viewpoint.
I am certainly no expert in physiology, but through my therapy work I have grasped a great deal of the basic concepts, particularly with regard to the bio-mechanics of the body. However, the understanding I have arrived at that I wish to discuss here, comes more from my own perceptions than from intellectual knowledge. I have noticed that a typical scenario in a stage of increasing bodily bulk, is that it first begins with a fold of skin. That fold is indicative of missing internal volume and is the first stage in attainment to that volume. The fold will then develop a fleshy aspect in a manner that many would consider putting on fat. That fleshiness will then be taken into the body as the true volume develops, leaving the skin taught. So what begins as outer resources in the form of fleshy layers, becomes inner resources in the form of volume. In my case this is a process that is being, not just encouraged, but engineered through successive mechanical inputs delivered into the body and in the case of the able bodied could be induced through conscious physical exercise.
We then have to consider the quality of these resources and in particular the quality of the inner resources. Our inner resources, or intrinsic capacity, is not just volume, but a volume that has a density and pressure. Once that inner volume has been attained, in me, it tends to be initially of low density, but as the process continues and consolidation occurs, the density will increase while at the same time the new found volume will decrease slightly. The more we build into the system the denser and more solid I become.
When looking at the able bodied who find they can no longer fit into their jeans and consider themselves to be undergoing middle age spread, we must consider the various scenarios in terms of both inner and outer resources. Is it an increase in inner volume due to a lapse in quality of that inner resource or is it an increase in the fleshy layers of outer resources? It would be possible for someone very fit with a high intrinsic capacity (ie. good quality inner volume) to build up fleshy outer resources, but they would have to over eat in order to do so and someone fit and strong is likely to be too well balanced to do so. Far more common is that people allow the quality of their bodies to lapse. We all tend to be more active when we are younger and as we settle into a comfortable lifestyle we often allow the exercise levels to drop. The body is not then inclined to stay wound up tight. The density of our inner volume declines and the pressure increases the volume. People consider this ‘getting fat’, but it is not getting fat at all, it is a lapse in quality. Once the inner quality has declined and if the exercise levels stay low, then there may well be a build up of outer resources that don’t get taken up into the body. When we look at those considered to be obese, we see that there is almost always substantial structural deficiency. The lifestyle of such people tends to be so poor, with a lack of exercise, lack of fresh air, limited social interaction and an excessive diet of low quality food, that it is impossible for the structural deficiency to be built up naturally. For those who have been this way from a young age it is unlikely that their bodies ever went through the proper processes of development in the first place. These people are in a situation where it is extremely difficult for them to function normally and so inevitably the excessive diet of low quality food results in the piling on of poor quality outer resources that can never be taken up into the body and so the improvements in inner resources, that are so badly needed, are not achieved.
Finally I would like to consider the part that fashion plays in this. It is the fashion these days to be slim and women especially can take this to extreme. Female models are often scarily lacking in inner resources and yet this lack of quality is considered by many to be beautiful leading others to aspire to a state of being that is fundamentally weak. A strange fashion, but the way of our world nonetheless. This has not always been the case and when we look at the art of Roman times we see that women are normally portrayed with a much fuller figure. Personally I am pleased to be growing in volume and stature and aspire to more and more growth. It is not the volume of our bodies and the fleshiness of them that we should be concerned about, but the dense quality of that volume and flesh that we should seek.