If you have been convinced that today is the day that you turn your life around by cleaning up your diet and lifestyle, committed to the idea of building a better body and improving your personal fitness, then why not strive for some ideals. As I've alluded to in other posts, I'm a big fan of ideals because they give goals to shoot for while also providing me with useful feedback on how far I've traveled. And when it comes to body ideals, I tend to look to the Spartans and Greeks.
"But," you say, "it seems next to impossible to build an idealized body, requiring a legion of personal trainers, dietitians, and nannies to keep me from sitting on my butt and overeating."
While it does seem very difficult to build an athletic and beautiful body today, nothing could be farther from the truth. If you ignore most of the popular "health" advice currently in circulation and concentrate on good science, then building the body of your dreams is relatively easy. In fact, if you provide it with the right stimulus, your body naturally wants to build this idealized body.
Everyone Can be a SpartanWhen I first saw the movie 300, I thought it was impossible that actual Spartans looked so ripped and muscular. However, as I do more and more research into ancient diets and societies, as well as human physiology, I'm not so sure that the physiques of the actors and actresses in that movie were so far from reality.
|Hollywood's idea of Spartan men.|
A quick look at the Grecian male body ideals and Spartan society shows that it is entirely possible that a society obsessed with military superiority would have trained in such a way as to develop the bodies picture above. Although some of these actors are a bit too muscled (Butler, who was the main character), I don't find it hard to believe that some of the lighter actors (Fassbender; on the left of the picture above holding the sword) were closer to what most Spartans might have looked like.
Being a classical agrarian society, the Spartan diet and lifestyle would also have been more traditional. Their diet would have lacked the white flour, highly refined sugars, modern dwarf wheat, high-omega-6 oils, chemical additives, soy, trans fats, and pseudo-foods necessary to produce overweight and obese humans. Their lifestyle also lacked the extreme degree of sedentism that we have today (for instance, there was no such thing as a "desk job").
|This vase depicts young Spartan females.|
And men weren't the only ones enjoying a more idealized body: Female Sparatans were likely athletic in appearance (at least more so than women in other parts of the world at that time) as they enjoyed the most independence and freedom of any group of women in the Classical world. Unlike in Athens, it is reported that Spartan women were fed high quality food during childhood, engaged in daily exercise, and participated in sports, just like the men.
|Australian aboriginal males, ripped and muscular without the use of a gym, calorie counting, or fat-burning supplements.|
Contemporary hunter-gatherers demonstrate what I mean. Without the energy-dense calories, dietary poisons, and reduced physical activity of the Western way of life, most traditional non-industrial hunter-gatherers and agrarians don't normally have a problem becoming healthy, muscular, and/or maintaining a low body fat percentage. The Australian Aborigines pictured above are an awesome example of what the human body was designed to look like. Pictures of other naturally fit non-industrial populations are below.
|A Kitavan male having his waist measured to determine his BMI (taken in 1989).|
|A picture taken of Matabele males in 1939.|
|Here is a painting of Maori defending a village.|
The human body is a powerful survival machine designed to be fueled by real food and regular physical activity. In our Western world we have lost sight of this, believing that it is perfectly normal to be sick, weak, and overweight. This is just not so.
There are no Age LimitsI also don't believe that the young are the only ones capable of building idealized physiques. From what I've read, the human body is completely capable of building and maintaining a healthy, muscular, and lean body up to age 70 or 80. At the very least, you can build a body strong enough not to require a walker in your 90s. Only two things are required to build such a body:
That's it. No calorie restriction diets. No fat-burning exercises. No chronic cardio. Just a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Don't believe me? Check out these people who destroy to modern concept of an active senior.
|73-year-old Ernestine Shepard.|
|74-year-old Tsutomu Tosuka.|
|84-year-old Bob Delmonteque.|
ConclusionEveryone can and should try to build their Spartan body, regardless of age. The efforts involved in building such a body not only make you look more attractive, they also improve your overall health. All you have to do is adhere to two basic rules: Eat a nutrient-dense, toxin-free diet and never stop being physically active. That's it.
But what exactly does an ideal male and female body look like? In my next post, I'll discuss how a person's physique relates to their overall health and how an idealized body can help you completely avoid heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, and a whole host of nasty degenerative diseases that start to attack people in Western populations in their 40s and 50s.