6 min read

Be Vain, Get Fit

CC darwin Bell

This is a post about honesty. Being honest with ourselves.

Though most people will not admit it, vanity affects our decisions on a multitude of levels.

It’s like that black sheep brother you have, that nobody ever wants to talk about.

Many studies have shown that people naturally, subliminally even have a natural tendency to ‘like’ people that they term to be better looking.

Studies have even gone so far as to suggest that a certain look is desirable among men and women.

We each perceive a particular quality among both sexes as being particularly less or more attractive.

Attractive men and women — and taller for that matter — have been shown in numerous studies to make more money, are deemed more trustworthy/honest by their peers and have been shown to be more persuasive.

In a political forum, the better looking candidate actually has a natural advantage over the older or least favourable looking candidate.

This may be why many people view ‘being attractive’ as some kind of dark magic publicly. Yet privately most people wish they were a little lighter, their (insert body part here) was a little different or that they were a little more symmetrical.

Though much is debatable, there are definitely certain things we have learned are important in being considered beautiful or better looking:

Symmetry is important to the concept of beauty and that’s exactly why a prime decision at bodybuilding shows is based on that of symmetry.

We also tend to be more attracted to individuals who have complementary features, those complementary features are that which will give our offspring even better overall features.

Hip-to-waist ratios in women seem to be important while shoulder-to-waist ratios in men seem to be important.

Men tend to rate women as being of ‘higher attractiveness’ when they have long legs, large breasts, are shorter than them, have good posture and are younger than them.

Women on the other hand tend to rate men as a being of ‘higher attractiveness’ when they are taller, have a V-shaped torso, have larger genitalia, are mildly hairy and stand with tall erect posture.

*Please note, these are not ‘rules’ and different cultures seem to experience slightly different ‘optimal traits.’

Most of these observations are assumed to be evolutionarily associated with virility, fertility or general healthiness of a potential mate and the likelihood of good offspring. This may be why many evolutionary biologists believe that our beauty as a species continues to expand as we naturally take on mates that will continue our genetic betterment into new generations.

Things Change

I’d be the first to argue that our concept of vanity has changed significantly over the years. This shows you how fallible the concept is. What looks good to you, is probably different to what looks good to me.

There was a time in our history where large hips meant good child bearing, a thick torso meant you were well fed and white skin was the sign of someone who didn’t have to labour in the sun all day.

Everything we know of today is subject to change in the coming generations.

Today, tanned beach bodies, tiny waist lines, run way models, and other marvels of genetic evolution cloud our thinking. Media images are EVERYWHERE pushing the image of a general societal preference. Not necessarily personal preference.

These genetic marvels make up the bulk of what we see in advertisements, fitness ads and unfortunately for many the genetically gifted is all we pay attention to at the gym. Not to mention the process that most models go through before a shoot — it consists of a really restricted diet, diuretics, salt tablets, and fairly extreme dehydration.

When used in marketing for manipulation — and we all know what advertisers are doing, let’s be honest — it’s not hard to see why we have such a negative attitude towards being vain.

The Vanity Stigma

For all the advantages looks seem to confer, there is still a broad stigmatism about being a vain person, or caring how you look.

Be honest, I’ve done it, you’ve done it. We’ve all judged someone for doing something stupid in the name of vanity. Or judged a person negatively for being ‘vain.’

It’s the base of the hipster movement!

No one wants to be labelled as a vain person. No one wants to have an open conversation about it.

And there is something to be said for valuing other people for who they are and not how they look. 100%.

Internally though, there is nothing wrong with a little vanity, so long as it doesn’t run your life. An obsession with vanity goes by another term: Narcissism.

Narcissists definitely aren’t fun or desirable. Nor in truth, do narcissists even know they are narcissists in many cases.

Everyone’s a Little Bit Vain

To some degree. In spite of all this, being vain is not necessarily the sole problem with our western society.

In truth, vanity needs to be understood more fully. Something needs to be done about this love-hate relationship.

I think everyone needs to understand their own look and think hard about what they can control and what they can’t control.

Stop worrying about other people. Stop judging them. Stop comparing yourself to others. “Good vanity,” if there is such a thing, is about liking how you look and it’s OK to want to look better.

What they can control may include their weight, their body composition, what they eat, or how they exercise, within reason.

Not how their body structure prevents them from looking like a super model or a bodybuilder. Not comparing themselves to these unrealistic expectations.

What they can’t control, might be what every ailments they may have to live with (thyroid regulation, celiac’s, digestion issues, etc…), injuries, symmetry issues and genetic set-backs like height, eye colour, or the size of your nose or ears.

Even these issues are entirely self-dependent though. That’s where they should stay.

The self-esteem issues of young adolescents aside, vanity can be embraced as a tool by most adults. When used appropriately.

It can give a deeper meaning to a healthy fitness program, from which individuals can strive to find their own personal best. It’s being honest about what’s important, not how much you weigh, but how well you think you look.

How well you look has to be defined by you and not by magazines or pop-culture or other bullshit. Look to people who share similar structure to you for examples, rather than the tall dark and handsome (to which I’ll only ever be tall…).

Make Vanity Work For You: Not Against You

Vanity can be manipulated in an attempt to find what works best for you.

Personal vanity can easily be used as your game day or end resolve instead of that marathon, bodybuilding show or Crossfit qualifier.

Sign up for a longer 6 or 12 month training program today and use Vanity as your outcome goal.

Take pictures when you start, and document the way, finish with your own personal photo shoot.

The Big Key: The comparison here isn’t between you and somebody else. The focus is on you last year and you a year from now. That’s where vanity can be used.

Book a photoshoot when you start and make the commitment to look your best for it.

You’ll have those photos for a lifetime and the process will be well worth the effort.

Give yourself permission to use Vanity as a reason to get into the gym this year on a regular basis. Just use yourself as the comparison. It’s OK to want to look a little better and we all probably can.

Don’t let it consume you but it’s not a bad reason to want to be more fit or eat better.

It may not be the only reason, but at least there is a strong emotional reason ‘why‘ you are going through with all the training and nutrition changes, if not just for your health.

*If aesthetics is the goal than you need a measure of aesthetics, what better way to document changes in your appearance than with photographs? Do it in the smallest amount of clothing you can tolerate covering vital areas, like a bathing suit or underwear.

This is perhaps the best example of a qualitative measure of change in regards to weight-loss. Honestly if looking better is the objective, then photos work WAY better than the scale. Food for thought…