3. Obey Thyself!
Our central mission is to bring together the lofty philosophical speculations of Nietzsche with the everyday aspirations of real people wanting to make positive changes to their lives.
This is to marry the sublime with the ordinary. With hard work, I believe life can be made far less ‘ordinary' in the process – can perhaps even be made exceptional!
Over the past few months I have been doing lots of studying. Not just Nietzsche's books, but books about Nietzsche - the man and interpretations of his philosophy. But reading and thinking can only take you so far. You must do as well.
Even though it feels like I am still just scratching the surface, I am keen to start applying some of the theories that have emerged. They say you should start before you are ready to begin. With that in mind, I have been improving my diet these past few days.
“What's diet got to do with anything?” you may ask. Well, Nietzsche fervently advocates 'Self Overcoming'. In Thus Spoke Zarathustra he writes that:
'He that cannot obey himself, shall be commanded.'
If you’ve ever tried to change your diet before, you will know that this is no piffling feat.
Nietzsche also praises what he calls 'Great Health'. Admittedly, these ideas are more complex than they might at first appear, but it's important to get things onto a practical footing. This experiment is not just about reading books after all.
On a less intellectual level, I want to lose some weight because over the summer I have taken up indoor rock climbing - a fairly Nietzschian pastime in itself (Nietzsche had an obsession with mountains). Climbing is a sport where only the leanest can approach anything like elite levels of performance, so it's celery and peanut butter for lunch this week.
Like many (including Nietzsche), I am also interested in improving my health more generally – plenty of exercise, less rich food, less alcohol, more fresh fruit and vegetables. We all know there is a significant struggle involved when pursuing a healthier lifestyle, even though it means fairly prosaic lifestyle changes. Basically, it’s much easier said than done.
But one must start somewhere, and if a guy can't cut down on chips and beer, what chance will he have when it comes to the radical transformations that a truly Nietzschian lifestyle will demand?
To support these changes, I bought some digital scales last week so I can track my progress in losing weight and getting fitter for climbing. After some research I chose the Nokia Body Cardio. This device combines very accurate weight loss with measurement of heart rate, body fat, muscle and water. It captures Body Mass Index (BMI) too and conveniently connects with your smartphone via Wi-Fi so you can monitor trends over time across all these indicators.
Weighing in today, my baseline stats are as follows:
Weight 87kg - at the top end of what’s acceptable based on my age and height.
22% body fat - again top end.
74% muscle - bottom end of acceptable. Disappointing.
51% water - again at the bottom end. Surprising, because I think I drink a lot of water.
BMI of 24.5 - in the green, but still at the top end of what’s right for someone like me.
My (ambitious) chosen goals are going to be:
Weight of 80kg – in the high-middle of the range of what’s acceptable based on my age and height.
15% body fat - low-middle of the range.
80% muscle - middle of the range.
60% water - high-middle of the range.
BMI of 22 - middle of the range for someone like me. I have read that great male climbers average a BMI of about 21 actually.
Basically, I'm at the wrong end of all these calculations but within normal, healthy bounds. My goal is to drop my weight by 7kg, increase my muscle composition by 6%, drop my fat by 7%, drop my BMI by 2 points and drink a hell of a lot more water.
Now you will notice that the targets are nice round numbers and that tells you that they are pretty arbitrary targets. Indeed they are, but it is the Self-Overcoming that really interests me here - the ability to assert one's willpower over oneself and force a change. In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche lauds:
'The man who has power over himself ... who enjoys practising severity and harshness upon himself.'
On these terms then, the goals are really neither here nor there. It’s the forcing of these changes that is crucial, the nature of the changes is of lesser importance to me. There are, however, advantages to be gained from the attainment of these particular goals: health, fitness, better climbing performance (I hope) and, best of all, more confidence as a consequence of realising a personal triumph.
Success begets success!
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