“Nerd” Health

Whether you play a lot of video games, do a lot of reading, or simply spend a lot of time on the internet, leading a sedentary lifestyle is not an uncommon trait shared among us nerds.  There is a reason the stereotypical nerd is depicted as unhealthy and antisocial, though this stereotype is certainly not a truth for all of us.  In my experience with my own sedentary habits and numerous friends of similar activities, I have personally seen a recurrence of a health related struggle.

It’s really no surprise why, and with that being said, it is also something we should stop being ashamed of.  I know many, many people who took to gaming, comics, collecting, and internet frequenting because of their health in the first place.  I am one of them.  I know even more who have battled with the side effects of leading the gamer/nerd lifestyle.  I can even qualify as one of them, too.

Before I continue, I will acknowledge that while I am no expert on fitness and I am no master of dietary nutrition.  I am also not perfect when it comes to sticking to the diet I try to uphold for my personal lifestyle.  I do, however, know firsthand what it is like to be severely unhealthy–to the point of near death–and then turn to turn that around.  Here are my personal observations as well as some things I have learned regarding health in this aspect.  Again, because this tends to be a sensitive subject for some, I would also like to point out that these habits are not true for EVERYONE who participates in “nerdy” activities!

  • Hardcore gamers tend to guzzle the caffeinated, sugary beverages to stay up later and longer so that they can play the game longer.
  • Hardcore gamers also tend to go for “easy fix” foods for the same reason.
  • We have a tendency of putting off until tomorrow what we can do today, such as exercise or preparing better meals for ourselves.  The next level, chapter, or kill becomes more important than this.
  • We spend a lot of time in a sitting position to achieve our lengthy activities, be it gaming, internet surfing, online reading, forum posting… blogging.

Obviously, having an over abundance of this behavior will result in negative side effects.  It’s not uncommon for the metabolism to slow down after this sort of abuse, and the lack of exercise as everyone knows leads to weight gain.  Other negative symptoms are fatigue, weakness, depression, trouble sleeping, and even social issues.  I am sure I am telling you a lot of what you already know, so let’s explore some things that may not be so clear to someone trying to improve their health after leading this lifestyle for so long.

  • Sometimes we are not just over-feeding ourselves, but we are poisoning ourselves with foods enriched in additives that are harmful to our bodies.  In fact, in my case I was never “eating too much” because my serving sizes were moderate for my body type, but the food I was eating was full of HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup), composed of genetically altered meat, and extremely processed.  Therefore, despite the food being advertised as healthy because vitamins were injected into it at some point, I was getting a lot of false nutrients and paying the price for it.  Stomach cramps, indigestion, acne despite having a good skincare regiment, poor oral health despite frequent brushing and upkeep, and heart complications are all things I suffered from.  Combine this with a nasty hereditary blood disorder and you can imagine how miserable I was!
  • The debate about HFCS and genetically altered meats can be a heated one.  Many believe there is no link between bad health and these additives to our food.  It is understandable why they believe this; the food industry has not released many lengthy studies that threaten their inexpensive ways of producing, processing, and shipping food.  Instead, they will reassure you that it is completely normal and fine to consume these things even on a daily basis.  This leads to the idea that the only way to control your health is by eating smaller portion sizes and exercising.  While that idea makes sense for obvious reasons, some may wonder why, even though they exercise so much and eat less and less, they still struggle with their health.
  • Highly altered and processed meat is used in most fast food products.  If we can acknowledge that the fact a McDonald’s burger or chicken nugget fails to biodegrade like an organic meal will, even after months, then why do we deny the idea that processed food can be bad for us?
  • The above point could be argued by saying “Don’t eat fast food then, idiot!”  While fast food is another obviously bad food for us, it is certainly not the only time processed foods are marketed to Americans.  Corn syrup, HFCS, synethic hormones, and otherwise processed additives are commonly added to our normal groceries.  No, not just your sodas are full of HFCS, even your bread and sauces can be made with it.  So, regardless of whether or not HFCS is any better or worse for you than organic sugars, its overwhelming presence in many of our every day foods still results in an overabundance of fructose and glucose in our diets.
  • It should say something that other countries, including European ones, have outlawed the use of genetically altered meat.

The argument about processed ingredients in food may not be one everyone agrees with me on.  In fact, I know it isn’t; recently I was mocked and insulted for simply stating I do not like to eat processed snacks because of the health issues and link to widespread illness such as Diabetes Type 2.  Disregarding the hilarity of the fact this took place in an AOL Roleplay chat room while discussing about the Hostess situation in the news (I know, right?  I probably do not have to elaborate further!), it became very apparent how much people disagree on the matter of processed foods… vehemently, even, as if I had shown up with a pitchfork and torch in hand, ready to deprive role-players of their twinkies.  Of course, these people had also attempted to educate me on how “skinny people have health issues too!” as if that notion was some sort of revelation to me.

While I respect the reasons people disagree about the subject, I can testify that since I’ve cut out processed foods from my daily diet I’ve never been healthier.  I exercise, but the truth is I do not always get to as much as I’d like because of my illness.  The difference I have seen is that I no longer battle with fluctuating weight (I used to go from “skeletal” to “normal” monthly), acne (And to think, for the longest time a link between acne and synthetically altered foods was denied, possibly for the purpose of selling more medications), and indigestion (Gee, I wonder why, when my body can now digest at least 90% of what I feed it?).  I also feel less fatigued than ever, which still says something considering Porphyria requires I sleep longer than what is considered normal.  My strength is at an all time high, even when I cannot get to the gym to exercise, now that my muscles are retrieving proper nutrient.  In general, I am no longer at risk for death due to poor health.

I believe that if I can relate all of this success to eating better quality and organic food as well as being active, then I can accredit a good portion of that success to the diet.  There were several years in the past I was also very physically active while spending much of my time nerding out at the computer, but still struggled with my health; the fact that I was consuming mostly synthetically processed foods seems to be the biggest reason for that poor physical state.  Also, the fact that there are documented links to negative side effects from consuming processed, inorganic foods to numerous diseases people suffer from should indicate an unhealthy trend.  Diabetes, Porphyria, Autism, and cancer are just some conditions where patients are urged to stay away from processed foods as part of their treatment.  It’s not like having an allergy to peanut butter or shellfish; if that’s the case, a person is simply allergic to something, but if all sorts of processed foods can negatively impact so many different conditions, I beg to wonder why we argue the safety of consuming these products as part of a daily diet.

So how does this relate to the typical, run of the mill gamer/nerd/internet dweller?

  • Those “quick fix” foods we tend to go for, even if they are not categorized as sugary or fatty meals, are loaded with processed foods and sodium.
  • The drinks are just as bad.
  • The lack of exercise compounds this issue.  Even when you start exercising, if you’re still eating these foods, you may still have trouble getting your health in check and keeping it that way.
  • These trends among sedentary gamers, internet dwellers, and other less “sporty” people, has lead to the all too well known nerd loser stereotype:  Overweight and/or unhealthy, lacking physical durability, and social awkwardness.  Social awkwardness may be an issue of its own, but to me it makes perfect sense why someone struggling any of the aforementioned health issues may feel insecure and thus have issues relating with others on a healthy social scale.  My own antisocial stages in the past were caused by not only an overabundance of time spent gaming or on the internet, but also severely complicated by my internal struggles — physical and mental.  It is also very possible that foods enriched with synthetic hormones can lead to hormonal disorders in people.

 

Ultimately it is up to the individual as to how they treat their ailments, or whether or not they will at all.  While researching, observing, and experiencing most of what I have expressed in this article, I realized that no matter how hard the struggle to maintain health may be, it should not be used as an excuse to refuse options for positive progress when one wants to make the change.  It should not be shameful, however, to acknowledge the problem and to break the cycle of convenience for the sake of better health, nor should people be looked down upon for having these issues in the first place.

Links and Resources:
http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/6-popular-foods-with-high-fructose-corn-syrup.html
http://www.diabeteshealth.com/read/2008/08/20/4274/the-dangers-of-high-fructose-corn-syrup/
http://www.livestrong.com/article/483677-genetically-engineered-growth-hormones-in-meat/
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/type-2-diabetes/DS00585/DSECTION=risk-factors
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1319562/McDonalds-Happy-Meal-bought-Sally-Davies-shows-sign-mould-6-months.html
http://www.porphyriafoundation.com/about-porphyria/diet-and-nutrition/diet-information-for-all-porphyrias

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3 Responses to “Nerd” Health

  1. Mr. Bene says:

    Very important post here. Thanks for sharing. I think health and our messy habits is something important to talk about.

  2. walkaboutdoc says:

    Very curious as to which porphyria you have. Whichever, it will exaggerate the effects of weight fluctuations and sleep deprivation as well as the hormones in the beef. Bear in mind that, as an Iowa landowner I profit from HFCS, I profit from HFCS but I will stay say it’s a bad idea for a lot of reasons; for those with prophyria it can be deadly.

    Aside from the hormones in the meat, I don’t see reason to avoid meat. OK, OK, I eat mostly deer and pheasant. And I NEVER eat fast food.

    High glycemic index foods are a very bad idea, also, and HFCS fall in that category.

    • Chelsea says:

      My Porphyria has been categorized as Acute Intermittent Porphyria (AIP) and that type runs in my family, but I also have very serious sunlight sensitivity symptoms that are relevant to other types so I’m not sure what that implies about the type of Porphyria that I have. I still eat plenty of meat but I avoid hormone treated meat. I’ve noticed a much better quality of life since staying away from corn syrup and hormone treated foods, and of course fast food. Porphyria attacks and consistent symptoms still occur but they’re less frequent and/or debilitating.

      Thank you for your response to this issue.

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