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Why A Pill To Replace Exercise Is A Terrible Idea

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Only you can make yourself feel better about your body.

What if there were weight loss pills for women you could take instead of exercising? I know, it's the dream right? Well, though it might sound like something out of science fiction, it's actually in the process of becoming a reality — but not for the reasons you might think.

There are two major chemical compounds, known simply as 516 and compound 14, that are currently being tested to help a human being who is unable to exercise gain all of the benefits that exercise offers without them having to do anything other than swallow a pill.


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And for people looking for advice on how to lose weight, it seems like a dream come true. Both compounds work in similar ways. They seek out a genetic "backdoor," as described by Doctor Ronald Evans of the Salk Institute, where 516 is currently being researched.

The idea is to help people with illnesses — folks with degenerating muscle disorders, the paralyzed and bed-bound — to feel the effects of exercise that they're unable to do for themselves. In many cases, the compounds could help rebuild tissue and actually cause a person to live longer than they might have otherwise with a condition like Duchenne muscular dystrophy, kidney failure, or other potential fatal medical conditions. 

In theory it's a brilliant idea, right? I mean, even in practice, the notion that doctors have potentially found a way to help a burn fat rather than muscle through pill form is pretty undeniably exceptional.


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But it's when you start to think about the reality of how this pill would actually be used that it becomes a complicated issue.

Already, 516 has been banned under anti-doping policies in major sports organizations. Because if it can work wonders for a person who is bed-bound, think about what it could do for an athlete who's already being paid the big bucks to be as jacked as physically possible. 

Then there are folks like me, the obese, the overweight, or even just the people who feel like they need to lose five pounds but would rather not have to go to the gym and eat less in order to get the job done. A pill like this would be abused, and that can't be good for anyone involved, not for the people thinking they have found a quick fix (until, you know, they stop taking it), and not for the people who could actually benefit from what these compounds can do for them. 

Call me old-fashioned (wrote the queer, poly woman), but I think if you're looking for a magic pill to replace exercise then you need to seriously address your own relationship with your body. I can say this because I am fat.

There will never be a magic pill that changes your relationship with your self-image. Even if this pill proves to be completely without side effects (and no pill is), what happens when you lose all of that weight you were so sure was holding you back, only to discover that you're still you, just a few pounds lighter? 

I'm fully in support of this potential treatment for people who actually need it. But I'm terrified of living in a world where more and more often the answer comes in a capsule, where we expect chemical compounds to do the heavy lifting when it comes to the rigorous challenges of being a human being. 


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Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cat, Batman. She hosts the love and dating advice show, Becca After Dark, on YourTango's Facebook Page every Tuesday and Thursday at 10:15 pm Eastern. For more of her work, check out her Tumblr.

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