Thursday, January 5, 2012

4 Health Myths at LARP

Well, it's a new year. Millions of Americans have made a resolution to lose weight, and I'm sure lots of LARPers are among them, including myself. While I'm probably the last person to give advice on weight loss and healthy eating (general disclaimer: talk to your doctor and do what's right for you), I have identified some wishful thinking. Heck, I've had these thoughts myself. LARPing is a good thing since it IS activity, just don't let misconceptions stand in the way of the benefits! Here are some myths I've heard from multiple people:

1.) I don't exercise, I LARP. Yes, it's true, getting outside and moving around is good! And that alone might be a step up. But if you want to lose weight, or even maintain a healthy weight, moving around 1-2 days a month isn't going to cut it. Usually you need to exercise 3-5 days a week to lose weight.

When you break down how much "exercise" type activity you do at a LARP, it's not as much as many think, at least for most PCs. We go on an average of maybe 7 mods? And how many minutes of exercise are we doing on those mods? I'm talking actual activity - is it 10 minutes per mod? I'd guess it's less, but even being generous, just doing LARP is probably not going to get anyone in shape.

2.) I need those cheeseburgers because I'm LARPing. You need to make sure your body has enough fuel - what that fuel is is far too complicated for me to even try to talk about. But having fuel doesn't mean over-eating or eating bad foods. You should still eat right, and in correct amounts, for your body and the activity level.

I was always surprised about not coming back from events minus a few pounds - in fact usually it was the other way. But then I started counting up what myself actually ate - and I see plenty of other people doing worse. Food tends to be grilled cheese, cheeseburgers, and other un-lean meals - and people eat them in multiples for every meal. Plus snacks. It's usually way more than we need - and part of that goes back to #1 where we feel that we do more exercise than we are. Figure out how much you should eat for your body and how much exercise you do and try to stick to it.

3.) I can't eat healthy at LARP. Some people use the usually greasy foods of the standard LARP tavern to indulge. If you want to stick to a diet, it is possible to reduce the damage, or even avoid it. One of the easiest ways to fix that is to bring your own food. Pick up some oatmeal and fruit for breakfast, chicken breast for other meals, fresh veggies or nuts for snacks (or whatever is good for you). A lot of LARP cooks will grill up what you bring, sometimes for a small fee.

Even if you don't want to shell out for your own food, you can adjust the tavern food to suit your diet. Cut down on the snacks around meals, and the size of your portions. Avoid unhealthy additions where you can. Just paying attention to what you're eating can help keep you in fighting shape.

4.) Being hardcore means ignoring my physical ailments. Everyone wants to be the hero. Some people seem to think that being a hero at LARP means ignoring common sense, for whatever reason. One of the biggest things is hydration. Water is best, in hot or cold weather. And if you need caffeine, tea or coffee is better than pop. Not only does it cut the sugar, but the buzz is better (no sugar crash). And take care of yourself. That means taking time out for any medication, taking care of injuries, and resting when you need it. Sure, heroes get bloody, and chicks dig scars - but no one actually wants you to bleed on them. And nothing ruins immersion (and a game) more than bringing an ambulance in.

Good luck in whatever your goals are this year! Do you have any suggestions, or corrections, I missed?


  1. I usually bring a bag of apples, a bunch of bananas, lunchmeat sammiches, and lots of water. Eat a banana for breakfast, sammich for lunch, an apple inbetween, then eat the tavern food for dinner, and drink lots and lots of water. Only water. Most times I end up losing weight by the end of the event unless I'm under the weather. Hope it helps for anyone planning. Would be great to see some people get healthy.

  2. It may be different in New England but when the season is on I'm busting my butt on the weekends. Friday through Sunday 3ish weekends a month I'm PC & NPCing and come game off I'm SORE. You can't convince me that's not exercise.

    I do agree though that it is easy to eat right at a larp. If you think you can't just ask around, ask me, and you can find something easy, satisfying, and healthy (and maybe thematic) to fuel you through your adventures.

  3. First, some applause:
    - Yes, better foods in taverns. I think a discussion of what warrants "good fuel" is appropriate.
    - Yes, bring your own food. Awesome, awesome idea.
    - Yes, hydration. We had a couple hydration scares at the last LARP event I attended.

    Ok, on to what is problematic about this. Firstly, Karin, please understand that this is a *huge over-reaction* to this post. I'm more commenting on the general atmosphere of the LARP community. This is a good and well-read blog. This is a relevant post. I'm spreading awareness. So this is not directed at you personally, nor this post.

    I'm staying anonymous, because this is a personal and highly problematic issue for me. People who know me will probably immediately recognize this comment. (I'd like to stay anonymous, friends.)

    * * *

    Hi. I'm eating-disordered. Severely so. This is a rant with the best of intentions.

    From the eating-disordered community who LARP.
    We're here too, in surprisingly bigger numbers than you'd expect. We have really big problems with food and exercise. We LARP because we want to get away from those problems, just for a little bit. (And burn calories, but who's counting?)

    Trust me. We really, really appreciate, and understand that a lot of our fellow LARPers have problems with weight, body image, and healthy eating. We do too. Pathologically, so.

    We understand that for a lot of people with real health issues, LARPs are challenging. Boy, do we get this. But, please, remember that there are those of us in LARPs who have to deal with a weight and health obsessed culture, pretty traumatically, day-to-day. We KNOW that everyone else does too, but we've been to the hospital and/or rehab. We've over-eaten, under-eaten, and almost died. We look in a mirror, and vivisect what we don't like about ourselves. When there are cookies at the tavern, and everyone's digging in? We politely decline, and feel incredibly awkward. When people talk about how "fat they've gotten"? We politely negate, and feel incredibly awkward.

  4. Part Two.

    Seriously though-- these are our problems, not yours. But... we want you to be aware that we exist.

    For a lot of us, LARP is a refreshing escape from day-to-day health/weight/body obsessed culture. Because, you know what? My fantasy characters don't own scales, and couldn't count a calorie if their lives depended on it. My warrior-princess doesn't measure her waistline, and carbs fuel her. My fae? Amused to have a physical body; doesn't get it one way or the other. My vampy fatale? Drinks blood for giggles (doesn't worry about empty calories).

    Yeah, this is fantasy. This is a game. Take care of yourself, and one another. Lead your healthiest lifestyle IG and OoG (I will too). However, please recognize how your behaviors, IG and OoG, affect your fellow players.

    I'm talking about weight loss in the LARP community. And body image in-general.

    Please, please, PLEASE be sensitive. From an eating-disordered (and admittedly biased) perspective, the LARPing community seems *obsessed* with weight loss. It is hard to go into a monster camp, read a LARP community blog, and/or NPC/PC a game without hearing about someone's weight loss goals, failures and successes. Not to mention their body drama. It is on everyone's brain.

    And you know what, to a certain extant, I understand that people are trying to get healthy. And I have friends who ARE unhealthfully overweight. And LARPing is a dietary problem for them.

    But the self-loathing, the body-bashing, and the this-is-my-weight-loss-goal-chitter-chatter-that-flings itself in and out of LARP life?

    It's triggering us hardcore. And we, myself very much included, are too embarrassed to say anything about it. Plus, we love you people. We want to support you. We want you to love yourselves, as much as WE love you. Getting healthy? Awesome. Being obsessed? No.

    So, please. Be sensitive.
    What do I want for the New Year's? Not a community obsessed with weight-loss and body-drama. Healthy lifestyles is GREAT, but I'd really like to see a LARP community, since it is only once-per-month for many people, focus more on how to be creative, expressive, and fun. For everybody.

    Again, Karin, this is overblown and completely unfair to the scope of this post. I know you were posting about New Years, health, and incorporating it into a LARPing lifestyle. I appreciate that. And I totally appreciate health-for-health's sake. I just think people in the LARP community need to think about what we really mean by inclusion, healthfulness, and the purpose of LARP.

    I will shut up now. Thanks for giving me the space to respond, however disproportionately, and to spread awareness about a group in this great community.

  5. @Cwig - You're right, it is most certainly not the same for everyone, and I'm glad it's not the case for you & yours, and I'm sure many others as well!! :) Just to make it clear, I'm not saying LARP is NOT exercise - I'm saying that some people think they're doing more than they are, and that some people use it as an excuse not to exercise the rest of the time. Again, I'm saying SOME people - I've just heard this one often enough since I started LARPing, and I know I used to have it in the back of my head as well, that I figured by shining some light on it might get some people (who are interested) to re-think.

    Hopefully there's enough modifiers in there :)

    @Anonymous - Thank you for your comments! I appreciate your understanding, and my goal was certainly NOT to try to turn a LARP into a gym :) I think you bring up a great perspective, and I hope everyone who reads it takes something away that will hopefully make us think about what we say a little differently.

  6. Cool, thanks Karin.

  7. Good topic, Karin! I especially agree on the hardcore thing. It drives me nuts when people think it's cool to not take care of themselves, or to push themselves to the point of getting injured.

    A couple more bits of related advice:

    -Stretch before and after you fight (yes, even if you're a caster)! Many injuries can be avoided if you keep your body limber. It also really cuts down on the Monday soreness (so does drinking a lot of water and taking in enough nutrients).

    -Even if the game you play provides food, it's not a bad idea to bring something you can eat quickly in a pinch. It's so easy to get wrapped up in cool encounters and lose track of time. If you're the sort to suddenly realize you haven't eaten in 8 hours, it helps to have a granola bar or something in your pouch.

    -Sleep as much as you need to. This varies from person to person, but utterly exhausted people are not safe to fight, nor are they terribly fun to roleplay with, generally speaking. Most OOG arguments I've seen erupt at larps stemmed from at least one person being really tired and irritable.

    I'd also love to see a discussion of what is good fuel for larping. I know a lot of folks who end up doing food service for larps have difficulty finding food that will please most people and give them the nutrition that they need.

    And ditto on the larp as escape from toxic body culture. Everyone should be able focus on their own health goals while they larp, but I like the idea of larps as a 'no judgment zone' with respect to our bodies. As someone who loves running and moving, but always felt too awkward to engage in team sports, I love that larp fighting is something athletic that I can do with people where I don't get shamed.