An Elephant in the Living Room

Eating and rejection. Yup, there is a causal connection. The other day I got rejected in a professional matter. A deal I was hoping to close got shaky and slid sideways. My roommate, bless his heart, asked me if I wanted (i.e. needed) chocolate, or cookies, or pound cake. . . ’cause he had noticed I eat poorly when I feel poorly. Since this month’s blog is devoted to diet, nutrition, and weight loss the American way why not use real-time examples from my own life? Interestingly enough I wasn’t craving junk food so much as feeling unable to eat, feeling kind of shocked. That rejection took me so by surprise I could hardly speak, let alone eat.

I suppose one way to lose lots of weight that takes neither diet nor exercise is engage clinical depression.

The different between sucks and sucks more, ouch to ouch ouch ouch? Might be a couple thousand calories. Allow me to elaborate. Personal rejection is the rejection of the central core processor. You know, like when my spouse didn’t like my need for affection or my hormonal imbalances or my laugh which resembles a wild hyena? Personal rejection feels like a dismissal of self. It’s inhibiting dammit! Pass me the Haagen Das, whereas professional rejection has the added terror of seriously tweaking my finances. Maybe sitting around and eating bon bons isn’t a luxury a poor person can afford, but we tend to do it without thinking. Notice how horses eat when they are stressed. Dogs do it, cats do it, even kangaroos do it – the eating reflex probably pre-dates our mammalian family line.

The nervous system is designed to sense stress.

That’s why we vomit when seriously taxed. Our nervous system is calmed by eating, physiologically an effective strategy. When given the choice between giving up stress or giving up food, I’d opt for divesting stress. One way to train the body to process stress is to introduce stress under semi-controlled circumstances. Watch a scary movie, go on vacation to an unknown territory, or take up trail running. The yogis implore one to “Wake Up!” because the formula for high quality of life is complex. Simply deciding stress is bad, or eating is bad whole-sale, leads to ineffective measures such as numbing out and spiritual by-passing. A movement afoot to drop judgement can lead to sheer callousness. Dangerous psychological disconnect occurs when people ascribe to whatever. 

Being intellectually lazy isn’t spiritual. It’s lame. It’s lame, irresponsible and ultimately fattening.

It’s not terrible to eat, but it’s devastating to eat poorly.  An alarming number of athletes assume that because they burn the calories they can eat whatever. Their bodies get surprisingly comfortable with “whatever.” Mindless eating. Bad habits lay down deeply rutted tracks. What I mean is, if you eat poorly under the optimal conditions, when you are free to eat whatever you chose, you won’t do better than that when caught off guard by death, disease and dismemberment. 

Imagine your body as a dry riverbed through which cascades your experiences. The body learns from experiences. While sadness seeps through the chest cavity slowly – terror shreds the white from the bones. Grief is blue, anxiety is an unpigmented shock. Professional deals falling apart tend to combine both fear and sadness into disappointment. Doubt redoubles if additional attempts increase bone rattling; disappointment piled hip deep does not a calm presence make. Dysfunctional office politics might be aborting weight loss endeavors. Don’t underestimate the wisdom of the body. When unpleasant emotions disturb, those ripples of memory remain incorporated in the nervous system.  You might start to feel queasy or start dreading Mondays.  

In response to stress, the body chatters. She’s got news for you.

Your body registers all that happens dispassionately. You mysteriously intuit how to walk before conscious memory and you (generally) don’t forget how. You can do it even in your sleep. Certain kinds of brain injury rob us hideously of remembering our past but allow us to remember how to floss our teeth, how to lift a spoon to our mouth and eat. Is it a different brain that lives in the nervous system? I won’t pretend to be a research scientist. Sufficient to the purposes of this blog are to point out that both systems is You and the systems inter-act. If your work is fun, creative and stimulating you’re not in a hurry to leave. If your work is monotonous, illogical or meaningless you wanna get out of it. Right? 

Re-boot your system.

Many people I know who suffer from clinical depression also suffer from what I would call habitual crappy world view. They have a strong tendency to interpret events to their disadvantage and by golly no amount of nothing from Kumari will convince them they are wrong. It’s the Eeyore effect. Poor pessimistic Eeyore “knows” deals fall apart because it’s a noir world. A difficult friend of mine would complain if women failed to notice him, but would blanche at the prospect of making small talk. I made a habit of being complimentary but was continually rebuffed by his self-critism. Quite literally one couldn’t get a good word in. There was no opening for improvement.

Don’t damn yourself. Your nervous system wasn’t designed for aborts.

If you want to lose weight and you want to keep it off you have to allow for a continuous flow of energy to pass through your riverbeds. Eroding or re-routing erroneous beliefs works wonders. This is what Norman Vincent Peale called the Power of Positive Thinking. It’s the “science” behind prayer or mantra. Focusing attention concentrates whether there is a God or not. Depak Chopra describes it as stepping into the “flow.” Things start to work when you work them. Why? It’s not a secret. It’s not magical thinking. It’s honest analysis. Question your beliefs and habits. Yes even (especially) the oldest and traditional ones. Just because something was written in ancient times in “holy” book doesn’t mean it isn’t incredibly stupid.

In the “Canticle for Leibowitz” a shopping list becomes sanctified.

At times weight clings due to moral cowardice. I know that sounds harsh, but Facebook has created a nation of bystanders. Perhaps religions, cultures, regimes, or the spouse next-door is quashing, is exhibiting cruelty. People troll the internet via anonymity. Do you know that hard-wrought silence is more damning than the perpetration itself? The evil doers believe in their evil. By those who witness exploitation of the vulnerable without speaking out? To them the answer comes in a frustration. The thwarted energy turns inward, although still alive with indignation. No amount of blah blah blah will out it. Not ten hours of bible study, not a chakra tattoo, not even re-posting a meme attributed to the Mahatma Ghandi.

If you want to be brave you have to do brave.

This is not to indite us fatties as cowards, God forbid! We may certainly be works in progress. But to remind us to move in the right direction. Don’t stall. Don’t get sidetracked. Don’t “fake it until you make it.” Make it! Have insight. If losing weight were as simple as a restricted diet and increased exercise you would have kept it off the last go-round. Right? So without any sense of shame or guilt I suggest honest assessment of other avenues to this goal. Treat root cause not symptom. If anxiety, depression, or frustration is the elephant in the living room tackle that first. Seriously.

Y’all play nice!

Sat Nam

When two opposite points of view are expressed with equal intensity, the truth does not necessarily lie exactly halfway between them. It is possible for one side to be simply wrong. -Richard Dawkins, biologist and author (b. 26 Mar 1941)