Our cultural values, lifestyle, and the obesity epidemic...
I have noticed two types of individuals who have weight problems. Those who are capable of learning moderation, and those who are not. (For sake of argument, let's assume both people are not triggering metabolic sensitivities. Also, when you read this post, it would help to realize when I use collective pronouns I am referring to our culture and the obese collective. I full well understand there are exceptions and for some people it is as simple as carbs. I am not trying to say what I say applies to you individually.)
There are those people who, even if it isn't natural to them, learn to feel satisfied emotionally when eating "fun" or "unsafe" food. They eat half an apple, feel satisfied, and never progress to self destructive behaviors.
Then there are those people who are triggered into self destruction by attempting to eat "fun food". At first they might find an evening treat of half an apple indulgent. Then, they find they find that half boring and not as psychologically fulfilling as it used to be, so they need a whole apple. Soon they discover apples are just not doing the trick anymore. Then they move to store bought low carb apple pie. By the time they move to the processed food, it's all over. They eat the entire pie, and, whatever they can get their hands on. All this over eating and eating increasingly carby food is also messing up blood sugar. Soon they are back in the cycle.
What is the difference between these people? Why can one person feel satisfied, and another just loses control? Even more perplexing, why can some people "recover" and learn to eat normally, while this dream of control continues to elude others?
I believe it is how we perceive food which is the main difference. The first person is thinking "like an artist" - patient, calm, meditative, and enjoying the smallness and simplicity of their meal. Because they are more focused and attentive to details, normal and small portions saturates their brains with stimulus. This stimulus registers as pleasure, and, they satisfy emotional needs for food. They are more likely to find food associate activities a pleasure - the cooking, planning, and serving process are stress free and indulgent.
This theory raises two new questions.
1) How can all of us learn to think that way about food?
2) Why is it elusive to some, easily learned by others, and completely natural to a third segment of the population?
Differences in perception can explain the results of our behavior. It cannot explain why our perceptions are different to begin with, or, how to change them.
In a thread about this in the emotional eating forum, cartersg1 raises an excellent point I did not think of. The reason our perceptions are different is because our lifestyle, attitudes, and lifestyle demands are different. It's our stressful, faced paced lives which are making us stressed out compulsive eaters. We don't sleep enough, we don't spend enough time with our loved ones, and we don't take the time to make home made meals. We are always working or going to school or doing something. Constant stress does a lot of nasty things to our body. For one, it increases insulin resistance and makes us hungrier and store fat. It also does nasty things to your emotions and mind. It makes us want to eat fatty, salty, and/or sweet foods to relax and numb ourselves even when not really hungry. It makes us be in such a need state all the time that when we eat, we eat *so very much*. It's an emotional and physiological cycle.
There's more though...
I think it is stress that is causing us to feel so in need of relief, but it is our culture that is causing the obesity epidemic.
We don't know how to really enjoy ourselves. We don't see the value in anything around us, it is all for granted, all so trite. The west is obsessed with the future and productivity. This causes us to associate "pleasure" with novelty, new supercharged sensations, and getting the most for the least. If it isn't faster, bigger, louder, sweeter, or saltier than its predecessor, then it isn't what we're craving.
Our culture is so concerned with the future that the intrinsic value of the present escapes us. The thing is, valuing the present is the only way to ever feel truly satisfied and relieve stress. Other ways of relieving stress often make it worse in the long run. For example:
Our culture says "working a ridiculous amount and sleeping 4 hours a night so you can afford a huge car makes you happy". It does not say "a simple life with peace to reflect upon your world is actually better than working yourself to a heart attack death while stuck in traffic in your unsightly large car".
It is our cultural value system that says "the banquet 3 course carside to go meal at applebees will relieve your stress without sucking up precious time". It does not say "making the time to indulge in the simplicity of making a simple, beautiful, healthy small meal at home will make you feel even better".
We are so physiologically and psychologically stressed OUT, and, in a cycle, the ways we relieve our stress just make it worse in the long run. The psychological causes the physical, and back again, in a cycle.
We have rendered ourselves defective in that we are incapable of healthy meditation. It is so unnatural for us to sit, focus, observe and find this practice *enjoyable stress relief*. We say we don't have the time, but what we really mean to say is we don't desire to LEARN how to change the way we live.
Before we can learn to eat normally we need to resolve the stressful nature of our lives. We need to change the way we live and look at the world. We need to redefine our values, and what it means to enjoy ourselves and feel satisfied. We need to sleep, we need to be in the sunshine and take walks, we need to purge ourselves of all this extra that doesn't really make us happy and just chains us to so much work. We need to free ourselves from pressure and stress and live like we were meant to live. With that, the body will heal, and when the body heals, so does the mind.
Last edited by ItsTheWooo : Sun, Feb-26-06 at 14:28.