Thursday, February 14, 2008


What the hell does anyone else matter to me? Like I should care. I only care about myself. I linger at every mirror I see. But I should have an audience, so I suppose people matter at least a little.

Take that fella I know, with all the extra weight. An extra person-worth of weight. Why is that? I caught part of a show on cable, TLC, called Big Medicine. Seems to be a regular series. About very very fat people and their struggle. No sarcasm. It is a struggle. Obviously. Why? What is it about them that force-feeds themselves into obesity? Guilt, shame, self-loathing -- just abstract words and pop psychology. Everyone knows it, because everyone has issues. Most issues don’t show up so obviously. But only a little self-examination makes every insight into this problem a cliché. People get fat because they eat more than they burn. They get very fat because of something emotional.

I don’t know what to do about emotions. I do know what to do about reality. Change the behavior. Change the conditions. Then things will be different.

So this fella is a bright guy. I have no real insights for him. He’s given his circumstances much more thought than I have, even if only fleetingly, mostly. But health is one of my things, and part of health is diet. Probably the biggest part. So let’s look at the matter.

The big excuse to eat is hunger. It’s not really hunger, but it’s called that. A briefly-empty stomach. Real hunger of course is a craving not for calories but for nutrients. Like real thirst isn’t about coffee. But it’s all so emotional, and that means that hunger is job one. So we’ll pretend that identifying emotional hunger with real hunger is a profound revelation that I just received from God. My goodness, I’m wise. And the way God talks to me, I must also be very holy indeed.

So off the top of my head I see three issues. Calories, satiation, and the glycemic index. No matter what the theory is about obesity, a basic perusal of the laws of thermodynamics will convince us that every weight problem comes down to calories. The conservation of mass/energy. It will either be used, or stored. What we know is that it will not simply disappear. If you take in more calories than you use, the remainder will be stored as fat -- ignoring of course destructive instances such as diabetes or tumors. If you take in fewer calories than you use, you’ll burn fat. Are you following me? I know this is really advanced stuff.

Upshot: how do we deal with reducing the intake of excessive calories? Well, from a behavioral -- that is, from an effective -- perspective, we reduce hunger by ignoring it, which is a bootstraps solution, or by feeding it with intelligent alternatives to the idiot choices that have previously ruined our lives. So, filling up with foods that are actually good for us. Bulky, nutrient-dense and calorie-poor foods. You know, like, uh, vegetables. Broccoli and cauliflower and the like. Get it? Stupid?

These things are sort of bland for your oh-so-discerning palate, so use spices. Not sauces, genius -- spices, and garnishes, and flavor enhancers like garlic and ginger and pepper and herbs and suchlike. Lord, do I have to do all your thinking? And yes, go ahead and splash a bit of olive oil onto it. Just remember that you're on a budget. The body is an economy, and you are not a Communist: there are rules and limits that conform to reality, rather than to some insane theory under which you have previously been deluding yourself.

Part of this filling-up process is about satiation. Some foods are more satisfying than others. Raw fruits score very high on the satiation scale. Boiled potatoes. Lean meats. So there may be a place for these, in some meals. Same with oils. Do the math. Do a google search. Do something.

And then there’s the glycemic index. It’s just a way of calculating how fast food gets digested and enters the bloodstream, where it will turn into fat, if it enters at a fast rate, or into energy if at a slow rate. Like an IV drip. Low GI is good. High GI, up to 100, is bad. Buy yourself a little book, and treat anything over 33, or 40, or 50, or whatever your compromise point is, as a special treat. Ask yourself, and answer honestly, if you must have potato chips to be happy, and how often. If you must have them, have them. On a budget. In moderation. Or ice cream or bagels or rice or meat or whatever it is that’s made you so fat. Because it was not nutritious food that did the damage.

How about making some livable rules for yourself? How about planning out your meals -- not whatever BS you’ve already been doing, that hasn’t worked. This time, serious. I don’t know what your heroin is. You do. Identify it, and replace it with something that’s not poisonous to you. Did you know a pound of cherries has about 200 calories? Did you know that cherries have a glycemic value of 22 -- that is VERY GOOD!!! Did you know a pound of strawberries has fewer than 120 calories? Did you know that strawberries have a glycemic value of 32 -- which is also Very Good, but not as good as cherries, which are 22, which is ten less than strawberries, but still is very good. Good things are good.

See how that works? So what that means, junior, is that you could eat, say, big bowls of these delightfully tasty and wholesome foods, which have very few calories and a superb effect on energy, every few hours all day long, and still eat only half of your usual daily calorie intake. Well, when I say “your” usual intake, I mean a normal person.

Look. Just get started. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about getting serious. It’s about having a system, a philosophy, a paradigm that is generally correct, or at least yields some positive-seeming results, even if it’s wrong. Like Mormonism.

Cuz you’re going to die early and in pain if you don’t get a handle on your out-of-control behaviors. Does no one love you, that this would be okay? Having doctors remove a whole lot of extra skin is less bad than most of the alternatives. Maybe you could donate it to a burn victim. But exercise isn’t doing the job. And you just sit around most of the time anyway. Exercising your ass? Try exercising your muscles. Mostly your heart, and hardly at all your jaw.

I, of course, can eat anything I want.


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