It is no secret that the United States has a problem with obesity. I work at a grocery store (despite my Computer Science degrees) and see the problem on a daily basis. It is just the effects of poor choices and impulsive behavior.
The human body was designed for scarcity. It has excellent mechanisms for storing energy in times of famine. The problem is that famine never comes. I see so many people load their shopping carts with once-luxury items: chips, snack cakes, soda, and other junk. Rarely is there a fresh vegetable seen that isn’t floating in some type of syrup. Yes, the human body is designed to crave high calorie and sugars, but that doesn’t mean we have to obey. We have higher brain functions, after all.
Obesity in America is just one of the most visible symptoms of a damaging consumer culture. The culture pushes impulsive consumption to keep the economic gears turning. Think of all the advertising constantly around you. Heck, people even PAY money to wear ads now. Nike logo anyone? One of the most common things I hear at work is “I came in for only this or that item. I bought all this instead… *self-conscious laugh.*” That is exactly what advertisers want, and what contributes to excessive food consumption. If it is present, we will eat it. If it is not present we can’t very well eat it, right? Purchasing more items than you intended, or really need, is just impulsive behavior caused by too much exposure to advertising and too little self-control.
Self control is anathema to consumerist culture.
I was stocking an impulse wall with Little Debbie snack cakes the other day. They were going on sale for less than a dollar a box. The area took up almost a 128 cubic ft area. every inch brimming with processed sugars, carbon, plastics, paper, and advertising muscle. I went to work just two days later and the area was half empty. Mind you, this is a small town of about 4,000 people. It struck me just how staggering our consumption is. It leaves me speechless to consider the amount of consumption Walmart represents.
How much do we really need? I mean, seriously, how much do we really need to eat, possess, and use? It is in the food industry’s best interest to have us eat more. It generates more profit. The worst part of the situation is the suffering impulsive behavior creates. Obesity has obvious suffering such as health problems, decreased life expectancy, decreased ability to actively enjoy life, and self-image problems. Consumption damages the environment and leads to an adult generation of spoiled 2-year-olds with the gimmies. Neither food or possessions allow us to find contentment and peace. Self control is the first step.
Without self-control we remain a slave to the desires of the body and advertisers. We run the hamster wheel, chasing the carrot we never will reach. God gave us higher brain functions for a reason. Unless we stop running, we cannot see how good our lives really are. You will never lose weight through dieting. Your weight is just a symptom of deeper suffering: impulsive thinking. Until you shift your mind and develop self-control, or rather self-love, you will fail on each and every diet.
Contentment is an acceptance of oneself and situation. It is a decision. Contentment also allows us to have a groundwork for self-improvement. It is not static. A content person accepts themselves for who they are, and actively seeks to unlock their full potential. The popular view of contentment is just a satisfaction with how things are and a desire not to change. Failing to grow one’s strengths is not true contentment. Contentment means we have to accept our potential and seek to develop it without dwelling upon what is “wrong.” Contentment is a strange tension between acceptance and, for lack of a better word, dissatisfaction. Acceptance means we forgive our failures, but still love ourselves enough to improve. It has no component of “giving up.” Giving up is a denial of your potential.
Awareness is essential to self-control and contentment. We have to be aware of our thinking in order to change it. We have to know exactly why we purchase or eat too much and use reasoning to counter the thoughts. “I eat this because I am depressed. I am depressed because I don’t socialize. I don’t socialize because I don’t think very much of myself. Why don’t I think much of myself? I am all I really have after all. I can’t be anyone else. I am a good person and over all a-okay.”
We easily misinterpret reality. Reality is just a collection of our thoughts and actions. If we think little of ourselves, we will treat ourselves that way. We are the sum of our thoughts. We are not static beings because we are our thoughts. Change your thinking and behavior follows.
For more on how to change your thinking, read “How to see Yourself as You Really Are” by the Dalai Lama
Also read my other posts:
- Seeing Reality for What it is
- Painful Moment, Learning Moment
- Mindful Basics in Everyday Life
- World’s End Garden
- Sandwich Zen