Our society is a fabrication of thousands of years of evolution.
Slowly, over time, certain aspects of the world have grown and morphed into almost unrecognizable entities.
As we have continued to grow and prosper as a civilized nation, there have been trade-offs made.
Maybe we don’t need to toil in the field for 16 hours per day in order to provide food and nourishment for our family. But this doesn’t mean that we aren’t paying the price for it.
The Industrial Revolution paved the way to the Information Age. When Henry Ford built his assembly line, the idea of efficiency became the focal point of our desires.
We wanted to be “efficient” in everything we did.
Efficiency isn’t a bad thing, but did the “improvements of efficiency” create a world whose ease is at the detriment of our well being?
Recently, our online clients had a rather robust discussion about “food” and what it means to different people. Food isn’t a “surface subject”. There are layers that must be unraveled before you begin to gain a full understanding and metacognitive view on why we eat the things we eat.
This isn’t just in the typical “I’m dieting and my friends invited me out for drinks – what should I do?” kind of a scenario.
Although reigning in your indulgences in social settings is a big step towards physical improvement, we need to be honest with our framework of our diets.
Social situations account for a minuscule fraction of our weekly schedule. We may go out on a Saturday and “let go a bit”, but what about the other six days of the week?
Much progress can be made on the fat loss front, even if you indulge on the weekends.
The true dieting derailments – the choices which are made within the confines of our own homes – are what actually keeps most of us on the proverbial hamster wheel, losing the same 10 pounds over and over again in perpetuity.
The Culture Code
Clotaire Rapaille is a marketing genius.
He is currently kept on retainer by half of the Fortune 500 companies, and he is the go-to guy for analysis of potential customers’ buying habits.
Clotaire digs deep to discover the buried social and cultural viewpoints on various subjects in order to unravel which “buttons to push” in order to create a profitable marketing campaign.
In his book “The Culture Code”, he discusses the underlying framework of how different cultures view different topics and subjects.
Incredible insights and a fantastic book.
The book is thought provoking, if not controversial. Clotaire reveals his discoveries in a matter-of-fact tone, and never apologizes for them. Take it or leave it, the book is simply the information he has uncovered.
For example, after multiple focus groups and interviews with American subjects, Clotaire concludes that the American culture code for “love” is “false expectation”.
He has come to the conclusion that a major reason Americans seem to be unfulfilled (and the divorce rate is so high) is due to a romanticized view of love that is generally unattainable. Dissatisfaction about being unable to reach this false hope leaves us bitter and upset, resulting in divorce.
True? Perhaps – but it’s certainly thought provoking. (As is most of the book – it’s an excellent read.)
The “culture codes” of many topics are discussed thoroughly in the book: Love, Seduction, Sex, Beauty, Health, among others.
But perhaps the code which piqued my curiosity the most is the proposed American culture code for the word “Fat”:
Do We Eat To “Check Out”?
In his interviewing of American subjects on the topic of being “fat”, the stories were difficult to read.
A few examples from the book:
When I was young, I moved to a new house.
Before I moved, I was not overweight.
When we moved, I kept myself inside away from the other children because I was upset that I had moved away from my friends.
Because I stayed inside and I wasn’t active, I gained weight.
I wish I could change that summer, because I might have changed the way I am today.
-A man in his 30’s
I remember walking home from school with my little sister when I was in sixth grade.
Some kids called her “fatty”, and the tears in her eyes made me mad enough to chase one of the boys down and give him a bloody nose.
She has had weight problems ever since.
-A 49 year old woman
The stories were all different, but yet they shared a common theme.
There was some sort of a scenario, or incident, that caused an apparent disconnect between the mind and emotions of the individual, and the physical body.
There is an underlying current to the theory proposed in the book.
Those who are fit and active are “involved”. They are “proud and successful” – at least in their outward appearance. Likely, they feel “proud and successful” internally as well, having confidence in their bodies and their relative health.
There are many “life changes” which can negatively affect one’s weight:
- Death or loss of a loved one.
- An especially bad break-up, or perhaps a divorce.
- Increased stress at work due to a promotion, a demotion, or perhaps even a layoff.
- The birth of a child, which multiplies your responsibilities exponentially.
In times of rapid weight gain, we are often struggling with our connections. Perhaps our connections to our loved ones are strained. Perhaps our “role” has changed in our work lives or our personal lives. Or perhaps we are continuously trying to get ahead in the “rat race” and we feel the weight on our shoulders.
In times like this, we seek alternative forms of comfort.
Something to help us “get away” from our connections and calm our nerves.
The “Checking Out” Process For Food
A scenario that many of you have lived through (I know I sure have…..):
Your head hits the pillow at 10 pm, with your mind racing. There is so much to do tomorrow, you’re just not sure how you will ever get it all done.
Your 6-month old is asleep a few doors down. Your 2-year old finally passed out, and you’re praying for a few hours of solid shut-eye.
The reality hits you in the face before you even hit your first REM cycle. Stirring and crying. Time for a bottle and a diaper change.
After 45 minutes, you re-swaddle your newborn and trek back to the bedroom. It takes you an hour to fall back asleep again.
It’s not long after that the cycle repeats itself.
By the time your alarm goes off, you’ve been awake most of the night. Any actual sleep was in nothing but short stints, as you awaited the next round of warming bottles and wiping bottoms.
You make your way to the shower before sunrise, wondering if it will all be worth it one day.
After gathering approximately 5 bags worth of “stuff” and dropping the whole load off (including kids) at daycare, you drive towards your office building. From the moment you get there, it’s “game on”.
Hustle and bustle. Meetings and emails. Conference calls. Working through lunch.
You can barely see your computer screen; your eyes are blood-shot from your lack of actual rest. It’s been months (6, to be exact) since you’ve had a full night’s sleep.
After your work day is finished, you make your way to daycare to pick up your kids. The same daycare you give $2,000 to each month. You ponder your life decisions as you think about your ever-crunched financial situation.
But you know no other option.
You trek to your car, and head home.
Your 2-year old leaps out of the car and bolts inside, running circles around your living room.
Meanwhile, your 6-month old needs your undivided attention.
No dinner is made. No plans are in place. And your stomach is rumbling.
All you can think about are your tasks in front of you.
You need to make dinner, clean up, wash bottles, do a load of laundry, feed the kids, make lunches for the next day, give baths, get the kids in bed…………….and you still have work email to catch up on.
So………what exactly are you going to do for dinner?
The rational side of you knows what you should do. You should prepare a wholesome, healthy meal for you to share with your wife. You should make the 2-year old something as well. The newborn will get a freshly made bottle.
But all of that? It takes a certain skill set to accomplish this task. It takes a continued connection and focus on your health and your well being.
Do you really want to stay mindfully connected at a time like this?
You ponder your options.
Option 1: Make the healthy meals.
This will require prep work, clean up, energy, and time. Your wife isn’t off of work yet, the 2-year old just made a painting on your kitchen table, and the newborn is screaming her head off.
Option 2: Call the pizza man.
All it takes is a 2-minute phone call.
It will taste better, it will be easier to eat, there will be no clean up, and you can focus your time and attention to the other areas that need it.
It truly seems like a “no-brainer”, doesn’t it?
The process of “checking out” isn’t often a conscious process.
You “check out” beneath the surface. You don’t know that you’re choosing to disconnect from one area of your life in order to focus on another area.
You justify the “checking-out” as making the more “efficient” decision. There’s that efficiency again, rearing its ugly head.
Of course, this isn’t the only way we “check out”.
- We “check out” on a Friday night with a 6-pack and the television.
- We “check out” after a rough day at work with a pint of ice cream.
- We “check out” on a Sunday afternoon with a large bag of potato chips and a football game.
- We “check out” after a bad break-up with chocolate and romantic comedies.
We’ve all told ourselves we will “just have a handful” after opening a box of Cheez-Its.
We sit down on the couch to relax and unwind a bit.
Before we know it, we look down and only crumbs remain.
We have “checked out” and plowed through the entire box.
How on earth do we keep this from happening?
Resisting The “Check Out”
If we understand that when we “check out” of our situations, we often gain fat as a result, how do we keep this from happening?
How can we stay mindfully connected and on top of our health, even when faced with the mundane (and often inundating) tasks of normal life?
Here are a few actionable tips to help keep you connected and refrain from “checking out”.
Plan your meals one day in advance, minimum.
The biggest factor which will determine your success is your ability to plan your meals ahead of time.
When faced with a difficult and emotional situation, as choosing your food often is, we don’t want to run the risk of bringing emotions into the equation.
Each food decision you make taps your willpower just a little bit. If you are constantly struggling with deciding what to put into your body, by the time your day is over, you will likely have nothing left.
Make your weekly menu and post it on the refrigerator. Do your grocery shopping on the weekend. Don’t get fancy – some seasoned meat, some vegetables, and some whole food carbs will make up thousands of variations of tasty dinners.
When it’s time to make your meal, don’t “think” about your choice – simply execute.
In a way, this is how you can “check out” without making poor decisions. Your decisions have already been made, all you need to do is act on them.
“Close the kitchen” after you are finished with dinner.
“Closing the kitchen” is an excellent ritual that will provide you with the feeling of “closure” following your meal.
When you are done eating, don’t wait. Begin the clean up process. Put the dishes away, scrub the pots and pans, wipe off all the counters, and turn off the lights.
The pantry, the fridge, and the cupboards are off limits. Your meal is complete.
If it helps, grab a peppermint, a piece of gum, a diet soft drink, or a toothpick (my favorite) after you’re finished. This is your physical, daily signal that you are finished eating.
This simple psychological trick can help you to associate the cleaning of your kitchen with the completion of your day’s worth of food.
Pack your lunch daily – and make it insanely simple.
There are two, main objections to packing your lunch every day:
It takes time, and it’s “boring”.
We want to “check out” and head to a local eatery. Anything to get us away from our stress-filled work environment.
We also don’t want to spend the time making an elaborate lunch every morning. We are too rushed to have to worry about such trivial nonsense.
A simple fix: Take a Sunday when you have a bit more time, and make 5 sandwiches. If you’re worried that they will get “soggy”, a slice of cheese works well to keep the bread dry.
Grab a baggie of carrots and a piece of fruit.
You now have a simple meal that will taste great, nourish you, and help you lose fat at the same time.
Although working through your lunch break may sound torturous, perhaps you can figure out a way to leave an hour early if you eat your meal while you’re on the job.
This will provide you a bit of extra time in the evenings to take care of those tasks that you have.
If you find yourself flooded with responsibilities and stress, you will find it more difficult to stay on top of your health.
Health often correlates negatively with age. As we age, we lose muscle mass, increase our body fat percentages, and decrease our activity as a result.
Staying mindful and being connected with our lives and our purpose will help us to fight through the tough times and further improve ourselves as a result.