The Soul Torture of Dieting

I need to lose weight for health reasons.  I have arthritis in my back that makes it hard to stand or walk for long.  I’ve bought Z-coil shoes that have shock absorbing springs in the heels that help tremendously.  They make me look silly wearing them, but those bouncy shoes proves that my weight is related to my degenerative back disease.  Even with the incentive of pain, for the life of me I can’t make myself lose weight!

Dieting is torture.  Craving fun food is hormonal tyranny.  Drug addicts argue over which drug is the most addictive, well I say the junk that’s the most addictive is junk food.  I can force myself to go months without eating my favorite desserts, but then bam, something snaps, and my will power breaks.  Dieting is the absolute test of mind over matter, and carbs beats the crap out of my gray matter every time.

Just because my mind lives inside this body doesn’t mean its cozy relationship affords any influence.  Actually, I think it proves that the mind doesn’t just occupy the our skulls, but the whole hormonal system.  Insulin affects my thinking just as much as any mind altering drug.

ben & jerrys chocolate therapy

A carton of Ben & Jerry’s can bring me such happiness, energy and creative stimulation that it’s torture to resist.  But I have resisted!  I haven’t had any B&J’s for months, but the desire for it never goes away.  But it doesn’t have to be anything as fabulous as ice cream for my hormones to torture me, sometimes I just crave an ordinary peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Just losing eight or ten pounds seems to trigger something that makes me lose all mental control and resolve.

I used to come home from work and stoke up on M&Ms, Coca-Cola, pies, cake, cookies and candy.  All those calories would jazzercise my neural activities so I felt like doing after being burned out from work.  When I diet I want to come home and veg out.  In the last ten years I’ve discovered that a nap after work will rejuvenate me like my surgery loves, but it doesn’t do away with the craving.


Why isn’t eating simple and logical?  Shouldn’t it be a Mr. Spock like decision.  These foods will make me healthy, those foods are poison.  Okay, I’ll take the poison.  What sane person thinks that way?

Now scientists are telling us sugar is toxic.  That’s probably perfect true, but I’ve been developing a tolerance to sugar my whole life, and I can take on some high levels of that poison.

There is something incredibly unfair that desserts are evil.  We seldom get what we dream, but a carton of Ben & Jerry’s is something dreamy that’s easy to obtain.  Of course, now that my teeth are going, well just one, but another is feeling poorly, I feel I should have listened to those warnings against sugar all those years ago.  It’s like that old joke of Woody Allen, where his mother tells him that masturbation will make him go blind and he asks if he can do it until he needs glasses. 

I’m afraid I’ll be needing choppers and still wanting to eat sweets.  Or they’ll be cutting off my feet while I eat M&Ms.  Why is it so hard to say no?  On the news tonight they reported that there’s an epidemic of skin cancer among young women because they love tanning bed tans.  Will that news stop them?  What a silly question to ask.

Why aren’t we smarter?   Or to ask it another way, why do our urges trump our brains, because we do know the answers, and we even believe what we’re told, but we still do the things bad for us like lemmings heading for the edge of the abyss.  I suppose it’s the same thing with global warming – we can’t give up fossil fuels any easier than sugar or cigarettes.  We’re like one cell animals heading directly to the stimulus we love the most.  Becoming big brain beings didn’t overcome those basic instincts.  What good is a neo-cortex when it can’t control the mammalian and reptilian parts of our brains? 

Have they ever considered lobotomies for the lower brain functions?  Or would being healthy and logical like Mr. Spock feel like being a zombie?

JWH – 4/2/12

3 thoughts on “The Soul Torture of Dieting”

  1. I find it surprising to imagine you as having no or little self control in anything to be honest. Your writing and way of thinking suggest otherwise.

    I have more control over what i eat usually and also what i drink. It’s important as i need to keep my weight in check to help ease the strain on my knees. Recently i had to stop alcohol drinking completely because of stomach problems.

    6-7 years ago i had stomach problems again and decided to stop drinking soft drinks. I used to drink a 6-7 a day. It’s quite difficult as you come to associate soft drinks with certain things. For example eating pizza and pork kebab was always accompanied by a coke. I imagine it’s similar for smokers. But it does get easier. Now i don’t even like drinking soft drinks anymore.

    For me the most difficult step is to cut back on filter coffee which is one of my daily pleasures. Find substitutes to help you deal with this. Like water or juice or any less fattening snacks.

  2. Jim, we’re animals. And for our entire existence, for millions of years, and for hundreds of millions of years before that, in every species of our ancestry, we were in no danger of getting fat. Just the reverse – we were regularly in danger of starvation.

    Those animals which survived were not the ones that dieted, but the ones that ate everything they could get, that gorged whenever they were lucky enough to find an excess of food. Those are our ancestors. That’s how we evolved, in a world of scarcity, not of abundance.

    And now, all of a sudden, you want to turn that around and start skipping meals voluntarily? Nothing in your ancestry makes that easy. When you try to cut back, your body sees that as a sign of starvation – something we evolved to survive. So your whole body works to overcome that shortage of food.

    You are fighting against millions of years, if not hundreds of millions of years, of evolution. And you are fighting your own body. That’s why it’s hard. I don’t know what to tell you, except that it’s not a personal failing. There are good reasons why it’s hard to lose weight. Human beings evolved to make it difficult.

  3. blame evolution. Motivating animals to eat when getting food takes hard effort has wired us to have a need for food that goes far beyond logically seeing how something would benefit or hurt us. The nervous and hormonal systems related to eating evolved at least a billion years before logical thought. Salt is something our body needs. Sweet and fat are indicators of a high energy food, which is rare and hard to get in nature. Causing their consumption to be so compelling to us. It is part of why I think artificial intelligence has proven so hard to create. We are not beings of thought. Our desires well up from our hormones, fight-flight responses and the vast array of nerve cells in our gastrointestinal system and elsewhere in the body.

    Some think you can download what makes us human from the brain and boot that software on a computer. While the brain is central to thinking/problem solving, clearly it is not all there is to us. Perhaps these other systems could also be simulated as well. But how do you simulate something that is not logical? What battery of tests can we do on a human body that would let us reverse-engineer a human’s “BIOS” like the compaq engineers did to the IBM PC?

    Unless we understand how cravings like this work, I think any artificial intelligences will be utterly inhuman. For a biological being to completely control cravings and other base impulses will require evolution. They would also be something that is not human.

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