"Secrets" of Weight Loss: Part 11: Less Is More
October 11, 2023
Warning: this article may not be for everyone
As you know by now, I am about quality of life. What is it? How do we get at it? Robert Pirsig discussed this at a deep philosophical level in his book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintance.
Since college I have been heavily influenced by the Bauhaus school of art and architecture. Less is more.
Less in More
According to one aspect of Buddhism, the root of all suffering is attachment.
Sometimes you may not realize how powerfully some things in your life negatively affect you, your appetite, your body and your health. And, that you don’t really need any of it.
Here is just one example that is so intrinsic to Americans and the typical American lifestyle that most people don’t even think about it: screens. Television screens. Computer screens. Smart phone screens. Social media. According to the most recent statistics, the average American spends a little over 7 hours a day (7 days a week) looking at screens.
Most of that time, if you stop and think about it, you are passively watching an endless stream of random images and videos. The average American checks their email 77 times a day. Many people get caught in a news silo where their perspective is blinkered or tunneled by one source. You passively let this limited, often alarming, flow wash over you for hours a day, day after day putting you into a tense, anxious emotional place. Your tunnel vision is often dark and upsetting.
I have taught stress management for decades. Rule number one: stop watching the news. The view of the world presented by the news is magnitudes darker and more frightening than reality. Why? Fear grabs and holds eyeballs. Many people are stress eaters. Yet, you may realize that you are stoking this desire for solace and self-medication via food and/or alcohol.
The vast majority of the ads and depictions of lifestyle is not healthy. Most of the ads promote hyper-sweet foods and or alcohol.
The majority of Americans are fear-based, suffer from depression and anxiety. As we have discussed, sugar, artificial-sweeteners, and alcohol feed fear, anxiety and depression. You can see the vicious cycle. You may not have the self-awareness to recognize the self-inflicted nature of the problem.
As we have discussed many times in the past, insulin is the most powerful fat-storing hormone in your body. You may not know that stress of any kind (fear, worry, anxiety, insecurity – am I getting enough “likes”?) raises glucose. Elevated glucose in turn raises insulin leading to hunger, over-indulgence in carbohydrates (sugar), fat storage and more hunger. You can see this if you wear a continuous glucose monitor.
Stress also triggers the release of cortisol – the most powerful stress hormone in your body. If you recall, cortisol causes your body to burn muscle and store fat.
The average American is seeing at least 3,000 food, alcohol and Rx drug ads a week – every week.
But to live differently is unthinkable to the vast majority of Americans.
One of my coaching clients shared with me just this week that his 14 year old son had just disconnected all his social media. He shared with his Dad that he could not believe how peaceful and relaxed he felt. He did not miss it at all.
To expand upon healthier alternatives, I do not watch TV at all. I am often asked: Don’t you want to stay informed? My answer is yes. I subscribe to 3 newspapers: The Financial Times which I read 6 mornings a week (I want an international perspective on the world and the USA), the Saturday Review edition of The Wall Street Journal, and the Sunday edition of The New York Times. I also read The Economist every week. I especially read the book reviews of newly released non-fiction books.
I also read a non-fiction books (history, biography, science, etc. – Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award – like my food, the highest quality I can find) at least 2 hours a day. I have done this for well over 50 years and I have read well over 2,000 non-fiction books. By the way, reading is an active behavior. I make my reading even more inter-active by underlining and making notes in the margins. I started this practice in college, was an honor student, and have done it ever since.
By the way, I began seriously reading in the 8th grade. My parents smoked, drank coffee and watched Johnny Carson until 1am in the morning. From age 10 on, I joined them. By the 8th grade, I had mononucleosis. Only, they did not know what it was at first. So they put me in the isolation ward of the community hospital for a month. I slept and slept at first but then I began to read. I read Tom Sawyer. Then I read Huckleberry Finn. Then I read both volumes of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Books. By the time I left the hospital, I was hooked.
When I backpack, I hike alone like John Muir. I was in my early 60’s when I did the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim south to north. That’s 26.6 miles. I did it in under 12 hours. Once I crossed the Colorado River, I did not see anyone for hours. It was so quiet and peaceful I could hear a crow caw on the other side of the canyon.
When I drive my car, it is quiet. No radio. No music. Quiet. Peaceful. Less is more. That comes from 13 months in the jungles of Vietnam in 1966-1967 as a squad leader. In the Marine Corps, we stayed in the jungle sleeping in the dirt (or mud, depending on the season). We ate nothing but C-rations for our entire tour. In the I Corps area, next to the DMZ, you never knew where the NVA were. So you were very quiet most of the time. We spoke in whispers.
You may notice a certain monk-like quality here. Less is more. Zen: a single simple vase on an empty table. "Less is more" is my path, my way of trying to get at a quality of life. Mindfulness. Being truly present. Minimize distractions. Embrace what nourishes
Thank you for listening.
As always, I wish you and your family the very best of health.
Photo by Etienne Girardet