I haven’t come out and told the world publicly, so its a bit hard coming out to tell a whole bunch of anonymous folks some private information about myself, especially since I am identifiable, so vulnerable. I was diagnosed as being “obese”- whatever that means, in January 2010. Honestly, I looked in the mirror to tell myself that the doctor was on crack, but what I saw in the mirror was not some disturbingly overweight brown person, rather it was someone that I wasn’t quite happy with.
I knew something had to change and that I had to be the change. The simple solution was made difficult because my work directed my life. Everything revolved around my career and worse when I did have time, all I wanted to do with it was to vegetate because I deserved some time off, right? But I got thinking that this lifestyle was not natural, the way I felt was not natural and my inability to change even though I wanted to change was proving to be self-defeating.
I was reading Dr. Hallowell’s book when I discovered an answer to the question- how do we survive a 9-5, 5 days a week, year after year, until retirement with feeling like by retirement I’d be to burnt out to really be able to enjoy the “time off”? Its not like no one has made it through this experience before. Countless Americans have, and better yet, my generation has the greatest degree of employment protection and regulations then any generation before it- limited work hours, vacations, discrimination laws, etc. My question was not so much a complaint, but rather its a genuine question about human nature versus self discipline. It is quite possible to discipline oneself to a certain way, but you need to know what your nature consists of in order to achieve that higher degree of discipline.
Dr. Hallowell says that we are by nature created to be hunter gatherers. Our brains are wired to be constantly moving, to be fully immersed in our environment, aware of the things that would hurt us and the things that we would very well need to live to the next day. This behavior wired our brains to be constantly shifting and in that way over the millenniums our behavior was ingrained in our genetics. Our modern lifestyle presents the biggest challenges to this evolutionary process- it creates this great strain on what we are programmed to and what we are required to do. For us to sit in one place in front of computer, lets say, goes against our very nature. The brain fights this impulsively and subconsciously. Many of us experience this in our short attention spans or easy ability to get distracted. You know those 5 min breaks that turn into 2 hour moments of “where did the day just go!?!” freak out sessions.
You might be thinking “oh this evolutionary mumbo jumbo, you just get with the program, discipline yourself and get down to business and do the work you have to do!” But this isn’t about “doing the work”- this is about the fact that our bodies are not designed to sit hours on end doing nothing. As humans we are designed to be out hunting for mammoths, or more realistically doing work that is physically straining as well as intellectually. Yes, our bodies can be trained to do modern work, but the problem is the other end of the evolutionary programming is our bodies metabolic process. If you don’t buy the “hunter-gatherer” theory, you will have a harder time refuting the biology of your body.
According to high school biology books our body takes the food we eat and breaks it down. The basic block that is used to energize the body is in the form of a calorie. Our ancestors were hunter-gathers, so their bodies revolved around what they found to eat. Naturally they took whatever excess calories they had and stored it away in the form of fat in order to survive the winter when food would be scarce. During the summer our intensive activities would melt away the fat. Food was scarce, so our bodies adapted the mechanism to automatically save in the form of fat. Fatty foods were desirous and the body craved them because it was the quickest way to save up that energy for when we faced a shortage of food. In modern times we have deposed of our food scarcity- if you want a tangerine in the middle of winter, globalization serves up Peruvian summer tangerine in our dead cold winters- but our bodies, well unfortunately it has not gotten rid of its antiquated survival mode. When fed fat rich diets, it does what it has been programmed to do over the millenniums- store all that good stuff in the form of those love handles, that pot belly that makes you look like your man-gerant, or those man-boobs you got going on. To compound matters we sit in front of the computer, we sit while we drive places, we sit while we eat, we sit while we watch TV. All we do is sedentary activities that won’t tell the body to turn off its survival mode.
Its a vicious compounding situation our bodies weren’t conditioned to cope with. Thats why its important to turn the TV off and get out for an hour of physical activity. At the end something will always be better than nothing!