Friday, May 18, 2007

A Tongue of Weight

Hunger, in our world, is portrayed as a demon that must be slain. We are encouraged to “reduce,” “curb,” and “control” our hunger, without ever considering that it might serve a biological (and psychological) function. An advertisement for Slim-Fast Optima Shakes suggests the product “Controls hunger for up to four hours,” a substantial duration in our crusade. Imagine other products designed to help us gain control over physiological processes: an oxygenated air freshener that helps you avoid breathing for up to a minute, a specially formulated beverage that allows you to delay urination. Why aren’t these products on the market? True, there may be some interest in gaining control over other biological processes, but we would never think we could. We purchase products such as Slim-Fast because we learn from a very young age the falsehood that hunger is controllable and that we need an ally to help us wage the war against our hunger.

In keeping with our fight against hunger, bellicose metaphors abound. We join the ranks of the war on fat as we attempt to combat cravings, to fight the “battle of the bulge,” we enroll in boot camp classes and kick off a diet as if we’re being stationed overseas. Sorry, friends, I won’t be able to join you for pizza this week—I’m being shipped out on Monday. We soldier on, sticking to a diet or fitness regime as if it’s a plan of attack, avoiding the enemy shrapnel of a whiff of cinnamon sugar from a local bakery, the trace of buttered popcorn at the local Cineplex. The helpless frustration here, the irony, is that the enemy camp is forever expanding, a cease fire too distant to imagine, and the only casualties ourselves.


Icie said...

I would never think that you have to buy some product to curb your appetite. A lot of people buy these products because they feel it's easier than exercise or eating correctly. When you eat correctly and nourish your body properly, you eat in accordance to the supply your body needs. When you resort to junk with no nutritious food you end up overeating. I think a lot of people cut that middle step of trying to normalize eating to a point of eat until you are satiated and then stop. When you eat crap, your body demands you feed it more to hunt down nutrients.

I agree wholeheartedly that there is a business dedicated to representing food as the enemy. Most people think that all of the skinny celebrities they see on tv must not be eating - I'm sure a lot of them are eating in a disordered manner, but drugs play a huge part in that weight loss too. People have some idea that it all comes to down eat LESS, not eat RIGHT, eat NUTRITIOUS FOOD, and EXERCISE.

Shoe said...

This post really resonated with me. I was a really successful dieter, which also meant I was socially isolated (can't risk eating foods that are not on the approved list!), terrified of food, and constantly trying to avoid feeling hungry. Hunger, which should be a signal for approaching pleasure and satisfaction, became a thing of shame. Funny how I didn't feel out of control and weak if I got sleepy or thirsty, but hunger meant I was failing to control my body.
Thank you for your blog; I've read the archives and it's become a great resource for me as I'm trying to get a handle on my own disordered eating.

PalmTreeChick said...

You therapists sure do like those war analogies. :)

Anonymous said...

I feel creeped out when I see ads discussing controlling hunger.

There was a episode of the Twilight Zone called, Number 12 Looks Just Like You. It was about a girl who liked herself, but was pressured by her mother and a friend to undergo an operation to attain a fake Barbie-doll body.

This was written in the 1950's.

Among other visions of the future, that Rod Serling had gotten right that freak me out. Like envisioning that 20 years from 1970, electronic music would be popular. This is a very sad vision, that he had written about as something to fear.

So when I see hunger control products being advertised. I can't help but wonder, when did we all enter the Twilight Zone?

Tree Lover said...

It's scary how hunger has become such an unnatural thing in our society. It's only been in recent months while I have become more in tune with my body that I even realized it. I have taken pills in the past to "curb" my hunger. Now I realize how crazy that is. Why would I want to curb my hunger? Why not just eat? That's what hunger is there for, to tell us when it's time to eat. What could be more natural?

Alyssa said...

I read that Hoodia was originally used by men when they were going out on a hunt and knew they probably wouldn't eat for a few days. So, rather than suffer hunger pangs, they ate the plant and were able to continue hunting, thus bringing food to the rest of the village. OK, that makes sense. But it doesn't make much sense to take Hoodia if you're able to open the fridge or drive to the store and get some good food.

BTW, I used to be an actress in Los Angeles, and disordered thinking, eating and exercising are the norm there.

Anonymous said...

I like the title and the post. I just recently noticed, when talking to my housemate who works in PR, that the only thing we "lose" that's positive is weight. Lose your car keys, a bet, or your bag, it sucks. Lose a friend, well, she may be dead. But lose weight and everyone wants to celeberate. As a recovering anorexic, this seems REALLY weird, and I have to fight media messages all the time. I just got a DVR so I don't watch commercials much and am probably much better off.

Rosalie said...

I want to thank you for creating this blog. Though I rarely comment, I read voraciously. You seem to eloquently voice all of my angers and frustrations, and reading what you write is so refreshing! Though I yearn to be able to genuinely see bodies and weight and food simply as they are and not in a warped way, I struggle very much with body image - stemming from years of anorexia, bulimia, treatment, recovery, relapse, lather rinse repeat.

It's definitely reassuring to see that in this society where every woman is seemingly dissatisfied with her body's appearance, there are people who appreciate the body simply for its presence, who appreciate food simply because it feeds the body.

The saying goes, "Be the change you want to see in the world," and I think you have done this. Thank you for inspiring myself to be the change I want to see in the world too.

Good luck on your book! I can't wait to read it!

the musical mushroom said...

nice. particularly apt words for someone (me) who tries to distract herself from her hunger every second of the day.
it's ironic that the slogan 'suppresses hunger' never appealed to me in my years of shrinkage, because i valued my hunger as a benchmark of "doing well". if i felt hungry, painfully so, then i felt like i was doing something right, that i was cannibalizing myself, losing poundage, etc.
thanks for your blog. it's comforting to be reminded that hunger is like breathing.

bhattathiri said...

The American justice Dept. have recently approved the power of yoga and meditation vide a recent judgement in the American court.” Man Who Slapped Wife Sentenced to Yoga, It's Anger Management, Says Judge." First there was house arrest. Now there's yoga. A judge ordered a man convicted of slapping his wife to take a yoga class as part of his one-year probation. "It's part of anger management," County Criminal Court at Law Judge Larry Standley said of the ancient Hindu philosophy of exercise and well-being. "For people who are into it, it really calms them down. " Standley, a former prosecutor, said the case of James Lee Cross was unique. Cross, a 53-year-old car salesman from Tomball, explained that his wife was struggling with a substance abuse problem and that he struck her on New Year's Eve during an argument about her drinking. "He was trying to get a hold of her because she has a problem," Standley said after the court hearing. "I thought this would help him realize that he only has control over himself." The sentence came as a surprise to Cross, who was told to enroll in a class and report back to Standley on his progress. "I'm not very familiar with it," Cross said of yoga. "From what I understand, it may help in a couple ways, not only as far as mentally settling, but maybe a little weight loss." Darla Magee, an instructor at Yoga Body Houston in River Oaks, said she would recommend that Cross take a basic yoga class emphasizing breathing and including a variety of postures -- forward bends, back bends and twists. "Yoga can help us to get rid of many emotional issues we might have," she said. "It's a spiritual cleanse." Prosecutor Lincoln Goodwin agreed to a sentence of probation without jail time because Cross had no significant criminal history
Yoga which is one of the greatest Indian contribution to the world has got vast potential in all fields. In Tihar jail India Yoga is experimented among the inmates and found successful. Their criminal mentality is changed. This study aimed at investigating the effect of Vipassana Meditation (VM) on Quality of Life (QOL), Subjective Well-Being (SWB), and Criminal Propensity (CP) among inmates of Tihar Jail, Delhi. To this effect the following hypotheses were formulated. 1. There will be a significant positive effect of VM on the QOL of inmates of Tihar jail. 2. VM will have a positive and significant effect on SWB of inmates. 3. Criminal propensity (CP) of inmates will decrease significantly after attending the VM course. 4. There will be significant difference in SWB and CP of experimental (Vipassana) group and control (non-Vipassana) group. 5. Male and female inmates will differ significantly in SWB and CP, as a result of VM. In the famous "Time" magazine the importance meditation and yoga, an ancient Indian system, is high-lighted that the ancient mind- and spirit-enhancing art is becoming increasingly popular and gaining medical legitimacy. It is a multi billion dollar business in US. In many Universities it is accepted as subject and included in the Syllabus. In the latest famous book "Inspire! What Great Leaders Do" written by Mr.Lance Secretan recently published by John Wiley and sons, the benefit of meditation is elaborately described for good corporate governance. By practicing transcendental meditation, or TM, many people have got relief from back pain, neck pain, depression. The mind calms and quiets, . What thoughts you have during meditation become clearer, more focused. Anger, anxiety and worries give way to a peace. In the world exorbitant medical expenses one can definitely make use of meditation. Maharshi Mahesh Yogi and Sri Ravi Sankar are popularizing this. The Iyengar Yoga institute in US is famous.
In Bhagavad-Gita Gita Lord Krishna has inspired Arjuna to rise from his depression by preaching Gita in the battlefield and to rise from the depression to do his duties. In Holy Gita we can see, being hidden by the cosmic overview of any institution beset with myriad problems, not the least of which is its lack of moral probity, there is a groundswell of educated people seeking answers to deeply personal but universally asked questions. Chie Executives taking lessons from yoga, meditation and learning how to deal with human resources equations in an enlightened manner. Individuals from every walk of life can get ideas of how to be better human beings, more balanced and less stressed out.
Medical studies continue to show regular meditation working magic in reducing blood pressure and stress-related illnesses, including heart disease. Brain images show that regular meditation helps calm the most active sensory-assaulted parts of the brain. The ancient Hindu sage Patanjali who had mastered the secrets of the human mind has written a book "Yogasutra".In this book we can see how super powers can be achieved by meditation. It has both cosmic relevance and cosmic resonance. In spite of its universal appeal, for most people total control of mind remains an elusive goal and daunting task. From time immemorial, there have been many attempts throughout the world to unlock the mysteries of the mind and to achieve total control over it through a variety of techniques. One of the most powerful of these techniques is meditation.
Many spiritual leaders, sages, saints, and holy people such asSri. Buddha, Sri Ramakrishna, Madam Sarada Devi, and Swami Vivekananda have practiced this. One of the ways to control physiological reactions to psychological stimuli is meditation, Yoga, Zen Buddhism etc. The scientists take Transcendental Meditation (TM) as the uniform technique, and base their observations on the study of the subjects engaged in this form of meditation. In summing up the results the scientists have come to conclusion that the effect of meditation is a "wakeful, hypo-metabolic state". They have found that: 1) Yogis could slow both heart rate and rate of respiration, 2) Yogis could slow the rate of metabolism as confirmed by decreased oxygen consumption and carbon-die-oxide output. 3) Electro-Encephala-Gram (EEG - recording of brain activity) in Yogis showed changes of calmness in the form of "alpha rhythm" during both eyes closed and eyes open recordings. 4) Their skin resistance to electric stimulation was increased (indicating increased tolerance to external stimuli). Our usual 'defense-alarm' reaction to emotional and physical stress is in the form of "fright, flight, and fight" mediated through over-secretion of certain neuron-transmitters and neuron-modulators, namely adrenaline and dopamine by way of stimulation of sympathetic nervous system. Under the influence of these chemicals and hormones, we reflexively become panicky or aggressive, our blood pressure rises. Thus stress and anxiety is the end result if we allow our natural age-old sympathetic reactions to act and to come to surface. We try to run away, become fearful, or fight the situation. But today these 'defense-alarm' reactions have no place in our lives. Rather, they should be replaced by more calm and serene reactions of equanimity and fearlessness. The need is to just 'face the brute, and it will go away'. Such desirable reactions of non-aggression and peaceful attitude are generated by Y ga and meditation. EEG Studies on Yogis and The Zen Meditations: Yogis practicing Raja-Yoga claim that during the state of Samadhi they are oblivious to the internal and external stimuli, and they enjoy a calm ecstasy during that state. A study was undertaken to record the electrical activity of their brain during this state by means of a regular and useful test known as electroencephalography EEG. Physiological and experimental studies have demonstrated that the basis of conscious state of brain, among other things, is due to activation of "reticular system" in the brain-stem in response to internal and external stimuli. These stimuli bring about various changes during sleeping and wakeful states of the organism and these can be studied by EEG. The study was carried out on four subjects during the state of concentration and meditation. Effects of external stimuli, like a loud gong, strong light, thermal simulation, and vibrations were studied. The results were compiled and analyzed. It was observed that two Yogis could keep their hands immersed in extremely cold water for about 50 minutes (raised pain threshold). During the state of meditation, all of them showed persistent "alpha activity" in their EEG with increased amplitude wave pattern, both during 'eyes closed' and 'eyes open' recording. It was observed that these alpha activities could not be blocked by various sensory stimuli during meditation. It was also observed that those, who had well-marked "alpha activity" in their resting EEG showed greater aptitude and zeal for maintaining the practice of Yoga. Similar observations and results were obtained when EEGs were recorded in persons adept in Zen Meditative technique. Can we say that only those persons who exhibit such recording of "alpha wave rhythm" in their EEG are fit for Yoga? and be designated as right candidates for meditation and Yoga practices? (Such experiments are indeed very few and the number of yogis examined is also very small. Therefore, scientifically and statistically these observations have only a tentative importance. Further research is definitely called for, albeit it will have its own limitations.) It is said that in the unknown period of Lord Jesus Christ , He was under meditation.
Ref. Yoga magazines
New York times
Time magazine