The Myths Of Obesity
The Myths Of Obesity Explained And Debunked!
Year after year, month after month, day after day, minute after minute, people are bombarded by advertisements, theories and training advice. Constantly, pictures of super-buff athletes, promoting the latest "cutting edge" supplement or training theory, barrage members of the public. The strong emphasis on being fit and lean is overwhelming. Promoters of the theories or products in question [those with financial interest] often claim that their theories or products are "it" and will "blow away" the competition. Results and satisfaction are virtually guaranteed.
The first rule of business is: satisfaction is never guaranteed. The second is: once you have their money, never give it back. Many unthinking and uncritical people discover these tenets only after they have spent their hard earned money on such scams. In the year 2001 more books were published than ever before. Never at any time in history had so much knowledge been available to the human race. Despite breakthroughs in nearly every field of knowledge, and despite the nature of our knowledge-saturated society, people are more frustrated now than ever before. Consumers work hard, get little, and spend much. Nothing is working. Put another way, they get little return for their investment of blood, sweat and tears.
At the present time "uncontrollable" disease levels have skyrocketed over the past decade. According to recent reports, 13% of children aged 6-11 and 14% of adolescents' aged 12-19 are overweight. This represents a 2-3% increase from overweight estimates of 11 percent found in the NHANES III report in 1988-1994 (Center For Disease Control and Prevention [CDCP], 1999). Sadly, between 1976-80, the prevalence of being overweight increased by nearly 200% in both children and adolescents (CDCP, 1999).
Amongst the adult population, figures are more dismal. According the CDCP (1999), 61% of U.S. adults are obese or overweight. In the United States, this pandemic shows indicators of record growth for the future. In other parts of the world, particularly in Asia, the problem of obesity is on the rise. In the Cook Islands 44% of women were obese in the 1960's. In the year 2000 this level rose to 57% (Easen, 2002). Despite the extensive knowledge available to our post-modern society, our problems are moving faster than we can catch them. An alarming percentage of the population is obese and out of shape; so much so that dieticians and doctors have borrowed the name of a World War II military campaign to describe their war on obesity: Battle of the Bulge.
What's going on? How is it that despite more knowledge being available than ever before, obesity is spreading and growing? And, what don't people know that is the causing their frustration? Why all of the confusion?
As shall be made plain in this article, obesity is a condition of mental chaos and stagnation that manifests itself in the physical world. Quite simply, obesity is a multifaceted condition consisting of emotions, behavioral patterns, errant philosophical premises (erroneous belief systems) and ignorance. After the groundwork has been established, we will discuss obesity myths and present a brief overview of endocrinology.
We shall now discuss the above-mentioned factors in an attempt to make plain and debunk this condition.
The condition of obesity in an adult or adolescent devoid of health complications is a condition of cognition and emotion. It is clear that all things begin in the mind. Psychology makes plain that emotions are cognitive [as opposed to biological] in nature. A biological urge or reflex is not an emotion; simply an impulse brought about by the stimulation of neurons. An emotion is the product of a cause but is not itself a causal factor. One first has a thought about some aspect of reality and then an emotion emerges in response to the thought.
The amount of control one has over ones life is determinative of a person's level of self-esteem. Put another way, when one is in control of ones life, one feels well and secure. Because an obese persons low self-esteem stems from feelings of little or no control over life's "circumstances", people who are obese often experience feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and worthlessness. While this is not always the case, it is true more often than not. I have yet to hear of an obese person being overjoyed in the streets because of their condition and its resulting physical health complications. Cases of the obese being overjoyed about their condition are the exception rather than the rule.
The emotions that one has about being obese stem not from the condition, but from thoughts of lack of control over ones life, and the contrast resulting from physical comparison beside other people.
As mentioned, society places heavy emphasis on being thin and lean. Advertising and the media function as the consciousness of the nation; the supplement industries $5 Billion annual sales are a testament to the desire amongst the masses to be lean and fit. Traditionally, human beings have sought to have "ideal" figures. The ancient Greeks made statues of Hercules and other gods who were muscular and lean, and science has formulated mathematical tools like the BMI [Body Mass Index] to indicate an "acceptable" and "healthy" weight range for a person based on their height and body composition.
When obese persons compare themselves to non-obese persons it is easy to understand how discouragement about their predicament may result. With society, the media and science telling the obese how they "ought" to be rather than how they are, a sense of ostrascization occurs. Obese people become members in society rather than members of society. They become marginalized and alienated. They live on the fringe.
Often times, obese persons will go into retreat because they feel marginalized. They will engage in behavioral patterns that are maladaptive. This phenomenon and its underlying causes will be discussed later in the article.
Because human beings are creatures of habit, and because repetition is the mother of all skill, human beings have behavioral patterns in which they engage to seek comfort and consolation.
As stated, human beings are creatures of habit. Read the following scenario and contemplate whether you have heard something similar, and how closely it patterns your daily life:
Everyday in North America and Europe millions of people arise at or before dawn and begin a day's work. They eat breakfast, shower, get dressed, drive for their morning coffee and its off to the office or factory. They work a days work, get paid a days wage, return home, eat, run some errands, watch some television, and sleep. The next day they do it all over again.
Describes a typical day doesn't it? For many, yes. The point is that people engage in behavioral patterns because it gives them a sense of security. In the example above, when people become ill they experience negative emotions because sickness threatens their sense of stability and security, which is based on their behavioral pattern. If one should miss too many days from work because of illness, by doing simple mental arithmetic it is easy to see how food can begin to become scarce.
Obesity is also a behavior that, although multi-determined, is based on behavioral patterns. These patterns are the result of repetition. But why do people resort to certain behaviors? Because of the desire to gain pleasure and avoid pain.
Earlier where we discussed emotions, we noted that thoughts are the antecedents of emotion. As also mentioned, obese persons often feel helpless, hopeless and worthless. Because cognition is the product of existence, thoughts are naturally reactions to ones environment and its happenings. In other words, you think about things happening around you because they happen. Events do not happen because you think. Reality acts upon your consciousness through transduction.
Obese persons often avoid going out into public places like the beach where a direct comparison between their endomorphic figure and someone else's ectomorphic or mesomorphic figure may be made. Many obese people may also suffer from agoraphobia. Learn what body type you have, click here!
One of the reasons that obese people often avoid certain social situations is because when a comparison between them and others occur they do not like their own resulting thoughts. As a result of their thoughts they may feel insecure and frightened. Therefore, their negative emotions prompt them to get out of environments where they can think negative thoughts [and experience pain] and into environments where they can think positively [and experience pleasure] Avoiding social situations, however, is not the only behavioral pattern that obese people engage in on a daily basis.
Comfort eating [or "closet eating" as it is sometimes called] is a behavior that many obese persons engage in and is a maladaptive behavior that only compounds the very problem from which they are trying to escape. Upon analysis one may understand why comfort eating appears [from the perspective of the obese person] to alleviate the physical and psychological symptoms [emotional or physical] of obesity.
Many foods have macronutrients that trigger specific hormonal and neurological changes and reactions in the body. For example, fatty foods help regulate brain signals across the myelin sheath and contribute to feelings of well-being. Depression from negative thoughts can lead to low energy levels [or may result from them].
Carbohydrate-rich foods can provide an immediate and sustained increase in energy levels of the brain and body. Thus by eating carbohydrate rich foods the "blues" can be temporarily thwarted. It is also well established that dopamine, a neurotransmitter of the brain, is linked to feelings of pleasure-seeking behavior and feelings of reward.
A recent study has found that by looking at food, dopamine levels in the dorsal striatum are raised (Beckman, 2002). Another study underway at the time of writing is studying a chromosome that acts on a growth-hormone receptor that stimulates hunger. This chromosome may influence hunger and the ability to exercise restraint at the dinner table (Maccarone, 2002).
To establish a behavioral pattern a behavior must be repeated for approximately 21 days. This time period is required to "wire" the neural pathways of the brain to accommodate for the new behavior.
For purposes of ease, visualize a steel cable. Each time a behavioral pattern is repeated and is reinforced with pleasure, the cable becomes thicker, and its influence grows. When we engage in behaviors, our neurology can undergo changes in the physical to accommodate for our experience (Kolb & Whishaw, 1998).
Orison Swett Marden remarked "The beginning of a habit (behavioral pattern) is like an invisible thread, but every time we repeat the act we strengthen the strand, add to it another filament, until it becomes a great cable and binds us irrevocably, thought and act."
However, the reverse is also true. By not doing something we can decrease the strength of behavioral patterns in our life. The adage "if you don't use it, you lose it" holds true, both with physical and mental behavioral patterns. Having counseled obese persons, and having had the opportunity to gain an understanding of behavioral patterns, the following tips to combat the behavioral pattern aspect of obesity may prove helpful:
- Use smaller plates upon which to eat.
- Put one mouth-full of food on your plate at a time.
- Eat in only one spot in the house where your only activity is eating (No TV!).
- Notice where and when you eat.
- Notice what your doing while eating.
- Whatever food you enjoy, eat only that food for an entire day and NOTHING else
- Talk with your friends about your obesity and tell them how unhappy you are with your condition.
- Change the language you use regarding eating and obesity.
- Eat a small portion and wait fifteen minutes to eat more food.
Tips 1-2 are an attempt to limit the amount of food available to a person at one time. The pleasure of eating the small amount of food is offset by having to get up to fill the plate over and over. After a while eating becomes WORK!
If 1-2 are not effective, eating in only one spot in the house such as the kitchen will increase feelings of isolation. Eating may become boring when one cannot watch television. Removing pleasurable activities while eating will make eating less enjoyable.
Option 6 listed above may apply to anything. Demonstrating that "too much of a good thing is not so good" is the idea behind this tip. If you love ice cream, eat only ice cream for an entire day. After a while ice cream will start to make you feel ill. You then associate pain with eating ice cream, and you rewire your behavioral pattern.
The next time you may say, "Eating that ice cream made me feel ill last time, I think I wont eat as much this time." And so implementing tip 6 will reduce the amount of ice cream you will eat. Done enough times it will eliminate your ice cream habit all together. This tip may be applied to any food you are trying to stop eating.
Option 7 involved enlisting your friends and family to act as supports for you in your endeavor to change your situation. And tip 8, language, is the most important tip on the list.
A person's language reveals a lot about them and their motivators. For example, a person may use inclusive language when talking about the workplace ["we make" "we do"] or they may use exclusive language ["they make" "they do"]. In either case it is clear how the person views himself or herself as fitting or not fitting into the work culture.
The same is true for obesity and eating. There is a clear difference between "plump" and "fat", "portion" and "helping", "hungry" and "starving." Noticing and changing the language you use regarding obesity and food will contribute toward achieving your specific goals; when you change language, you change thought processes.
The final tip is very effective because it will assist you in avoiding "over-eating." The underlying science behind this recommendation is well established: there is a delay from the time food enters your stomach to where your brain signals the body that sufficient satiation has occurred to fend off hunger pains. Therefore, if one were to eat a small portion of food, then cease eating for fifteen minutes, then resume eating, the amount of food that one could consume would decrease. Over-eating results from eating beyond the amount of food your body needs to be full, simply because it takes time for the body to figure out that its full. If you keep eating and eating and do no allow for this process to occur, when it does occur you will realize you ate far too much. There are other behaviors that obese persons engage in but they are too numerous for this work. Try the tips above and see how they work in your own life.
The thoughts of helplessness, hopelessness and worthlessness experienced by obese persons are erroneous. The reason for their prevalence amongst the obese, however, is not clear to many personal trainers, dieticians or councilors. I shall now discuss it surprisingly it involves.
ERRONEOUS BELIEF SYSTEMS/ PHILOSOPHIES
The ancient philosophers said "As within, so without. As above, so below", Ralph Waldo Emerson remarked, "A man becomes what he thinks about most of the time" and Proverbs says "As you think, so shall you be" (Proverbs 23:7).
The outer world was formed as a reaction to the contents of the human mind. Buildings require designs that depend upon and originate from concepts in the mind of the architect. Automobiles are designed according to blueprints, which are made from the ideas of the designer. In a similar fashion the human body can be modified according to the wishes of the owner. However, the quantitative and qualitative results obtained will be in correlation to the logic of the thoughts of the thinker.
If your mind is in chaos, your life will be in chaos. If your thoughts are not logical, the quality of your life will be poor and will have little cohesion. The quality of your thoughts will determine the quality of your life. Thoughts are the cause and actions are the effect of all that is.
I mention mental chaos because people have [knowingly or unknowingly] false and chaotic philosophical systems that guide their mental lives, and mental chaos leads to physical chaos. Mental deformity leads to physical deformity. A grotesque mental form based on ignorance will manifest a grotesque physical form that is the product of that ignorance.
For those readers who may not be familiar with philosophy, a man named Immanuel Kant was the most influential philosophical thinker since the dark ages. And, will be made plain, the ideas of his errant philosophy have had detrimental effects on society, obese persons not exempted. For those readers who are familiar with Kant it may be of surprise that the philosophy of Immanuel Kant is so far reaching that it has infiltrated every aspect of modern life. In the history of the human race there has never existed a greater author of confusion and chaos than Immanuel Kant.
The philosophy of Kant, however, is not new. He is merely the poster boy that gave the philosophy its current name. Plato, Pythagoras, Hobbes, Leibniz and Hume also promoted the same philosophy: mysticism.
In his book Critique of Pure Reason, Kant asked the rhetorical question "How do we know anything?" In asking this question he set to invalidate the means by which mans determines reality: Cognition via the senses.
Instead of reason, science and objectivity, Kant argued that man could not know anything because of the limited nature of his mind. Of course, if his claims were true, the question is obvious: If man can't know anything because of the structure of his mind, how does Kant know that? And does Kant know that he doesn't know? If he can't know anything, how has he determined his own ignorance? Those questions alone ought to show how ridiculous the ideas of Mr. Kant were, and still are.
In the book Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, Kantianism is summarized as follows:
"Certain abstract conclusions are incontestable to us, but that is partly because of the nature of the human mind. If we had a different sort of mind, with a different sort of conceptual apparatus, our idea of truth and reality would be different. Human knowledge, therefore is only human; it is subjective; it does not apply to things in themselves.
Even the most meticulous proof depends on our sense of what is logical, which must depend in part on the kind of mental constitution we have. The real truth on any question is, therefore, unknowable. To know it, we would have to contact reality directly, without relying on our own logical makeup. We would have to jump outside of our own nature, which is impossible. (Peikoff, 1991)
Again, let us return to the question of Kant when he asked, "Can we know anything?" Illustrating the purpose behind Mr. Kant's philosophy, Ayn Rand in The Fountainhead wrote:
This is the summation of Kant's philosophy. A fundamental hatred for the mind of man. Kant seeks to confuse the human mind with his complex, senselessness and unanswerable questions. His purpose was to overload the conceptual faculty of man with senseless, unanswerable question in an attempt to invalidate mans mind and destroy science and reason [like questions similar to Zen philosophy. i.e. what is the sound of existence happening?].
The invalidation of the conceptual faculty of man leads to the destruction of free will and choice. If man cannot reason or know anything, how can man choose his actions? Thus, Kantianism gives birth to Determinism, the psychology of B.F. Skinner, and to the psychoanalysis of Sigmund Freud.
B.F. Skinner was a behavioral psychologist. The classic experiment of "skinners box" attempted to show the effectiveness of social engineering. Behaviorism states that the behavior of animals and man are determined not by choice or reason, but by environment. Determinism states that we do nothing of free will; the universe has decided our fate and that no action is a result of free will. Psychoanalysis argues that man is subject to the demands of the ID. Freud argued that we are helpless and that "anatomy is destiny."
Each of these examples are built upon one thing: Kantianism and the denial of the conceptual faculty of man. Each of these reduces man to a robot, helpless and groveling at the mercy of his environment and makeup.
Christianity and other religions also contend that man cannot know anything, save only that which is revealed from the deity. Following the logic, man is subject to a God to which he must adhere without question. Ultimately the goal is to control human behavior and reduce the masses to unthinking sheep. The argument is that man is a sinner by nature and he cannot help this. What Christianity fails to mention is that the so-called "initial sin" that Adam and Eve had was a product of choice. Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil by CHOICE. They were not forced. Tricked? Yes. Forced? No.
Returning to the subject of Determinism, the difficulty is that, in the words of John Hick, "if every thought is either rigidly or randomly determined, we could never be in a state of rationality believing that this is so! For rational believing presupposes a degree of intellectual freedom, the freedom to exercise judgment, and if we are totally determined we have no such freedom." (1999).
The proof that Kantianism is false lies in reality; specifically mathematics and the sciences. In other words, reality destroys non-reality, or mysticism.
Supposing, for the moment, that Kant were correct, that we could not really know anything, some interesting questions confront us. For example, how do we know that a man is a man, and an insect and insect? How do we know that an insect is not really a man? What method have we used to distinguish the two? Cognition? According to Kant we cannot really know anything for certain. Our senses? According to Kant our senses cannot deliver to us objective reality. And, what are our senses? How have they been identified if we cannot know anything? How do we know they exist? How have we sensed our senses if our senses do not work and are not reliable?
It is clear that, according to Kant's philosophy, he is not even able to determine what senses are, since that would require a determination on reality, which man is unable to make because he cant know anything. Thus, Kant's philosophy is destroyed by its fundamental tenets. It makes a determination and states that making determinations is not possible. It is contradictory. It is senseless.
The chaos created by Kant gave birth to Determinism, Psychoanalysis and Behaviorism. How have these ideas contributed to obesity? IN EVERY WAY! This errant philosophical system has created confusion and ignorance!
If man cannot know anything, he has no control over anything. He is, therefore, helpless and hopeless. If man has no control his self-esteem is low. Therefore he feels worthless. The connection between thought, emotion and this erroneous philosophical system is clear.
This brings us to our examination of several myths regarding obesity. We shall debunk the senseless overused catch phrases and excuses used regarding obesity. We shall bring together these myths and their philosophical underpinnings, and we shall examine them in detail.
Five OBESITY MYTHS
1 SET POINT THEORY
Set-point-theory states that the human body has a "preferred" state of being. Put another way, according to the theory, there is an "ideal" weight for every person, and no matter what efforts are exerted the body will fight to maintain this weight. But how well does this theory stand up under scrutiny?
The answer to this question is dependant upon your school of thought. Are you a Kantian or an Aristotelian? Kant would proclaim that some unidentified, mystical, divine force regulated your body and that its efforts to stay the same were greater than your efforts to exert change. Translation? You are helpless and groveling, without the ability to make change. In the words of Freud "Anatomy is destiny."
Aristotle, on the other hand, would argue for science; science being the study of the physical world and its laws; of which the body is a part, and to which the body is subject.
Not surprisingly, proponents of the set-point-theory are mostly obese people with terrible eating habits who suffer from acute ignorance concerning effective methods of goal-oriented exercise. As a result, they proclaim that "nothing works, diets don't work, its hopeless" and they give up. Usually these people go on to continue to eat the foods that made them obese in the first place.
Many obese persons have reasoned that "somehow" they would "lose the weight" and get to be where they wanted to be. If "just enough effort" were exerted they could look "like the people in the magazines". The reasoning is that they will "by some miracle" come to look like the people in the magazines that they envy. The result of taking a mystical [unspecified] approach to training is infinite frustration.
Fitness and bodybuilding are the scientific application of exercise. Thus, bodybuilding and fitness are predicated upon scientific, verifiable, methods to achieve certain results. The methods of application are predictable, as are the results.
Using the Kantian system of thought, several questions confront us that we must answer. The first is totally obvious: If nothing can be accomplished despite our best efforts, what is the point of going to the gym? The second is like it: If people who go to the gym are getting results, how is it possible to get results if getting results is hopeless, because nothing can be known about the human body?
Results [productivity] depend on accurate knowledge of the human body's functioning, and nature. Results also depend on a systematized plan of action based on that knowledge. According to Kant and the set-point-theory this knowledge, and therefore the results derived from such knowledge, is impossible. We cannot know anything, and therefore we cannot achieve anything. Whatever we achieve is not the product of choice, reason or science, but chance or "providence."
The key to combating Kantianism lies in an examination of REALITY and the acceptance of the data obtained by the senses. The very existence of science is a refutation to Immanuel Kant and his attack on reason and free will.
Reality shows that millions of people engage in active lifestyles, and do so according to a systematized action. The resultsformer they get show that there must be fundamental knowledge about the human body that we understand, otherwise their plans would not be effective.
The results of millions of hard-training former-obese persons show that there exist universal laws that apply to every human body. Certainly not everyone is "guessing" the same way, doing the same things, and getting great results for their effort. There must be something behind it. Certainly not everyone is "lucky" or "blessed."
The mystic-Kantian approach to fitness would be: "Do I have what it takes? Do I have some undefined quality within me to muster the courage and strength to get results that I cannot know about because I cannot know anything? Can I use my mind to alter reality? Will I get lucky enough to get what I want?"
The same people would stand in front of a flowing volcano and chant incantations to some unknown god and expect the lava and magma to stop, simply because they wished it to be so. If it did not stop they would conclude, not that temperature modifications were necessary to solidify the lava into rock, but that it was a personal failing that the lava did not stop. Maybe they just didn't "try hard enough" or "give enough effort"; maybe they didn't "have what it took" to change their circumstances.
Maybe they weren't "lucky." Forget reality and its known laws; instead rely upon some unidentifiable non-reality to alter physical existence. Such people rely on information not from senses, but from mysticism. Mysticism is non-sensical in that it doesn't rely on the senses. It's little surprise that its results are non-sense in every "sense" of the word!
With respect to the human body, adherents of scientific principals would ask, "What is required? What methods need to be followed so that a body composition change can be elicited?" According to science, cognition and human consciousness are a result of universal existence; the existence of the universe is not the result of the mind. The mind exists as a product of the universe in that it is within the universe. Without the universe and existence, none of us would exist, and human consciousness and physical existence would cease.
It is clear that the scientific approach makes sense. As certain as gravity effects all objects on earth so too is the human body constructed to operate by and obey physical laws. And so it does.
The desire to be thin does not make one thin. Hoping for a "miracle" from some undefined inner source does not promise deliverance. Cardiovascular work and dietary modification are the only methods that will help one obtain the desired results. This simple truth is scientific, and operates according to established principals and practices.
Thus, set-point-theory is the product of ignorant minds poisoned by the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Set-point-theory should be disregarded as the fraud and deception it is.
2 "I WAS NOT MEANT TO BE THIN"
Virtually all of us, if we have been involved with fitness long enough, have heard the claim that a person wasn't "meant" to be thin. Not "meant" or "supposed so be thin", ACCORDING TO WHOM? By what method? And why?
Usually the person making this claim goes on and on about their "frame size" and their "bone structure." The reason for this is not to convince others, but themselves. Often they will go on about how "fate" determined them to have a body size they cannot alter, and then they will refer and depend upon the set-point-theory discussed above.
A common line used to explain obesity is "well my mother was plump, my father was plump, so that's why I am the way I am today. I can't help it."
The logical question is: Why were your parents OBESE? Not plump, not rubenesque, not husky, not heavy-set, nor big-boned: OBESE.
Why were your relatives OBESE? Poor eating habits? Did they sit around all of the time? And, why are you the same way? Are you lazy? Are YOUR eating habits poor because you were conditioned in your parental home to eat poorly? Did you sit around playing video games and watching TV while eating candy and drinking soda? Or were you active? Were you out enjoying your youth by playing games like hockey, soccer, basketball or football?
It is important to realize that responsibility begins with one: YOU. You are the means and the ends of your own life. When you say things like "My parents are the way they are so that's why I am the way I am today" you are giving control of your life to elements outside of yourself. You are operating from a position of weakness by attributing your situation to others. You are making yourself a habitual victim, and being a victim is a habit.
You have a habit because you have a thought. No one makes you eat the things you eat. You have decided to. You have a thought and a habit because you have intended it to be there.
Regardless of whether ones ancestors or relatives were obese, one can always choose, in the present moment, to utilize scientific principals to change ones body composition. Millions of people are changing their body composition every day. They don't make EXCUSES. They don't try to rationalize why they are HELPLESS. They get to work. They rationalize why change is possible for them. They decide, and it is so.
The claim that some unknown force has condemned fat people to being fat is a stupid notion. No one is "meant" to be any way, except the way they CHOOSE to be. As Mark Twain remarked, "The best way to predict the future is to create it."
The power to appear as you desire is within you, and it is accessible at any time. It involves applying scientific knowledge and principles and being intrinsically motivated. When the locust of responsibility and control has returned to you, change is possible. Not before.
You are meant to be as you choose to be.
3 "I CANNOT HELP IT"
Is man doomed to pound his fists against his chest, in the darkness, like the savages? Is man doomed to live in a world he cannot understand? Is he totally helpless? People who use this excuse would have you believe so.
Many people cite lack of willpower as the reason they are a certain way. Man is helpless; he can't choose the way he wants his body to be. Hogwash.
Willpower is an act of volition. It implies a free mind. If willpower were not effective, groups like Alcoholics anonymous would not place such heavy emphasis on the importance of willpower in the struggle to kick an alcohol habit and addiction. Nor would anti-smoking groups.
Unless the person using this excuse is an animal [that lacks the ability to reason and operates on reflex and biological urge] they are lying to themselves and others. If they were an animal that lacked the ability to reason they would not be able to use this excuse, since the notion of being helpless must be compared against another notion that says they CAN help it. This comparison requires reason. Something they don't have if they truly "can not help it." So the very existence of this excuse proves the contrary.
Again, with this excuse the people are placing the power of change outside of themselves. There is "something" out there controlling them that they cannot overcome. They are "doomed" to eat poorly or always be the way they are. Again, they are making themselves a victim of some other [although they never say what] force or object.
The Kantian origin of this pathetic excuse is easily seen. Man cannot know anything, and therefore he cannot resist something he does not know nor can he change it, since he neither knows what he is fighting against, or what the concept of resistance is. Therefore he is a robot who must act and "can't help it."
Again this is a feeble excuse that is clearly invalid. Millions of people around the world are "helping it" every day - "it" being their own bodies. They are helping their own bodies because they are not operating from weakness and they are not resigning themselves to be a victim.
4 DIETS DON'T WORK
While it is true that some diets are better than others, diets seldom fail. The reason that some diets are better than others is that diets are created to operate in response to certain scientific, physiological, realities.
The functioning of the body's endocrine system is well documented in scientific literature. The endocrine system, which we shall discuss later, is the master system that controls the human body. It operates according to predictable, scientific, principles.
The logical question regarding diets is this: If they do not work, why are millions of people on diets, and why do they lose significant amounts of body fat?
A case in point comes from personal experience working with a severely obese woman. In the year 2000 I worked as a counselor to young offenders and troubled youth. I designed seminars and workshops and taught life skills. I ended up working with this woman at the facility, and eventually the subject of her obesity was discussed.
Over the course of the summer we talked frequently about her weight issues. She was 5'4, 380lbs. In between bags of chips she went on to tell me about how she had always been on diets and none of them had worked. She told me that she only ate chips and chocolate bars "once a year" - even though once a year must have meant once per day, because that's how often she ate them. She told me that she had seen dietary specialists and nothing they had told her worked. She had been examined for medical conditions [PSOS, Diabetes, thyroidism, brain tumor] and the results were negative.
She had gone through every doctor in our small town, and they had told her one thing: "It is in your head. You need to lose weight so that you can at least get your period without resorting to using hormone therapy, and so that your ankles stop swelling up when you sit down. One of these days one of those headaches you get is going to be an aneurysm, and you will die."
Each time a doctor told her the same thing she would switch doctors, and spend hours going on a philobuster explaining to me why she was a hopeless case, that nothing could cure her. She looked to me for sympathy and validation.
Eventually I befriended the family and would go over on occasion. During the time I bulked up I would eat pizzas and all kinds of potatoes and chicken wings. I would always order fast food when I would go over. She ordered plenty, as well.
During the time we worked together she would go to the coffee shop and get six cookies and a large French vanilla coffee. She would also frequent McDonalds. One time while eating a super-sized McDonalds French fry and double Big-Mac she proclaimed, "I've learnt to accept my size. I know I can't lose the weight." She would then go home and make rainbow chocolate chip Smartie cakes, and would eat Pringle chips by the can. And then she would wonder why she was obese.
Eventually my frustration mounted and I had to say something. I very candidly spoke with her and encouraged her to order a 3-month supply of a fat burning product. She did, and proclaimed that it was a "magic pill" and that she could now "eat as much" as she wanted. What seemed like a small victory quickly became bittersweet.
She was taking an Ephedra free product for a month and lost 30 lbs. More astonishingly, she made no changes to her diet and did no physical activity. She claimed she was doing tae-bo daily, a claim that was later refuted by her mother. The tae-bo videos she did have sat unwatched, functioning only as dust collectors.
After a while her excessive eating surpassed the ability of the Ephedra free to burn fat. The product simply stopped working. After she stopped taking Hydroxycut, she gained all of the weight back and proclaimed that it did not work.
I talked with her about her dietary habits and she remarked that if she ate any less she "would be anorexic." I have never seen someone who is 5'4 380lbs and is anorexic! She would look at skinny people eating chips and remark, "If I ate like that I would be a whale."
I became frustrated to the point where I told her: "You are in denial. You're fat because you eat GARBAGE. You have claimed to try every diet, and you say they don't work. Your either lying, which would be consistent with your denial, or you're an alien. The laws of the physical universe don't apply to you. When it comes to calorie deficits, protein increase and fat and carbohydrate reduction, you're the exception where the other seven billion people are not. Is that what your telling me?" Sadly, her only response was "Yes, because it's true." Sadly, many obese persons are in denial, and they make excuses to justify their excessive eating orgies.
The bottom line? Diets work, PEOPLE DO NOT. Diets will work on the basis that eating habits are changed. Weight will stay off, provided that eating habits remain in place. Cheating a little here or there is OK, but when cheating becomes normal practice, the "dieter" is doomed. A diet of junk food is a die-t. Junk food will reserve you an early bird spot in the graveyard.
Dieting does not mean stuffing your face with JUNK. Dieting means making a new pattern of behavior based on scientific principals. It means eating foods for what they do in the body, not for their taste, and certainly not to satisfy your junk food habit. When people say diets don't work, think of the above example. Clearly they do.
5 WHAT WORKS FOR YOU DOES NOT WORK FOR ME
Reality shows that millions of people engage in active lifestyles, and do so according to systematized action. The results they get show that there must be fundamental knowledge about the human body that we understand, otherwise their plans would not be effective. The results obtained by millions of hard-training bodybuilders and fitness athletes show that there are universal laws that apply to every human body. It is true that each organism will respond to stimulus somewhat differently, but there are universal physical principals that apply to the human body.
For example, on the surface of the earth gravity applies to every object. We know that due to centrifugal force [generated by the rotation of the earth around the sun as well as earth's own rotation upon its own axis] we are held in place. We also know that to survive, each person must eat the required nutrients, and avoid poisons. We know that each body requires sleep. We know that every human requires water. We know that in order to hear sound waves must enter the inner ear, pass the cochlea, and activate the malleus, incus and stapes, which then transfer the sound onto the tympanic membrane.
We know that if a person, regardless of size, were struck by a large transport truck moving at a velocity of six hundred miles per hour, the person would die. We know that these principals apply equally to all persons, everywhere. These realities are universal and without exception in their application. To deny universal fundamentals is to deny existence.
If something is true [conforms to reality], it is true in all cases. Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification. For example, calling "sky" "ground" is not logical because each is mutually exclusive.
If one were to follow the logic of the "what works for you doesn't work for me" or the "what is true for you is not true for me" argument, several questions face us. To begin, let us use an existent of reality already mentioned: The sky.
It is a given that people are able to walk on the ground. If person Y defines "ground" as "the curved surface of the earth composed of solid matter", and sky is defined as "the absence of the above mentioned which is also curved and composed of the atmosphere, stratosphere and various gaseous chemical compounds", and to person X were assume the inverse argument, then we are in an excellent situation to test the logic of the two positions
Suppose then, armed with an understanding of the two arguments we were to place both individuals in an airplane, give them parachutes and ascend to an altitude of 35,000 feet.
Person Y has identified the sky as the gaseous dimension that he is now within and will be jumping into, in the attempt to safely descend to the solid ground below. Person X, having the inverse position believes that the environment into which he is diving is solid and as a consequence finds no need for the parachute. He believes that the "ground" is the sky and the sky the ground and that the ground is gaseous and the sky solid. Therefore, he believes that he can walk in the sky.
After all, he asks himself, what is a "parachute" anyway? Is it possible to know anything anyway? The object labeled "parachute" could be a "wuzzle"; or maybe "parachute" is something else. Maybe it's a "figment" of the mind - whatever a figment is. So he discards the "parachute" accordingly. "My reality is not the same as his reality", "What works for him doesn't work for me", he reasons.
The time comes to vacate the airplane. Person Y and person X are ready. One is taking a parachute, the other not. Both are operating according to their belief. They jump.
Until the moment where person Y pulls his chute they both descend at the same speed of seventeen feet per second toward the surface of the earth. But something is amiss. According to the belief of person X he should be walking, not falling. The end result is that person Y lands safely while person X is no more. In both cases, there was a principal that applied to each person equally. Gravity.
Regardless of personal belief, both men were in the gaseous environment of the sky. Both men contacted the solid surface of the ground. Person X was right in that what worked for person Y did not work for him! Person X learned the illogic of his belief the hard way.
As demonstrated by the above scenario, reality is objective and applies equally to everyone. Reality is not a respecter of persons. Gravity, the need for sleep and food, exercise principles - these are aspects of reality that apply equally to everyone the world over. These are universal principals of reality.
If something is logical it operates by the same laws in all circumstances, and the results of the operation are predictable. For example, mathematics is logical. Depending upon the branch, a same calculation will yield the same result. Insanity has been defined as doing something the same way and expecting a different result. Kant attempted to invalidate human reason and cognition and thereby reduce man to an automated machine devoid of intellect. He sought to make man insane.
Now that we have examined and debunked several myths associated with obesity, and have seen how the wrong philosophy has caused detriment to millions world-wide, we shall now discuss the underlying master system of the human body.
THE MASTER SYSTEM
Endocrinology is the study of the master system of the body - the endocrine system [the hormone system]. Every living creature has a hormone system that produces chemicals in specific quantities, and assists in the regulation of the autonomic nervous system and various life functions. Understanding how our body's work will enable us to improve the length and quality of our lives.
The master system of the body is most influenced by diet. Macronutrients act as messengers within the body triggering the release and activation of specific hormones. For example, carbohydrates [complex or simple] stimulate the release of insulin. Fats [good or bad] stimulate the production of testosterone, and complete proteins maintain positive nitrogen balance within the body. Exercise also stimulates the endocrine system.
Specific hormones have certain functions. For example, upon consuming carbohydrates, insulin is released. Insulin is secreted from the pancreas and its function is to remove sugar from the blood. However, it also encourages the storage of fat, as well encouraging anabolism by offsetting the catabolic effects brought by cortisol [a natural anti-inflammatory].
Testosterone that is manufactured in the gonads contributes to feelings of well being in males, and also encourages fat burning and protein synthesis. Increases of strength and athletic ability may also result from increased testosterone levels.
Protein acts within the body to increase lean muscle mass. It is also thermogenic in that it burns fat and thus elicits a visible change in body composition.
Clearly, understanding how ones body reacts to macronutrients will assist one in making better dietary choices as well as arming one with a formidable arsenal against the health-wrecking effects of obesity. The knowledge expounded above conflicts totally with the words of Kant. He would have man ignorant and blind, unable to defend against an enemy he does not know. Obesity is a killer and it is one that every human should guard against. Given that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure one can clearly see how this knowledge could prevent obesity before it becomes an issue for concern.
By manipulating the endocrine system supplemented by dietary management and exercise, one can ensure continued health.
We have addressed and debunked five myths regarding obesity. Obesity, as has now been shown, is, partially, a conceptual problem - a problem of the mind brought about by a false belief system. This false belief system results in chaotic thoughts that are misaligned or mis-taken about specific aspects of reality. The obese person is not following scientific principals. Instead, they are following non-reality, or principals of nothingness.
While it is true that many obese persons suffer from genuine medically diagnosed obesity causing conditions and their subsequent symptoms, and while it is also true that obesity is a multi-determined behavior and its causes similarly multi-determined, a great majority of obesity results from the philosophical errors outlined here.
In order to manifest change the obese person must discover the universal scientific principals by which their bodies operate, must adopt the correct philosophy, and must understand their patterns of behavior, as explained in this article. Only then is change, both physical and psychological, possible.
- 1. Beckman, L. (2002, October). Understanding the urge to eat. Psychology Today, p.22.
- Center For Disease Control and Prevention. (1999). Prevalence of overweight among children and adolescents. USA.
- Center For Disease Control and Prevention. (1999). Prevalence of overweight among adults. USA.
- Easen, N. (2002). Asia falls foul to fat. Hong Kong: CNN.
- Hick, J. (1999). The fifth dimension. England: Oneworld Publications
- Kolb, B., & Whishaw, I.Q. (1998) Brain plasticity and behavior. Annual Review of Psychology, 49, 43-64. (pp. 71, 104)
- Maccarone, D. (2002, October). A hearty appetite may run in the family. Psychology Today, p.22
- Peikoff, L. (1991). Objectivism: The philosophy of Ayn Rand. New York, NY: Meridian.
- Rand, A. (1943). The fountainhead. New York, NY: The Bobbs-Merrill Company.
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