During the summer, less than 50,000 people reside in this town. When the university is in session, the population swells to well over 100,000. We have 14 Publix grocery stores, three Winn Dixies, two Hitchcock Foodways, one Albertson’s, a Fresh Market and Ward’s, our independent and local -owned grocer. You can buy groceries at Target, the super Walmarts – we have three in a 15 miles radius – and Sam’s Club. I prove my point. We are a culture obsessed with food and more specifically, consuming things. And in the last 40 years, the U.S. Census data has collected information about obesity rates. Unless you live in Colorado, you’re likely overweight. The rates of obesity skyrocketed after World War II. But I think the problem is more than just obesity. We are fixated on consuming and in the process have accumulated excess weight and excess debt. We seem willing to “pay later” so we can have our pleasure now. I want to eat this giant slice of cake NOW…..and everyday I want to eat something like it…I might get diabetes later because I am fat….but that is LATER. I want this book or bike or suitcase or plane ticket or car or necklace NOW. I’ll charge it. Pay for it later. Except that purchase goes right to the hips of our financial figure. Before you know it, you have a big butt and big debt. And both seem insurmountable.
To conquer the bulge – be it weight or debt – you do what you did to get here, only in reverse. It was one piece of cake here, one pair of shoes there, one meal out at a restaurant, one road trip to Disney…..wash, rinse, repeat. And so to restore balance and return to a healthy weight and healthy money management, you push away and pay off in increments.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. But once you’ve eaten it…..you own it. And it isn’t something you can purge out of you in a flash. It took a long time to consume it. So, it will take a long time to shed it. One LESS bite at a time. One MORE mile.
And maybe….just maybe…the origin of our cultural issues with food and debt arise from our near lack of sensuality in any other realm. Except for food, shopping or porn, sensuality is absent. Just the word conjures this overlay of sexuality. They are not the same thing. Sensuality is SENSING. Sexuality is AROUSING. While one may be a subset of the other, they are not interchangeable. I contend that if our society was more open sensually, we would have less obesity and less debt. I will make a few generalizations. People who exercise regularly aren’t overweight. Is it JUST the extra calories burned? Or do they get their sensual kicks from moving and muscle power and endorphins, and therefore don’t need a carb loaded, serotonin inducing binge? Foodies…..people who love fresh, local, diverse, unusual foods….are usually lean. So are vegetarians. Why? More sensual experiences. My mother recently commented about “How is it that poor people are usually obese? When I was a girl, poor people were thin.” My momma’s family was poor. My daddy’s too. Poor folks ate beans and rice, grew their own food. They knew what it meant to be hungry. They didn’t waste. They made their own clothes. And in the summer, they went without shoes. There was no TV. But I am not endorsing poverty as a means to weight reduction. I am not nostalgic for the 1950’s. I am suggesting that because there was no abundance of food, they filled that most basic of human needs for CONTACT and sensuality in other ways. Listening to radio (which meant you could do other things at the same time), crocheting, eating pickles, making homemade wine or beer (or moonshine), reading, having a whole bunch of children. Big families, lots of connections, and a plethora of sensual experiences. They had neighbors and yards without fences. The parked their cars in the driveway. The opened the windows of their houses.
Modern life is small, contracted, fast paced, disconnected, drive-thru and utterly sterile. And so we drive home with our windows rolled up, pass thru the drive thru at the bank, the fast-food chain, we bitch at the slow poke in front of us, we’re angry and mean….when we get home, we tell our kids or spouse to go away cuz we had a bad day, we drink a beer or a glass of wine, we shove food down our gullets and then plop our asses down in front of the boob tube and disconnect even further. We are numb, anesthetized and generally profoundly unhappy and discontent. I know…..I write enough prescriptions for psych meds to know. “What is wrong with me? I should be happy but I am not! Can’t you give me something?” I would like to say (and have a patient actually do), “Here, go train for this marathon, cancel your cable, limit your internet to 1 hour a day, go and VISIT your mother or sister or child and TALK to them. Touch them. Have real sex with your lover, go lie in the uncut grass as dusk and watch the stars come out. Stop thinking and start FEELING and then maybe you won’t FEEL so bad or THINK you are so unhappy.”
I am absolutely certain the issue with debt isn’t to spend less. Obesity isn’t about eating less. It is about being MINDFUL. Present. Aware. HERE and not there. Think about what your are doing and FEEL IT. Experience it. If you are moving at light speed, you have no ability to feel anything. You must PAUSE. HALT. LOOK. LISTEN. SEE. TOUCH. And to do that, you must take the time and slow down.