You’re never as prepared for an all-you-can-eat buffet as a person in pajamas. I found myself with my teenage sons at just such a buffet last night. I’m not a huge fan of those places — as someone with celiac, they seem like minefields. To teenage boys, they seem like paradise: row after row of food and no limit to how much they can ingest. By the time my older son came back to the table with a plate piled-high with desserts, I had to physically look away lest I become ill at the sight of him eating even more. As I glanced around, I saw the pajama-clad. Some people, it turns out, plan ahead for their overeating, and show up in comfortable clothing that isn’t tight around the waist.
My mind wandered to two of my friends, who both underwent bariatric surgery last week. A married couple, the man has weighed over 400 lbs his entire adult life and his wife has weighed over 500 lbs as long as I’ve known her. It’s been a long time since I was skinny myself, but I’ve never suffered their kind of obesity: I’ve never walked into a room and looked around for a chair I could trust or needed a motorized scooter if the day included too much walking or needed a seatbelt extender. I know what it’s like to be thin, and I know what it’s like to be fat, but I don’t know the suffering of being significantly impaired from weight or the anguish they’ve felt knowing their weight was why they couldn’t have children. They finally decided enough was enough and saved up their money and got gastric sleeve surgery, which removes a significant portion of the stomach (it doesn’t involve the stomach wearing a “sleeve”; it involves the stomach becoming the shape of a sleeve).
Now that they’re home, the wife has been posting a lot of pictures of food. Foods she misses, foods she wants to try as soon as she’s allowed solids, foods she’s stocked up on for recovery. She even started posting updates of what her cat is eating. Right now, her mind is completely occupied with food, which alarms me a bit.
It got me thinking. What makes people so large?
Overeating is an obvious answer. It’s not the only culprit. Some people suspect an imbalance in gut flora or a virus or something gone awry with the way food is being produced. Some people have thyroid issues or don’t know how to cook, or literally don’t know enough about nutrition to know healthy foods from unhealthy ones (and this can be a generational cycle that perpetuates). Nowadays fat is a class issue, as organic vegetables are far more expensive than white flour sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup and sold in endless forms throughout the supermarket and gas stations and fast food places. The factors are complex, but we can all agree that there’s an epidemic of obesity, which is ironic since the worst food-related danger used to be starvation.
That’s what I was turning over in my head. Starvation. Obesity. Starvation. Obesity. I know that on this planet people have always died from starvation and still do. I fully believe in reincarnation. One of the predominant beliefs is that the thoughts on our mind at the time of death determine our next lives. This is where it gets into territory that can’t be definitively answered (least of all by me), but I’ve been wondering: could overeating be caused by starvation in a past life?
My friends know they need to lose weight to improve their health, avoid early death, and hopefully be able to have children someday. They are motivated. They saved the money and went through the surgery. Despite their knowledge and motivation, the wife can’t stop thinking about food and envisioning all the things she wants to eat as soon as she’s able. Could it be that this fixation arises from literally starving to death in a past life and having the last thoughts be a strong desire for access to endless food? If that’s the case, this time around, she does have this kind of access. We have so much food our ancestors would be astonished at how easy it is to eat as much as we want as often as we want. No amount of food seems to be enough to quell the fear of going hungry.
Some topics I plan to discuss in future posts include: types of karma, how seeds of karma take root, how they flourish (or fail to), how they produce new seeds of the same kind, how we either continue planting the same seeds (always expecting miraculously different crops!) or how we break the cycle.
One thing I know for sure: even if reincarnation is untrue, even if obesity is unrelated to starving in a previous life, our eating habits have everything to do with karma. All habits are part of an ongoing cycle of actions and food habits are among the most deeply rooted. You can bet the people who show up at the buffet in pajamas aren’t overeating for the first time. Even a surgery that removes 80% of the stomach doesn’t uproot the mind’s obsession with and craving for food. Millions of us, to varying degrees, are creating and realizing the fruits of fat karma.