I got fat. When, about six months ago, my wife Cat became too ill to exercise—and then throughout the time that we learned that she might have cancer, needed an operation, had the operation, and recovered from the operation), I stopped exercising myself. (Cat’s fine now; she had the operation; she’s good.)
The fat I put on is sympathy fat. I’m not going to keep staying in shape when Cat cannot. Apparently.
Besides not exercising, I also started eating anything I wanted. Which, as it turned out, was everything.
I’m 6′, 2″. If I want to eat eat, things start vanishing. Food. Drink. Leather goods. The neighbor’s pets. Overweight infants.
Ah, cannibalism jokes. They’re so pretty much never funny.
Because I don’t weigh myself I don’t know the exact number, but I’d guess I’ve gained about fifteen pounds. I can’t fit into any of my pants. My stomach now pulls me down stairways faster than I care to go. I’ve lost my laptop—since I don’t have a freakin’ lap anymore. Now I just have knees and a computer I have to put up on a table I can barely reach.
So I knew I had to stop eating like the cause of a worldwide dessert shortage. But when I tried to, I failed. I found I just couldn’t stop eating in the way that for me had become habitual.
Now that was something definitely interesting to me. I’d never had that problem before. I know some people do have trouble with overeating, of course. That had just never been one of my burdens.
And then it was.
Man. Life is vicious that way, isn’t it? “Hey, this is fun!” is invariably about step away from, “Give me more, or I’ll shoot you.”
Time for Serious Thought, I thought. I knew if I didn’t figure out how to stop eating anything that stood still long enough for me to pour syrup on it, I’d soon enough be in real trouble.
One day later, I had discovered the single thought I needed to basically snap out of it, and start eating normally again. And now I’ll share that thought with you. If your eating is out of control, you can forget all about diet books, weight-loss programs, and all the rest of that sort of thing. This really is all you need.
You know why people overeat? Because taste registers as immediate and infinite physical delight.
Duh, I know. But stay with me.
Humans have exactly two ways to experience immediate and infinite physical delight: Food and sex. Speaking purely physically—which of course is speaking about a lot of our lives—nothing else comes anywhere near those two. For every other physical sort of thing you do, the relationship between the effort you exert and the result you get is perfectly … reasonable. You always get pretty much exactly what you expect to.
But with sex and food, the payoff toward the Whoo-hoo side of things is insanely lopsided. What eating and sex instantly bring feels so ridiculously wonderful that nobody’s brain can even almost process it. Eating and sex are physical acts so intensely pleasurable that once you do them they instantly become the only things left for them to become, which are emotional experiences.They completely cash out your brain; you’re instantly transported into Overwhelmed Land.
You eat something delicious and, just like that, you have what you can’t get any other way (but one): an experience with the infinite.
The flavor of something delicious has no end. You can’t sense its limits. It literally blows your mind.
It’s more than you.
That’s the key: it’s more than you.
As humans, we crave experiencing the infinite—which is to say interacting with the infinite—like we crave nothing else in this world. As corporeal, sensual beings, we’re designed to crave being physically overwhelmed.
With all respect to the magnitude of Adam’s colossal blowing it, thank God we have to work. If we didn’t, we’d all stay home all day and do nothing but eat and [definitely deleted]. We’d be like the more disgusting, more XXX version of the humans in Wall-E.
The way to stop overeating is to accept the fact that you’re simply being tricked by the food you eat. Your tongue has so many taste buds on it (being about ten thousand, doncha know) that when all the good ones start firing at once, your brain explodes. You snap into the mode of Experiencing Infinity. Before you’ve even had a chance to register it, you’re experiencing the ever-fantastic and alluring infinite.
Why, it’s pretty exactly like you’ve stepped right into God’s territory!
Except you haven’t. All that has happened is that, via your tongue, you’ve been emotionally duped. Eating is nothing but a purely physical experience. The food hits your tongue; the nerves on your tongue start exploding; they fire off way too much information to your brain; your brain goes on overload—and voila: you have yourself a mini out-of-body experience.
Except, again: No, you really don’t. What you really have is a purely physical experience. Nothing magical or phenomenal happens when you taste delicious food. Eating scrumptious chow feels like it triggers a wondrously magical phenomenon, but it doesn’t. It’s just that the physical chain of reactions that eating something delicious does cause to happen tricks your brain into thinking that what’s happened is something much more extraordinary than it actually is.
If you want to be free of the problem of overeating, all you have to do is accept the truth about the taste of delicious food. And the truth about delicious food is that, via the physicality of your tongue, it tricks your brain into thinking that you’re having an experience that you are not.
Satan is sometimes called The Trickster, because he makes people think that behind all the sparkling razzle-dazzle he presents is something real. But there never is. It’s all just illusion. Same with food. It tricks your tongue—and, through your tongue, you—into thinking it’s something it’s not.
The next time you’re about to eat some delicious food, remember that it’s just an illusion waiting to trick you. And then, when you’re eating it, think of it that way. It totally removes from the experience of eating that crazy-hook thing that always makes you eat too much.
Suddenly, your food’s just food. And then you don’t want nearly as much of it as you did before.