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“The odds of going to a grocery store for a loaf of bread and coming out with only a loaf of bread are about three billion to one.” ~ Irma Bombeck
Taking my brain to our locally-owned Goose Grocery Store is an adventure of epic proportions. The moment I pull my truck into the parking lot, the battle begins. Before I ever set out, in the calm comfort of my home office, I write out a grocery list. It looks a lot like this: lettuce, tomatoes, peppers (red, green & yellow), onions, potatoes, celery, carrots, cucumbers, salad dressing … you get the picture.
When I get home and look at the grocery receipt, it is filled with items like this that I had absolutely no conscious intention to buy: cinnamon apple turnovers; Entenmann’s chocolate donuts; deli macaroni and cheese; bulk Jelly Bellies; Mother’s taffy cookies; Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream … I’m sure you get that picture as well. A grocery store is a dangerous place for my brain to wander around in unsupervised.
So what happened between the time I wrote out the shopping list and the time I walked through the door of the store? A lot. And little of it is very good.
But first, here’s an indictment that neuro-psychiatrist Daniel Amen handed down to me in last May/June’s Psychotherapy Networker (pg. 60):
“There are 140 studies indicating that as your weight goes up, the size and function of your brain goes down. Given that 2/3s of us are overweight, it’s the biggest brain drain in the history of our country.”
So my Zombie grocery-shopping brain is not only adversely affecting my own health and lifestyle in an increasingly unhealthy way, but I’m contributing to the general decline of the whole country (and by extension, the whole world). That’s a lot of weight to bear! And just recently comedian Larry Wilmore cited stats that overweight Americans are overwhelmingly discriminated against in the job market, just as obesity reached another milestone peak. It’s not funny, Larry.
“But it’s not my fault,” I frequently hear myself pleading. “It’s my brain’s. Plus, other people are planting bad food ideas in my head. Look at this research: Mind Control.” All of which Daniel Amen and Larry Wilmore would probably agree with. To a point. To the point where I become aware that my brain may have a little problem with something called: Executive Function. Once I become aware that I have this problem, then it is up to me to begin doing something about it. But what?
Executive Functions are carried out primarily by a centrally located part of the brain sometimes considered to be the place where the Third Eye resides. In Asian lore, the Third Eye – the ajna – is reputed to be the “command center of concealed wisdom.” When I go grocery shopping, for some reason my Third Eye turns blind. If this part of my brain right behind my ajna – the orbito-prefrontal cortex – was sufficiently robust and working properly, I would easily be able to stick to my grocery shopping list and do many things other people have little trouble with: make effective plans, keep the space around me neat and organized, or easily over-ride impulses to buy and eat foods advertisers brainwash me with that are unhealthy for me.
Staking My Future on Zombie Brain?
Early last year I realized that unless I started to take ongoing deliberate steps to address my Zombie Brain, my weight – 242 pounds at the time – was only going to continue to increase. But what to do? I have long known that diets don’t work – the weight comes off, but as it does it sends an under-the-radar signal to my Serengeti Brain that we are now in a period of significant famine (the brain we’re all walking around with today is pretty much the same brain that early human hunter-gatherer people had). Consequently, if I don’t overeat the next time food shows up, I run the risk of being seriously underweight when the next famine shows up. To Serengeti Brain diets equal food scarcity and it mostly drives reactive behavior outside our conscious awareness.
Fortunately, apart from diets that don’t work, I come up with a lot of other creative ideas for addressing my Zombie Brain challenge. Here’s one: conscript my friends to yell at me every time I’m out with them and order and eat something unhealthy. Punishment and abuse – that’s the ticket (I didn’t say they were all good ideas). But wait, don’t I do enough of that to myself already? Okay. Scrap that idea.
How about this: take out a gym membership and promise to keep my promise to actually go? Sounds great, except for the fact that over the years the dozen or so gym memberships I’ve had have been money truly wasted. Last week we gave away the $350 treadmill that’s been gathering dust in the basement for 3 years. It was only then that I realized: I hate exercising for exercise’s sake. What’s the point? Oh – to help manage my weight. Right. Okay. Nevertheless, when I tell the truth about it, working out in a gym or on a “dreadmill” doesn’t do it for me.
And then I hit on it: a brainstorm! I’m a brain guy!! Can I actually use the knowledge of how my brain works to effectively address this conundrum? Why, yes I can. Stay tuned …
Meanwhile, I’m curious as to what your grocery-shopping adventures might be like? Care to share?