Waking up one day and finding myself weighing nearly 250 pounds was bad enough. Worse was feeling like I’m told many alcoholics feel – that I was powerless over weight gain. How could this be? I’m a smart guy. I have three graduate degrees. I’ve eventually been successful in virtually every venture I’ve ever been involved in. I’m a good person, a good friend and father. And I’m old enough to know better.
The kicker came one day while on a restocking trip with my wife to Costco. That was the day I hit rock bottom. We had the usual carts filled with roughly $700 worth of Costchkes. While we were waiting in line, my wife remembered that Archie and Gracie needed kitty litter. She asked me to go and get it while she held our place. After wandering about a bit I finally found the Kitty Pride. I picked up a sack and began walking back to the checkout line.
Suddenly, I had an epiphany: “Holy cow. This sack of kitty litter weighs 42 pounds. IT’S REALLY HEAVY! And I’m carrying this amount of extra weight and more around with me on my body … every living moment of every day!”
Get Thee to a Library
Whenever I’m confronted with a hard problem I have one basic way of dealing – off to the research literature I go. If I’m struggling with this issue, other people are as well. Current estimates place the number at only 200 million other Americans. For the first time in history, overweight people currently outnumber the underfed.
Thus I began researching everything about the brain and eating behavior. I looked at the brain and bulimia, the brain and binge eating, the brain and addiction, the brain and compulsive eating disorder…. Whatever I thought might provide clarity and direction in my quest to get out in front of this learned behavior, I was interested in learning. And I also didn’t forget the Golden Rule of Social Neuroscience lesson about how critically important Jill Bolte Taylor’s mother was in her recovery.
Complification Makes It Not Happen
Over the next 9 months I learned a lot. I was already more than familiar with all the adverse health conditions that are associated with extra poundage – things like diabetes, heart ailments, strokes, kidney failure and the physical shrinking of my brain. But what I mostly discovered is that there are very good reasons that more than 200 million Americans and 42 million kids under age 5 are overweight or obese: if your brain isn’t already wired for it, managing weight is an ENORMOUSLY COMPLICATED enterprise. Quick, shallow or easy solutions simply don’t work. Sorry. Here are just a few of the things I discovered in my research that can work against us: obesogens, heritable genetics, environmentally-impacted epigenetics, metabolic ghettos, reduced sensory awareness, non-rechargeable mitochondria, impaired neuro-differentiation, learned helplessness leading to despair …
In hindsight I realized it was precisely at what I call my “Kitty Litter Moment” that I finally and truly hit bottom, dropped to the depths of helplessness and despair. And it was also at that moment when I became resolved that I was no longer going to feel helpless and hopeless about my weight. I was going do whatever it took to be the free agent of my own personal, successful weight management program. I’m currently 18 months and 35 pounds down into what I have little doubt is going to be an ongoing, lifelong adventure. A brain-based experiment in a flexible, joyful, curious exploration rather than a painful, deprived, rigid, burdensome “weight loss program.” My brain wiring has changed such that managing weight has finally become an auto-telic activity – a self-motivated experiment that is pleasurable for its own sake because it carries its own intrinsic rewards. Managing my weight has become a fun game that I win at way more often than I lose. Rumor has it that I only need to mindfully eat 50.1 percent of my meals to make it into the Weight Manager’s Hall of Fame. Where weight management is concerned, it truly is how we play the game that matters most.
If you’d like to know more about how I organize and continue to successfully manage my weight using what I know about how the brain works, click HERE.