Eating and Weight loss: Why It’s Unfair

           Wouldn’t it be nice to press a few buttons and simply transform into the desired weight you inputted? Nearly all of us have trouble gaining, losing, and maintaining weight—the latter two being my main focus. Everything we ingest comes at a price; that is, nothing slips by the bodily systems without instant inspection. Calories, which are measurements of energy, are calibrated meticulously throughout the anatomy. Any food you consume gets tallied up and is weighed against the calories you’ve expended, the results being how you appear in reality, in this dimension at least. Shedding pounds is a perennial battle against your own psyche, but you decide who comes out victorious. Nevertheless, we are constrained by the boundaries of our allotted willpower, physique, and metabolism—all of which we had no hand in creating. There are no free lunches in nature, and the old adage is correct:“You are what you eat.” All of the training you did before a holiday can fall by the wayside by a weekend of binge eating and drinking. Let me explain why all of this is unfair…

          Think about spending a tiresome 30 minutes on the treadmill. The treadmill exhausts (for a person weighing 200 pounds), depending on your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and body mass index (BMI), about 350 to 550 calories—let’s just say 450 for a point of comparison. Now, what is the equivalent in food and drink, you ask? Guzzling four Budweisers (12. oz., 143 cals.) would earn you more calories than the 450 you just arduously burned off. Any more than three crunchy tacos from Taco Bell (170 cals.) will have you regretting your decision immediately. Even a 12″ low-fat turkey breast sub on wheat bread from Subway catapults you to 560 calories. Six traditional medium wings (not including blue cheese) from Buffalo Wild Wings costs you 470 calories, which is absurd considering I’ve had over 35 in a sitting. Last but not least, the coveted Caesar salad is, on average, a whopping 500 calories. All of these are much larger than the exercise time of 30 minutes without factoring in the concomitant metabolic increase you’re subsequently faced with. A pound is equivalent to 3,500 calories, and you tell me what’s easier: eating 3,500 calories or burning 3,500 calories? The answer is a no-brainer; the former takes one tenth of the time, with 50 more smiles.

          Mentally, it is unrewarding, unnerving, and unfair when looking at it from this standpoint. We seem to be in the thrall of our willpower, also. I recently read a book titled You Are Now Less Dumb by David McRaney, and he expounded on the idea of “ego depletion.” Ego depletion is the exhaustible resource that is directly associated with willpower. For example, if you remain in abstaining from bad foods one day, you’ll be more inclined to falter the following day because that resource has been depleted. But willpower is similar to a muscle, in that it can be expanded through training. The next time you decide to eat healthy, notice how hard it is the following day to eat as nutritiously. Those who’ve honed this ability tend to be better at controlling their weight. Remarkably, Hollywood actor Christian Bale lost 62 pounds for his role in the film The Machinist, with a noxious diet consisting of black coffee and a can of tuna OR an apple every day. Although he’s incentivized by money and perfection, I’m sure his willpower is stronger than most of ours. Resisting that nagging urge to consume unhealthy food and managing the hunger pangs will pay huge dividends. Temptations interfere with our sense of self-control, only to lead us down the route to regret.

          Eating is a cinch; it’s a couple chews away from a swallow. This is the easiest, most rewarding task we face every day. Most people undertake the “sunk cost fallacy” when they’re in the midst of a meal, meaning that since they paid the money for something that’s either too low in quality or high in quantity, they must finish it because they paid for it. The cost of the meal is a sunk cost—you won’t get that back, so eat until you’re satisfied, not until you’re full (or have gotten every dollar’s worth). If eating consisted of getting an electric shock per chew or you somehow had to run a government-mandated mile afterwards then I’m sure we’d all be in better shape. Obesity is plaguing our nation, and I think many people are just cowering from the intimidation of putting in the necessary work to lose the calories. Yes, it’s absolutely unfair how hard it is to get in shape versus how easy it is get out of a shape, but it takes time and consistent work—a lifestyle change. Overnight weight loss is illusory; focus on a realistic, long-term goal that will gradually bring you to your desired destination. Diet and exercise are the fundamentals of a healthy way of life. We must recognize this or continually be at war with ourselves.


Kids These Days

            We all, for the most part, remember our childhoods vividly. The days when juice boxes and fruit roll ups were in close proximity—when you made candy the entree and the actual dinner an optional appetizer. You could have the greatest time just being on the grass without any accompanying objects; the world was your oyster. These were your most precious days because of the lack of responsibility, the novelty of life, and our adventurous mind-states. However, with all the buffoonery that took place, you always knew where to draw the line. There was play time, school time (sometimes the two overlapped), and most importantly–reverence for the elders around you.

            I distinctly became cognizant of these important values through my parents, and through the visceral feeling of doing the right thing. That’s not to say that there weren’t plenty of defiant children around me who simply never listened and who remained wayward no matter how much verbal criticism or abuse they received. It’s relatively easy to follow suit with your contemporaries. Those children can be labeled as “bad seeds” and such, but I think there’s much more to it, psychologically and genetically. But now: today, apathy reigns and it seems as if kids, namely teenagers, represent a hodgepodge of nefarious morals. Nipping this slippery slope in the bud will keep our planet secure and I don’t think the contributing factors are hard to figure out.

          From the so-called “knockout game”—in which assailants secretly walk up to innocent pedestrians and knock them out cold– to guys and girls fist-fighting each other, society’s decorum is waning faster than ever. Put it this way: The “knockout game” is the highest form of cowardice ever demonstrated on this planet. Wait, hold up, let me reiterate: The knockout game is the highest form of cowardice EVER demonstrated on this planet. In the 21st century, cold-cocking someone who isn’t consciously aware that it’s going to happen trespasses on the lawn of fairness, bravery, justice, moxie, and rightfulness. This game is unconscionable; this behavior cannot be tolerated at any level. The fact that adolescent teenagers find humor and pleasure in this is beyond me. It seems to be a microcosm of the mentality kids possess these days in America: “Who can one-up who?” I find it utterly deplorable and downright inexcusable to hit another innocent human being for the sake of gaining “cool points” or fulfilling some gang-related initiative.

          Personally, I think social media exacerbates immaturity. Think about it– kids want to impress their so-called friends, so they do the most outlandish things. The correlation between funny and immature has always been a strong one. Now that Vine, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are available to anyone, people gain notoriety by performing such inappropriate histrionics. Many people adapt these technologies for mature uses that don’t contain any vulgarity, but this seems less widespread in adolescent youngsters right now. I get that kids will be kids because they’re just experiencing life by witnessing their mistakes and improving on their foibles at a slower rate than, say, a mature adult person. But, these same kids are our future, and reproaching them for wrong behavior should be encouraged. The lack of discipline and respect trickles down and has a chain reaction effect that is viral; that is, it makes other kids want to partake in these activities in order to become popular. It produces a snowball effect–when a snowball rolls down the hill and gains mass, it becomes harder to stop. Let’s not let this be the case for our young adults.

          Now, who’s to blame? Of course it can’t be the kids, I mean, they’re just kids, right?  Yes, indeed, kids only bear the burden of some of the culpability. Blaming teachers would be ill-conceived; you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. The root of the problem lies within the parents. Kids are by-products of their parents. Whatever traits you and your spouse inherit, your offspring will probably have some of that DNA along with variations depending on the presence of dominant or recessive genes. That’s half the battle, and the other half seems to be losing its grip on our civilization: strong family values. Instilling probity in a kid’s mind at an early age and leading by example is crucial to molding their mind. Apathy also seems to resonate in parents; this paltry level of care is corrosive. I understand that broken families and an overabundance of children produces a cascade of pressure and responsibility, but it’s incumbent upon you–the bearer of the child– to take accountability, and if you can’t, simply do not have kids. Obviously that’s easier said than done, but it’s time to wake up. It’s the year 2014. Parents who neglect and abuse their children literally make them defective. This impedes the child’s development and also causes resentment. We now know, scientifically, that a small dose of spanking is okay, but relentlessly abusing your kids can lead to psychological problems and trust issues within your kin. There are numerous, alternative ways to discipline a kid that won’t eventually come back to haunt you. Just remember: violence engenders violence. Those kids who have no parents and deflect all of the societal temptations deserve major kudos and should be revered in every sense of the word.

          Though my tirade seems negative, it is only trying to prevent this adolescent complication from spiraling out of control. Moreover, I’m optimistic that we’ll start taking heed and recognizing that the absurdity of our actions ultimately reflects our own character. A recent survey by Joseph C. Blader Ph.D., of Stony Brook University, evaluated data from 1996-2007 from the National Hospital Discharge showed that psychiatric hospitalization rates have increased for children ages 5 to 12, rising from 155 per 100,000 children in 1996 to 283 per 100,000 children in 2007. A slow and steady increase in disorders will continue to grow exponentially, so making sure your son or daughters’ mental health is intact could be essential for knowing why he or she acts the way they do. I stand by the golden rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated. Our kids are a distorted snapshot of what the future holds for us today. And if we want to change our future, we need that photo to come into clearer focus.


Curiosity Does Not Kill the Cat

        The most essential tool in life is learning. Whether we learn through experience or observance, we tend to gradually progress in ways that are conducive to our own independence. Inquisitiveness provides us with a greater understanding of the world and betterment of ourselves as individuals. Setting goals and assimilating as much as you can from this life before your expiration date arrives seems, to me, imperative. Life without curiosity is analogous to a hollow glass for which it is impossible to discern whether it’s half-empty or half-full. The greatest thinkers in our history have had multiple “Eureka” moments as a result of the simple process of being unrelenting in discovering what they wanted to know. Whether you’re a bookish bibliophile or a multifaceted polymath, curiosity is the impetus for your cerebral advancement. This insatiable passion for information doesn’t kill you; it merely uplifts you and expands all the vacant areas within your brain.

        The origins of the phrase “Curiosity killed the cat” stem from ambiguous sources in the early 1900s. It essentially means that, the more you inquire about something, the higher the chance you will place yourself into a dangerous situation. Of course, that may be true for snooping feral cats and fainthearted people in horror movies; but, in an objective sense, curiosity delivers a multitude of learning opportunities that ultimately engender success and self-gratification. Thoughtfulness develops in children at a young age, which is why they are so meddlesome. In order to encourage their curiosity, we must let children explore the unknown in a healthy, investigative manner. Choosing to be rigid in your thinking will not develop your intellectual abilities; eagerly questioning the world is the panacea for a benighted mind. Constantly embracing new things and practicing new crafts can be beneficial for not only the brain, but also for the all-around health and well-being of your body.

        Becoming an ignorant Scrooge who is so dogmatic about what you believe or stand for leads you to a mental impasse. In today’s society, ignorance is not bliss, mainly because all of the available information we’ve ever gleaned is readily accessible for anyone to delve into. The Internet has provided many avenues of exploration that are free to examine. You literally have to choose to be unintelligent, nowadays. Not learning is a choice rather than the unattainable luxury that it once was a mere 50 years ago. The advent of the technology age has put everyone on an even playing field.

        The best analogy I can provide for the argument in favor of curiosity I have just presented is this: Imagine two athletes who are similar in talent. One is naturally more gifted than the other just from hitting the genetic Lotto, but the other, who is devoid of such natural attributes, has a stronger knack for training and improvement. The latter person, who augments his skill via desire to become greater, is no different from the person who is intellectually handicapped, compared to his peers, who wants to gain a stronger understanding of what’s going on in his or her world. That said, being immersed in curiosity gives you a head start over your peers because you won’t settle, in your ambitious, overzealous hunger for higher learning, for mediocrity. Going the extra mile can be stimulating—it motivates people to stretch their potential thinking ability and to exhibit innovation in the way that Steve Jobs or Isaac Newton would have.

       In every area of life, we can see that the most prominent people never take a day off and never lose sight of how short our lives really are. This realization elicits an appetite for wonder and awe; to find interest in things that are valuable and pertinent to your life will lead you to absolutely enjoy your existence. Relishing all that life has to offer and ascertaining how things work, why things grow, why we get stressed, why we feel pain, and how we evolved can all induce a sudden feeling of satisfaction. Just look at the stars: you’ll suddenly be overwhelmed with questions; and that, my friend, is the beginning of your journey to enlightenment.