No B.S Friday: This isn’t the complete picture, but it is part of the picture.
I’ve got a theory about why some people get fat.
Keep in mind that I have absolutely zero training in either nutrition or psychology, but just see if that stops me.
What I lack in formal training I make up for in a lower density of fuks per cubic metre – and that actually does seem to give me some interesting insights, or at least original insights.
Anyway, I think it breaks down like this.
A lot of eating is panic eating. We rarely eat because we actually need the energy and nutrients. We eat to soothe our animal.
Sometimes the animal is just bored and wants a little treat. Sometimes the animal is actually anxious and afraid, and that taps an instinct to pack away energy.
It’s an effective survival strategy – if there’s something in your immediate future that is scary (and the definition of anxiety is the contemplation of a threat in your imminent future) – then it’s not a bad evolutionary strategy to just stuff your face with energy rich foods. You might need it.
On top of that, there’s a somatic connection. It’s like when you take deep breaths – the body goes, “Oh, we’re breathing deeply..? We must be relaxed.” And then it becomes relaxed.
Same story with food. “Oh, we’re eating..? Things must be ok. I must be safe.”
So sometimes we eat as a way of regulating and ‘powering down’ the animal. Not all the time obviously. But sometimes.
I don’t think I’m saying anything too out there here.
But the interesting question for me is why we’re in a panic. Why is there an epidemic of anxiety?
There’s obviously a complex array of reasons for that, but the one that I’m interested in today is misplaced responsibility.
Janet Landsbury is a parenting educator who wrote “No bad kids”. One of the key ideas is that parents have to take a leadership role, and be willing to lead with compassion, but also with confidence.
And her idea is that kids actually need that from us. A three-year old is not equipped to navigate the world and they know it. If they’re given too much responsibility – if they’re allowed to make decisions like what they eat and when they go to bed – they can get a little freaked out. They’re not ready for being responsible for their own care.
That misplaced responsibility creates anxiety.
Now that were adults, I see something similar happen.
We let the animal call the shots. We follow our instincts. We let our bodies determine when we eat and when we sleep and what we’re trying to do in life.
But our bodies aren’t meant for that responsibility.
In some schools of psychology they talk about it like a horse and rider. The horse is the animal body and it is strong and powerful. But it doesn’t know how to navigate the human world.
The rider is our human mind – it’s the mind that is able to read a complex social world, and exercise command through the will.
Responsibility is in its right place when the human is empowered to take charge. (When you have a craving for a chocolate bar, but you don’t let yourself have it because you know it’s not good for you… that’s what I’m talking about.)
But if you let the animal call the shots – have chocolate bars when it wants, get up when it wants, etc. it might feel good in the moment, but you’re actually creating anxiety.
You’re asking the horse to do the rider’s job. But the horse needs you to take charge. It doesn’t understand what’s going on.
So when we let the animal take charge – when we don’t exercise discipline and will – we put responsibility in the wrong hands.
That creates anxiety.
And anxiety, sometimes, triggers an eating response.
And that, sometimes, leads to people getting fat.
That’s my hot take.
Psychologists, come at me.