We Just Can’t Seem To Get Along

I listened to an interesting piece on NPR today about stereotyping. It was from a show about the barriers to human cooperation, and argued that the propensity of humans to categorize and stereotype each other hinders progress towards common human goals, but is basic to human nature, and has been shown to begin in infancy.

This to me is a self-evident truth, but is in fact a very controversial idea. The nature-nurture debate is alive and well. Reinvigorated in the 70’s with the publication of E.O. Wilson’s, Sociobiology, it remains highly contentious. Those who believe that there is a basic human nature that conditions our behavior and our relationships with each other are often considered genetic determinists, and champions of the status quo. These ideas are anathema to the political left, and have been attacked systematically for years–famously by Stephan Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin. The countervailing view being that we are born as blank slates and that society’s ills and our inability to get along as a species result from faulty human institutions.

Today, there is a growing and vibrant set of academic fields which are generally lumped together as Evolutionary Psychology. The idea is that our brains evolved into recognizably human form in the Stone Age, and we are thus compelled to meet the cognitive demands of our current situation with the same tools used by our forebears. Evolutionary Psychology seeks to assign meaning for our current behavior, and our current social ills as maladaptive relics of formerly adaptive responses to the environment. They argue that our problems stem from our use of Stone Age brains in a Space Age world.

Many consider Evolutionary Psychology a pseudo-science, and a dangerous reformulation of the same ideas that led to eugenics and Nazis and the rest. There is no question that it is a slippery slope, and it is true that the ranks of those who consider themselves Evolutionary Psychologists are liberally peppered with some very weak-minded, even onerous, individuals.

But to dismiss the entire framework out of hand is a mistake, and threatens our ability to make substantive progress as much as those who would say, we are what we are, there is no point trying to change the world.

There is no doubt that our brains are structured in the shape of our evolutionary past. Without acting strictly in self-interest, one could not survive. Our brains seek out patterns, make generalizations, and find contrasts and distinguishing characteristics wherever possible. That’s just the way it is. Of course we stereotype. Of course we act in our self-interest. To think otherwise, is to misconceive the human condition and human relations. To deny it, for political or any reasons, is to stand firmly in the way of change.

The key is not to deny human nature, but to understand it. That is what some Evolutionary Psychologists are trying to do. The work of Steven Pinker, for example, could hardly be more cogently or eloquently presented.

To survive as a species, we must overcome the dictates of our evolutionary past. We must acknowledge our propensity to act in a way that serves our own over others’ needs. Then we must expand what we believe our needs to be. It can happen: a parent brings a child into their circle of self-interest, and acts on their behalf. We will help friends and even neighbors. But outside a very small circle, it breaks down. We must somehow convince ourselves that we all share the same future.

We want a peaceful, clean, just world. This will never happen until, by some miracle, we realize that we all must have a fair stake for there ever to be peace and prosperity. Sewing misery around the world so we can buy cheap sneakers is already coming back to haunt us. Presumably the CEO of Mcdonald’s has children and grandchildren. Yet the ruination of the planet is somehow for others to worry about.

It seems impossible that humans can truly get along, will ever lose the shortness of sight. But we’ve got to do something. If only to show the schmucks they’re not getting away clean.

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Published in: on January 31, 2007 at 3:47 pm  Comments (4)  

Burn Baby Burn

When we eat a plant or an animal who has eaten a plant (or an animal who has eaten another animal who has eaten a plant), we are taking in potential stores of energy in the form of the chemical bonds holding together that organism’s molecules. Molecules are made of atoms. Atoms are composed of a nucleus with electrons orbiting around. Atoms can share electrons with each other, and this sharing holds the atoms together. This is a chemical bond. These bonds are potential sources of energy, since energy is released if the bonds are broken.

The forms of molecules that we can break down and use as fuel are carbohydrates (sugars), proteins, and fats. Every natural thing we eat contains some combination of those types of molecules. We begin by breaking these down, in the process of digestion, into smaller constituents. For example proteins are broken down into the amino acids of which they are composed, large sugars into small sugars, fats into simple fatty acids. Absorbed through the wall of our gastrointestinal tract, these simpler molecules are transported into our cells and become the building blocks of our own proteins, fats and sugars, or they are broken down further and fed into a cellular furnace which extracts the energy from their chemical bonds.

Each of these three classes of molecule begins its journey to the furnace in a different way, but eventually each is converted into the same kind of molecule that can enter a common pathway for complete breakdown and release of its energy. The furnace analogy is more than just apt, since the process of breakdown of these molecules is in fact combustion. That is, a process in which a carbon-based substance whether it be a sugar or petroleum or paper, in the presence of oxygen, is broken down, releasing energy and creating carbon dioxide and water in the process.

Now, in a fire the process is fast and out of control. In the cell by contrast, the process takes place in a stepwise and orderly fashion so as to best utilize the energy released. In a fire, all the energy is lost as heat and light. In our cells, some heat is lost (which is why we shiver—to generate heat by increasing the metabolism in our muscle cells), but some is converted into a storage form useable by our cells for its energy needs.

Basically, the energy released from breaking the bonds between the carbon atoms in these ingested molecules is used to kick an electron up hill in such a way as to capture the energy it releases as it rolls back down. This energy is converted into the bonds of a molecule called ATP–the universal energy molecule for all life, from a bacterium to a redwood.

So how does oxygen fit in? Well, that rolling electron needs somewhere to end up. The oxygen sits at the bottom of the hill waiting to catch the electron as it arrives. At the bottom, a complex system donates that electron to an oxygen atom and converts it harmlessly into water. Harmless is the key. Remember we said atoms have a nucleus with electrons in orbit around. We also said electrons can be shared between atoms, which forms a bond between them. This sharing is actually the result of a key property of atoms. They will always tend to their most stable state. Atoms that have all their orbiting electrons in pairs are very stable. Unpaired electrons create instability, and an atom like this tends to rectify the situation by pairing up with a similarly unstable atom with its own extra electron problem. They put their electrons together to make one happy, stable pair. That is why for example oxygen gas is O2 and not O. It is stable when paired with another oxygen atom.

So when that electron rolls down to oxygen, that oxygen atom now has an unpaired electron. A mechanism is set up to deal with this by linking on two hydrogen atoms and thereby forming a nice stable water molecule. Yet, as an electron is rolling down towards this elegant complex, it can occasionally leak out of the system early, pairing with oxygen outside the safe, water producing complex at the end. Now you have created superoxide, an unstable oxygen with an unpaired electron, that is, a free radical. To find stability it will look for a way to pair that electron. One possibility is to strip an electron from (or, oxidize—hence oxidant) another molecule in the cell (say DNA) and render it harmfully changed or non-functional. These free radicals are therefore extremely toxic. In fact, a type of cell in the immune system purposely creates superoxide and uses it as a weapon against foreign microorganisms.

Our cells contain an enzyme which cruises around and deactivates these free radicals as soon as they are formed. But no system is perfect and small amounts of damage are done to our cells. This damage is minimized by the presence of certain substances, like vitamins A, C, and E. They react with free radicals (are therefore anti-oxidants) and pull them out of circulation.

We break the bonds of organic (carbon containing) molecules, in the presence of oxygen and create ATP which our cells can use for all their activities, and carbon dioxide which is a waste product. The oxygen and carbon-containing molecules come ultimately from plants, who also process the carbon dioxide we produce. Our lungs absorb oxygen, and release carbon dioxide, while the collective lung of the green plants does the opposite.

Wouldn’t it be great if we as humans could manage to elect leaders who are committed to slowing the accelerating destruction of this elegant balance? Rather than those who would sell out the future of our planet in the interest of greed, hubris, and arrogance? Wake up! Our world is being destroyed. It’s not subtle. Vermiculture baby!

Published in: on January 30, 2007 at 11:55 am  Comments (3)  

When A Sunday’s Just A day

When your existence is completely unstructured, weekends lose their snap. Then again Mondays are just another day too. A wash. The life unplugged is amorphous. When are you done? When do you start? Do you get a day off? Do you get a day on?

I can’t pretend that this transition is easy. Graduate school was my last shot at a regimented course of action. Now it’s a matter of slapping enough things together to stay afloat. We bought a house, but we can’t even get in to see it until we close on it. Hatbox Louie favors breaking in, but inexplicably, I of the supremely larcenous spirit, cannot stomach the idea.

I have no problem with breaking laws, but getting caught seems unpleasant. So we wait. I have always crawled back to medicine in these situations, but I am determined not to this time. But just as my confidence flags, I get an email from a medical project in Belize that needs a doctor. It’s from a database I put myself into 3 or 4 years ago. What timing. I definitely had a moment of consideration. Luckily, I discovered that the organization is faith-based. Basically Dr. Nostrum repellent. No can do.

So we press forward. Feels just like a Sunday.

Published in: on January 28, 2007 at 2:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Head ‘Em Up And Move ‘Em Out. Time To Punch The Doggies

When you’re running a worm ranch, life is not easy. You’re up before first light–to pee. Then a few more hours of sleep and some coffee. Then there’s meal planning. A nice salad, perhaps a ratatouille. Something that leaves a good bit of green trimmings to feed the hungry wrigglers. Then there’s paper to shred for bedding, etc. etc. Obviously you can’t make it in this business without tremendous passion. You gotta have the drive to get you through the long days. And in 3 months these proud beasts should have turned the paper and kitchen waste into high quality castings–a great fertilizer. It’s a license to print money.

So this Red Wriggler vermiculture business needs a name. The brainstorming has begun:

–American Wrigolo
–Vermi Vidi Vici
–The Casting Couch
–The Guano Gaucho
–The Worm Wrangler

And of course, a good motto:

–Garbage…It isn’t just for breakfast anymore.
–Guano, you know you wanno.
–A worm is a great thing–to waste.
–Let’s go com-postal.
–Worms…The new black.
–WWWD? What would worm doo?
–You are headed to Hell for ruining the Earth. Give us some money and beat the rap.

Well, I gotta call the vet. These beauties need their shots. Adios.

Published in: on January 25, 2007 at 2:22 pm  Comments (1)  

A Worm Place In The Sun

When you are trying to make a living by doing anything other than what you have trained to do, you need to be creative. You have to generate multiple small streams of income, and hope something works well enough such that its stream widens in time.

So we bought a house, and hopefully we will make a bit of money on that. But that is just the beginning. We need multiple prongs to fork up our financial haystack. Well, my friend and I were watching that Discovery Channel show, Dirtiest Jobs or whatever it’s called, and we saw a piece on worm farming. PRONG!

Worm ranching! Worm wranglin’! The romance is breathtaking. The worms are raised on organic matter–kitchen scraps or manure. They digest it and leave castings–basically worm excrement–that is extremely valuable as fertilizer. These can be harvested and used directly in gardens or brewed into a tea that can be sprayed on organic crops.

It seems organic food is increasing in popularity, so a market for organic fertilizer must exist. We decided to try it out on a small scale and see where it takes us. We ordered a half-pound of red wigglers from a worm farm in Pennsylvania, and they arrived yesterday by FedEx. All they need is shredded paper for bedding, a handful of dirt for grit, half their weight in organic matter per day, and a dark spot to work their magic. Here is a picture of our first container (warning: Highly Dramatic):

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Ok, so pretty mundane looking, but vermiculture (worm farming) is pretty earthy stuff. Fancy ain’t got nothin’ to do with it. It seems great to do something hands-on and real. And I think any small contribution to slowing the ruination of the planet is a good place to spend one’s energy. The worms keep mountains of garbage out of landfills, improve the soil, and create a quality fertilizer to support organic farming. I love it. The only question is if it is commercially viable. Time will tell.

I went from being a doctor in Bolivia, to being a grad student in Edinburgh, to being a budding worm rancher in middle America. Hmm, yes. It is all going exactly according to plan. Hey, they called Noah crazy.

Published in: on January 24, 2007 at 2:14 pm  Comments (1)  

Living In O’Bolivian

The friends we are staying with were cleaning out their old emails and came across this one I had sent them a while back. Hatbox Louie and I were working on a medical project in tropical Bolivia. It struck me how radically different the chapters of one’s life can be. Staying with friends under the freezing suburban skies of Ohio–sweating bullets in the heavy, smoky air of lowland Bolivia. Blinding-white conventionality versus grinding-dark poverty. A world apart. Still searching, I am again at sea.

The email:

Hatbox Louie has informed me that it is my turn to write an
email so I will. It was a very odd week here in
Bolivia. It began on Sunday. We were setting out on
A 5 day boat trip down river–northeast towards Brazil
and the Amazon–to visit a number of remote villages.

Early that morning we met at the clinic to load meds
and materials into our truck and then drove down to
the river. We packed the boat–a 30 foot narrow
longboat with a tarp awning–with our big red bags
of meds, scores of liters of water, food, tents, a
stove. It was a very full boat and sat low in the water.
The stern held 2 huge barrels of fuel. There is no place to
refuel and the trip is long–particularly
the return–where we chug back against the current.

I noticed there were 3 life vests dangling from a
rafter. There would be 6 of us aboard. Now I don’t
claim to be a whiz with numbers but…I remarked to
Hatbox Louie that it was like one of those jokes: a priest,
A rabbi and two gringos get on a boat with 3
vests…At one point the two of us and Lola, our nurse,
were alone and I said to her on the sly-ok there are 3 of us and 3
of those, are we cool?

Antonio–boat guy, pharmacy guy, truck guy–pulled the rope
to start the motor and swung us out into the current. It was
very chilly and the Bolivians were all bundled. I
was in short sleeves hoping to hoard some of the
coolness for later use. As we motored downstream, the
dense-green mountains gave way to rolling hills and
the river widened. Antonio expertly maneuvered
around submerged logs and occasional small rapids. We sat
on the vests as a small comfort against the hard planks
and enjoyed the view and the air. Frieda–a Bolivian
doctor who is in charge of public health stuff and
training the health promoters from the villages
began to prepare breakfast. Hatbox Louie and I had eaten granola
before we left, so we politely declined. I was a bit hungry but
could not justify a beef sandwich as a post-breakfast
snack.

Suddenly the motor kicked off and Antonio restarted
it. Then again. This time he looked concerned and
asked if oil had been added to the gas. Como se dice
“oops”? He turned us around and we headed back with
the motor misfiring all the way upriver. After about
45 minutes, we landed the boat where we started. As it was,
our schedule downriver was tight, and we
began to speculate on how to work things out if we managed
to get back on our way. Within 2 minutes, Antonio had
comandeered a motorcycle and returned with a
barefoot mechanic. Together they lifted the motor off and
carried it away. The damage: some kind of blown ring.
A result of the improper gas mixture. The
replacement part: a short 20 hours away in La Paz.

We went home, had a meeting and decided to switch
weeks with a different trip we could make by truck. We thus
headed to Tigre– a community about 6 hrs away–3 hours
on the dirt highway to Ixiamas where we turn onto a
terrible little road for 2-3 brain-jangling hours
of rutted, washed-out driving paradise.

We were about an hour into this rough part when we
stopped to watch a family of monkeys twisting and
somersaulting in the high canopy. We pressed on,
fording little rivers and large arroyos. About 20
minutes away from our destination, we stopped in a
village to visit a doctor who was stationed there by
the ministry of health.

She sauntered out of her thatch house with a baby in her arms,
the two of them rather grimy. The doctor was only distinguishable
from the locals by her relatively fashionable hair cut. She
was there with no meds or real treatment materials!!??
Very useful. Like a chef in a kitchen without food
or pans or knives–he will come to your table and
discuss delicious dishes and the smells they would generate
in their cooking. Though he has none, he might suggest a wine
to compliment this sumptuous theoretical feast. Welcome to Bolivia.
She gets a difficult to attain salary, and some schmuck
in La Paz gets to claim he is providing health care in the region.

We continued on towards Tigre. Tigre is composed of
2 communities which formerly lived in Potosi in the
highlands way to the south of La Paz. The 2
communities had been fighting each other for years
over land issues. There were people killed on both
sides. About 7 years ago they were exiled from the
Andes. The government got fed up and stuck them all
together in the jungle by plane with 6 months-worth of food
and no real way out. Like a gettin’ to know you
cooperation game from summer camp. Pretty kooky.
They seem to be getting along ok though.

We finally got to within 300 yards of the place.
That is, we got totally stuck in the mud as we
approached. Why did this suck? Well this place is a
focus of leishmaniasis– a disease you get from the bite of a
sandfly. If you get it, a long, arduous course of
painful and toxic injections MAY cure you. If not, years later it
can attack your mucous membranes, and you basically lose face.
The fly is very active at sundown. As we were struggling to
get out of the mud, the sun began to set.

Hatbox Louie and I had our buzzoff shirts, pants tucked
into socks, permethrin-soaked bandanas around our necks,
and enough 100% deet covering whatever skin remained
exposed that it felt like we had just crawled out of
Love Canal. Antonio wore a tank top. We had to carry
all our stuff–meds, gear, everything–
into the village and put up our tents in the dark
knowing the sandflies were beginning to feed.

By the way, we were so late because that morning we
had to attend a meeting with regional health
authorities to answer allegations by some half-assed
Bolivian NGO that we were experimenting on villagers
with our strange and wicked-strong American drugs.
I joked that the allegations were patently false: it is not experimentation–there is
no data compiled or control subjects. It is simply
haphazard and evil overdosing.

We managed to get our tents up, and the next day had
a very busy clinic before turning back up the road.
Antonio had extricated the vehicle with about 15
guys from the village. Before we left, we had lunch in a
smokey thatch-and-board house with the wife of the health
promoter we were training. She had apparently
killed a chicken for us which is sad, though judging
by the texture, it had lived a long, long life prior to making
the ultimate sacrifice. Well, we made it back and now we are
preparing for our next trip. Hope all are well, and more soon.

Foreclosure Ain’t Pretty

Whoever used to live in this house we just bought had some sort of life crisis that caused them to stop making payments and lose whatever equity they had accumulated. In this very modest market, the only way we might make money is by getting a house on the cheap. So the foreclosure auction was it.

It is a bit disturbing to be rafting on someone else’s ocean of pain, but what can you do? I guess if we make a habit of acquiring houses this way, we’ll have to set up a little company. And a motto:

“Your pain is our gain.”
“When you lose, we win.”
“Building an empire one financial tragedy at a time.”
“Don’t think of it as losing your house, think of it as us making a profit.”

Well, it’s not making the world a better place, but maybe it will offer some financial space in order to free us so we can do something worthwhile. At the very least we can rid the world of some very bad carpet. You’ve got to start somewhere.

Published in: on January 21, 2007 at 2:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Oh My God, We Just Bought A House!

We have been trying to invest in property with our friends here in Ohio forever. But it has never worked out. Well, this morning we went to the county sheriff’s foreclosure auction with 2 houses we wanted to bid on, and we got one. Talk about 4 people with their hearts in their throats. We were only bidding against the bank holding the note, so that kept the price down. Luckily there was no interest among the smarmy investor wannabes in rickety folding chairs (aside from us) to get all frantic and drive up the price. We got it for a bit less than we had decided we were willing to bid.

img_2935.jpg

Bad market. And you bid without seeing the inside. 10% at the time of sale. Nuts. But you’ve got to start somewhere. Hatbox Louie could make a crackhouse look like Martha Stewart’s summer home, so I know it will work out. I boosted her so she could see through the front door window, and she was satisfied. It’s also great to share the risk with another couple. It should give us some time to get other things going too. This part of the world is ultimately not the place for us, but for now it is great to have a job to do.

So we have a project. Some traction. A little blue house on a suburban street in Northeast Ohio. Oh, how the strands of one’s life twist in unexpected ways. Medical school never prepared me for this. Or did it?

Published in: on January 19, 2007 at 11:29 am  Comments (2)  

Suburban Dads Face Off At Cub Scout Event

The Pinewood Derby. 5 oz. wooden cars designed for maximum speed on a short track. Scores of 7 year old cub scouts vying for bragging rights and cheap trophies.

Apparently the pinewood phenomenon is a big industry with kits and parts and decals and performance enhancers etc. Each car is designed–ostensibly by the cub scout–for some combo of speed and style. The variety and sophistication was impressive:

dscn5382.jpg

The event was held in one of the seemingly endless fraternal lodge places that litter this corner of the world. The Order of Eagles, or the Divine Coven of Drinkers or something. It looked to be a place where men went to drink with other men who like to drink with men who have secret handshakes. There was one reserved parking spot. For the night bartender. Apparently an important fellow.

The first sign that something was amiss was the sight of several grown men in cub scout shirts. I don’t like to judge (yes I do), but that is an awfully silly sight. One look at these 50 super-styley former blocks of wood with wheels, now Indy and Nascar, with spoilers and racing flames, and you just knew the little scouts had little to do with their transformation.

This competition was between Dads. The stink of puffed up male pride was everywhere. The little cub scouts were a convenient cover for these men to vindicate whatever lacking in their boyhoods still nagged their aging hairlines. And they took the opportunity to turn blocks of wood into rolling magic.

The lessons learned by the fledgling scouts were not in engineering, style, aerodynamics or the spirit of competition. It was more like, how do I stay focused on the Nintendo Wii while my Dad is sanding and drilling behind me?

A boyhood fantasy played out by grown men through the lives of their little juniors.

Published in: on January 18, 2007 at 2:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

The North Beach Diet– “Have your carbs and eat them too”

We all want to look like the models of physical beauty we see splashed everywhere: rail-thin or super-buff—reclining languorously in panty ads or twittering around in a skimpy bathing suit on reality TV drinking yet another maggot-smoothie.

Yet most of us do not want to spend our lives in a gym or restrict our diets to so-called “nutritious” foods.

The low-carb craze seemed like the answer to our prayers: Shed the pounds while gorging on cheese, butter, bacon, steak…it’s a new slice of the American dream. But that slice ignores one big, delicious list of ingredients: crusty French bread, biscuits, pie crust, muffins, cookies, hearty rye, pizza crust etc, etc.

On the North Beach diet, we will show you how to lose weight, continue the fatfest, and enjoy all your favorite carbs. That’s right, you keep the carbs the same but up the fat and protein.

Carbs are not bad. Carbohydrates make up some of our most delicious foods. Let me explain. Here in our non-Christian mid-America think tank, The Havital Institute, our team of nutritionists, biologists, culinary historians, and life-coaches, have blown the lid off human obesity.

The following program will show you how to maximize weight loss while chowing down like an Italian tenor using tools already available all around you. Without reducing your carbohydrate intake by a single crumb. Our program only requires that you strike five major elements from your life. Don’t panic. We guarantee you will not miss them.

First, the science. With the help of our evolutionary biologist, we have come to realize that the human body is a finely tuned survival machine. In our evolutionary history our metabolism developed the ability to finely adjust itself according to variable prevailing conditions. Our ancestors evolved in a roller coaster snack-landscape of alternating feast and famine. Any cue that scarcity might be looming was sensed by our bodies as a time to hold on to spare calories and to start storing fat. In times of plenty, our metabolisms took a “chill-pill” and allowed the fat to melt off, leaving our progenitors looking like lean, mean Western governors.

Our North Beach Diet will show you how striking five major elements from your life will inform your pesky metabolism of something your brain already knows: Life is good! No need to store up fat. There is plenty more where that came from. Now let’s talk turkey.

1. Naked Carbs

Carbs are not bad, naked carbs are bad. We call this the “dry menace”. As you take a bite of dry bread, or eat a low-fat pretzel, or even take a bite of pizza crust sans cheese, your metabolism panics. It believes it is winter out on the steppe or the dry season in sub-Saharan Africa. It will panic and it will store fat. When, however, that cracker has a piece of cheddar on it, when that pretzel is soaked in life-giving fat, the popcorn covered in golden topping, the pizza baked with cheese in the crust, your metabolism senses plenty and lets the fat slide out and off like a taffeta dress on prom night. This one is easy. Nothing dry. Or as we like to say around the Institute, “get a pig in that blanket!”

2. Inconvenience

Life’s inconveniences send a clear message that all is not well. Your metabolism can pick up on even subtle annoyances of the daily grind. Don’t let your metabolism get panicky. When your brain gets frustrated, your body senses want.

-Never leave the table or even lower your voice to answer your cell phone. Your metabolism will get suspicious.

-Never prepare meals from raw ingredients. If God had wanted us making tuna salad, He would not have invented Lunchables. No foods with fewer than fifteen ingredients listed on the package. Seek especially multisyllabic ingredients. Remember: abundance not scarcity.

-Never walk when there is an alternate means of transport available. All that walking, walking, walking is bad, bad, bad. Escalators, up and down! Elevators, moving sidewalks. Going around the corner? Get in the car! Think those electric shopping vehicles in grocery stores are for the handicapped or people with their own private oxygen supply? Think again.

3. Stressors

Stress is the ultimate weight gain signal. Look around. Our society is fully loaded with de-stressing products. Use them.

-When you are forced to reflect on your inner pain, that existential angst, that nagging feeling of emptiness and lack of fulfillment in work and family life, you might as well pick out a pair of nice Sumo wrestling pants. Get real and get on Mommy and Daddy’s and Grandma and Grampa’s and little Billy and Sissy’s little helper: late-model antidepressants. Actually a misnomer. You do not have to be depressed to benefit. It is a vitamin supplement for life. Smooth it out. ASAP.

-Your kids are fidgety at school. They test boundaries. They cry and want stuff. Dear metabolism, please blow me up like a balloon! Trust your pharmaceutical giants and their physician lackeys, and get your kids on speed! They will focus, they will behave, they will lose pounds, and guess what—your stress level will drop with your dress size.

-What could be more stressful than current world events: terrorists, a foreign quagmire of a conflict, unrest throughout the southern hemisphere, tens of millions of unnecessary, inequity-related deaths throughout the undeveloped world? Find yourself wondering what our role is in all of this? Find yourself wondering if your leaders are competent? Find yourself a mu-mu, sister. This ain’t the Sixties! Get your head in the sand or get out your sweat pants, because all this worry about “we did this” or “we’re doing that” is a one-way ticket to fattown: population-you. Out: any alternative media sources, any European media sources, and above all, no marginalized MIT linguists. In: cable TV, any major American newspaper.

4. Confinement

Throughout nature, confinement sends a strong growth signal. You’ve seen that little sapling splitting through a boulder. When restricted to small spaces, your brain tells your body, “I need to grow.” Do not confine yourself. Give yourself room to shrink. Honda Civic? Little car, enormous person. Hummer? The weight will come off. Bungalow? Orson Welles. McMansion? Mick Jagger. Make the right choices.

5. Novelty

Unfamiliar equals stressful equals fatful. Confronted with novelty, how does your brain/metabolism know what to expect? Will there be enough? Will there be any? Panic, weight gain. Again the tools are out there. As you cruise the strip of a new city, you will see the same restaurants, the same bookstores, record stores, discount stores, even pet stores as those on the strip of your hometown.

Use these resources to send powerful signals to your metabolism—“don’t panic, they’ve got the same Bloomin’ onion out here as back home.” “Chill, there’s cheese sticks comin’ with that 3 cheese cheese-lovers pizza.” Do not visit local businesses. It’s all about choices.

The North Beach diet is about living well, losing the pounds and sacrificing nothing. We want it all, we want it now, and we want to Biggie size it for a quarter. The choice is yours. We will show you how.

Published in: on January 12, 2007 at 4:46 pm  Comments (9)