Monday, 20 February 2017

Post 46: Ending Your Diet Forever (aka a treatise on "happiness")


Hi guys,

In this week’s post I want to talk about your story once it progresses beyond the rainbow. How do you reconcile your new life with your old, and what happens once you attain the body of an Adonis? This post is a treatise on redefining happiness, and why we can never be truly satisfied. Sounds quite depressing don’t you think? Let’s read on...

When does it end?! That might be the question on the lips of a desperate dieter, as they dutifully drain their latest meal replacement shake. Us here at Cowlean HQ know better, so we aren’t familiar with this brand of misery, but the question is still valid (albeit with a less depressing tone).

You might have set yourself a target weight or bodyfat %; you might be targeting a certain dress size or waist measurement; you might be waiting for the day when you look in the mirror and simply say “that’s it!”. The problem with reaching our goals, is that we always want to go deeper. If we’ve reached a certain waypoint, why not forge ahead?

I implore you to read last week’s post on happy hormones before continuing, because the knowledge presented there is a prerequisite for today’s discussion.

You’re likely to take one of two paths once you’ve reached your target. The first is introduced above: you push on. The second is a partial return to old ways. By this point, you’ve internalised certain reactions. When you see junk food, your cortisol doesn’t tell you to “do something” (in this case eat it), instead you get a superior feeling from a serotonin stimulation. Vis-a-vis, your instinctual responses are enacting what used to be a logical decision which required great effort.

But it is still likely that you’ll retreat 10-20% back to your old ways. You’ll feel like you’re indulging but you’re actually living a life 80+ % healthier than you were. For example, I went from 265 lbs to 185 lbs, but am now comfortably at 200 lbs: roughly an 18% rebound. This is where this post turns down the woo-woo road: do not confuse being comfortable with being happy.

The uncomfortable truth is that “finishing” your journey is never possible; you will never be 100% satisfied with where you are. Either you look at yourself and think that you could be leaner, faster, or stronger, or you look at others and feel envy from seeing people doing better than you. There is always a “King of Kong”. From those claiming not to feel either a desire to do and be more, or plain old envy, are liars. It is literally in your biology to feel this way.

Happiness, defined by a feeling of satisfaction, cannot be maintained indefinitely with the same results. Over time your success will dull and turn to ash in your mouth.

It’s a condition imposed by our hormonal programming: we must always be chasing the larger pool of resources because it represents our continued survival. The reason why we are here is partially because our ancestors were driven by the same insatiable hunger (literally and figuratively - C).

I define comfort as the place where you have internalised what used to require conscious action. Whereas before you had to expend effort to resist junk food, you now do it effortlessly. You’ve turned a conscious decision into a subconscious decision. Achieving “comfort” in a task is what should be our aim, and we experience happiness on the way there because our brain rewards us with the “good feeling” of dopamine, endorphins, oxytocin, and serotonin.

I think people mistakenly define happiness as a state of perennial satisfaction. The problem, is that we are never truly satisfied, because the “good feeling” is only attained in growth. Even the person who meditates for 23 hours a day wants to achieve a higher level of enlightenment. Therefore I believe that we should redefine happiness as “the good feeling that emanates from growth”.

So what is the conclusion? That we can never be happy and therefore should curl up into the foetal position and not even bother? No. From a purely logical point of view, why would you become a recluse, giving yourself no “good feeling” at all, where you could accept your programming and at least enjoy inter-temporal “good feeling”.

The conclusion of our journey must be eternal growth. However, and here’s the kicker, we have to acknowledge and respect the law of diminishing returns. As we pursue a particular path, the return we get from the same effort decreases (we have to put in more to get the same amount out). And so you have to sow the seed of your efforts far and wide, which will ensure the continual flow of “good feeling”.

Since we’ve got quite woo-woo with our discussion, let’s make this a little more practical. Look back at my post from last week, and work out which of the four happy hormones you’re lacking in. Work on the ones that are lagging. If you’re performing well in each area, then find a new hobby or interest to pour yourself into. I find that my interest waxes and wanes over a period of two years, starting with a few months of dabbling, followed by 6 months to a year of intense obsession, then a plateau and a partial return to old ways. It doesn’t make me feel ashamed when I lose some of my interest; it’s natural that when another subject area is giving you that “good feeling” that you devote extra time to it. The virtue in your actions is that you internalised something which previously you had to expend effort to achieve.

That’s all for this week. There aren’t takeaways, as such, but the advice in the preceding paragraph suffices. Accept the cards you’ve been dealt and come to peace with your programming: never stop trying to better yourself.

Until next time,

Cowlean

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