Weight loss from a system state perspective

body worlds exhibitYou desired. You ate. You were satisfied. Is there anything more exquisitely human? More worthy of celebration? But at the same time… so shackling? Sure, you can go full-on Buddhist and meditate to cognitively cancel out the dualities – been there bought the T-shirt – but enlightenment is an unnervingly unipolar, and surprisingly uncreative state of being. I prefer to grind brilliantly through life – but how do we honour our glamours, insatiables, and be-all-end-alls, without becoming their slave?

Your conscious mind is only one small poignancy in your body’s comprehensive system state. Any arguments it puts forth should (ideally) be vetted against the needs of the entire system – wherever you’ve placed your flexible system state boundary. Test your ‘logic’ to see if it supports the three features of a successful system: its ability to adapt, accommodate, and regenerate. But here’s the thing. We project human designed systems into our society as reflections of our own internal biology. But our projections, in the forms of municipal governments, transportation systems, or even current weight loss programs, are invariably filtered through our left brain world of categorization and quantization. We find ourselves craving rules, numbers (BMI, calories), and all the social bell curve bullshit that add up to turn something as gloriously human as satisfaction into a moral issue of right/wrong and good/bad rather than how it supports the system as a whole.

Pragmatic system state theory asks the question: what is the true system cost of being fat? Now, I’ve always been attracted to bigger boys – in so many more ways than one – and I even recently found myself reconceptualizing my own “before picture” into a secretly indulgent celebration. But the hard (or rather soft) truth of the matter is that excessive fat prevents the body’s systems from effectively adapting, accommodating, and regenerating. Everyone’s optimal body set-point is different (due to genetics/hormones/stress) but when you tune into your most intimate biology you really get a sense for what keeps you humming along at your best. Leave your social and rational mind out of this! Your brain is only too eager to bullshit you back to the buffet! I have held tight to the truth for four years. But now, risking the wrath of big-bliss trolls, I feel brave enough to share it with you…

Body Worlds Exhibit Calgary 2010: A middle-aged obese man comes face to face with a plasticized slice of himself. I watch in rapt, almost gleeful, horror, as he is forced to acknowledge his own suffocating internal geography: intestines twisted and squeezed, skin stretched and distorted, liver puckered with yellowed lard… This is not fat as a cuddly blanket, a warm protection, but an invasive, merciless systems takeover by leaching grey/white masses of gelatinous flab. It took me five full blocks of my walk home to come up with a description of the man’s expression… “stern indignance.” I can still see his face.

6 thoughts on “Weight loss from a system state perspective

  1. There does seem to be some genetic component to this, but at LEAST half is behavioral as well. I have gained a lost weight marginally over the years, but I don’t think I could become obese even if I tried, at lest not on my plant-based diet. Unfortunately, I also seem to have a genetic inability to gain muscle mass, so I am pretty much stickly for life, or at least until the middle-aged bulge sets in… Hmmm.
    Thanks for sharing this,

    • Thank you Derek 🙂 Not too often you hear about the un-sung perks of the “middle-aged bulge” lolz! I’m with you on the shared cause theory – some fascinating work is being done with epigenetics and leptin etc. You sure you’re not just overdoing the cardio, what with the high speed avatar and all ~wink. Oh, and one doesn’t say “stickly” any more my dear man, I believe the PC police have renamed it “streamlined.”

      You might really enjoy the BBC documentary “Why are thin people not fat” I found on youtube… don’t ask… we all have our indulgences! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAQr77QMJiw

  2. Dear Cymbria blogger,

    If “life’s a slice” looking at a slice of self is death defying.

    But only if your system state has been over stretched!

    I am a middle aged male who eats less and moves more and not because he wants to…..

    bloody insatiables….


    • Seriously, that exhibit was one of the most transformative experiences of my life! I spent four straight hours imputing as much visual information as I possibly could into my brain. There was actually one moment (I’m thinkin’ it must have been hour three) when I realized I was experiencing a visceral attraction to a woman without any skin on her face – her bone/muscle structure was really that incredible. But it’s moments like that when one is A: suddenly conscious of how many ‘layers’ there are to life and B: thankful that one didn’t bring one’s spouse!

      ps: your insatiables read you as either a vampire, a contortionist, or a middle-aged man – or as one heck of a punny all-of-the-above lolz!

  3. To me the cause of the ‘fat problem’ these days is the way our view has been sneakily re-conceptualised over the last 150 years or so – ever since food production (especially sugar) was industrialised and commercialised. Now there are industries dedicated to making profit from selling stuff that makes us fat, while simultaneously other industries are dedicated to making profit from selling diets, including ‘instant result’ regimes – the latter, inevitably, merely provoking water loss to give the illusion of results. Mix that with the way we’re also conditioned to think that a particular personal ‘look’ is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, and it’s a recipe (no pun intended) for trouble. All of which is so ubiquitous in western society that it’s accepted without anybody questioning the actual frameworks of it.

    The reasons why we’ve got this industrial-cultural complex that frames how we think today, weirdly, go back to new-rich English yuppies of the 1750s, who’d profited from sugar plantations in the Carribean and didn’t quite know what to do with their money (no BMW’s available then…) I have proof, though it demands some lateral thinking that I suspect some historians might object to.

    As you say, it’s definitely time to re-conceptualise all this – or, maybe, re-re-conceptualise, given that western society got dragged off the track some time back…

    • Excellent summary, Matthew! I agree with everything you’ve said here. And Ooooooo I’m so pumped about your “lateral thinking” – really the best kind (except in traffic lol) – about those 18th century yuppies… majorly curious over here. And speaking of sweet sweet history, isn’t it interesting how the first queen Elizabeth had to have her teeth pulled because they were so black and rotten from all the new fangled sugar in the court’s diet. Look at us today – when a society needs an entire supermarket aisle of tooth products to keep our molars in our mouths (let alone the whole weight loss aisle!), there’s something fishy (gummy fishies that is) going on. Yes, time for a delightful re-re-re-conceptualization… (to be sung to the tune of row-row-row-yer-boat). Thanks for the awesome comment!

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