Fat and (Un)Happy - How Overconsumption Eats Away at the Self

Dear reader, I found this old, unpublished post recently. Actually, it's one of a large number of posts I'd thought I'd lost for good. I can't tell you exactly when I wrote it, but its contents surprised me, as I'd (thankfully) forgotten about this episode. I appreciated the reminder of the many benefits of staying active and focused and thought you might as well.

I can't believe the last few weeks. A flu morphed into another two weeks of absolute unadulterated SLACKING and this is after I started to feel better! My good habits took a nose dive and I feel AWFUL! I can't believe how quickly our bodies and our minds adapt to a new level of laziness and need for creature comforts.

Hedonic adaptation is expensive for your soul and your wallet! 

I'm embarrassed to say that I've fallen victim to idleness, taking the easy way out of what seems to be...everything. I seek what's least painful, most restful, most enjoyable, and least productive. I'm cutting corners, doing work that's "good enough" or dodging it all together. I'm spending more money than usual "for convenience*" and I've even let a goal slip by that I'll regret for a long time. 

I went from walking/biking, working full days and ignoring TV to being a car-driving couch potato, indulging in day-long TV fests, periodic napping and ignoring all household chores that doesn't include making myself something to eat with as little work as possible (and the least nutritional value). I am now also at 2-3 glasses of wine a day instead of my usual glass...WTF!? I'm not even thinking about the pleasure I derive from these things anymore. What a waste! (...and I'm ashamed to say I seem to be dragging others down with me).

Here I am doing a lot of the things that, when they are special treats feel awesome and memorable, and I feel like a pile of garbage. I'm slightly depressed now, six pounds heavier and feel I have very little to show for the last two weeksbeyond an expanded waste line. I'm not even thinking about the pleasure I derive from these things anymore, or about the satisfaction of a job well done when I'm focused on writing and working on projects that fuel my passions, what gives meaning to my thoughts and actions.

Live as if you were living for the second time and had acted as wrongly the first time as you are about to act now.
— Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning (2008 edition), p. 150.

Well today, I say ENOUGH! Enough with taking leisure for granted, leisure that's starting to have the opposite effect on my level of happiness. Enough with thinking that sitting on the couch watching TV or surfing the net endlessly is somewhat acceptable or even desirable. Enough is enough. No more seeking immediate gratification...I want MORE!

I want to feel the satisfaction of a job well done. I want the feeling of waiting in anticipation for some fun and relaxation. I want to plan gastronomic indulgences as opposed to making them everyday occurrences. I want to move my body to feel how strong and capable it is. I want to take the time to connect with people and have hours-long, involved conversations. I want to go to bed and fall asleep as my head hits the pillow after a very full day. I also want to feel the pride and fulfillment that comes from a day that I've lived thoughtfully, purposefully.

If you believe you can change—if you make it a habit—the change becomes real. This is the real power of habit: the insight that your habits are what you choose them to be. Once that choice occurs—and becomes automatic—it’s not only real, it starts to seem inevitable...
— Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit (2012), p. 273-4.

I know it will be tough. I cozied up with the "dark side" way too easily and I will unfortunately feel its pull for a number of days until I successfully clean up my act. My success will be in every decision, every action and fighting the knowledge that it would be so much easier to ignore the pile of work that's waiting for me. After all, what's one more day...

I've chosen to start with what I always find energizing - house cleaning. What feels better in getting back to your old self than an environment that’s clean and orderly. So far, I am halfway through the laundry, I've washed dishes, cleaned the bathrooms and watch out vacuum cleaner because you're next. I think this is going to be a good start to a tough climb that will likely take more time and effort than it took to take the quick, yet insidious, tumble downward.

UPDATE: I've definitely left this yucky period behind, but these episodes are certainly best avoided by remaining vigilant. Like I said in the intro, this served as a good reminder of the pitfalls of idleness.

Does this type of experience happen to you? How do you deal with needing to get out of playing sloth to get back to real life and the real you? I'd love to hear about it.

*I have used more gas for my car, ordered takeout, drunk more wine, bought TV content I would not otherwise have purchased, and increased my consumption of prepared foods as opposed to making my meals from scratch as I usually do. The cost of the couple of weeks of indulgence? Over $300 I wouldn't have spent...and that doesn't include the loss in productivity potential I let slip by that's many multiples of this based on how I measure my personal satisfaction.

Image credits/copyright: Stuart Miles for ashamed girl and HELP scale /freedigitalphotos.net

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