I find it curious that people still have such a voracious appetite (pun intended) for diet books and continue to read about how to manage money. I suppose that’s why I’m so interested in why people think the way they do.
While some people have lost weight due to surgery (followed by healthy eating and exercise), isn’t it interesting when you encounter someone who has lost a lot of weight and someone inevitably asks, “How did you do it?” As if the answer ever changes! I think the question is less about the diet details and more about the motivation and support details.
It’s not unlike the numerous articles detailing how people can manage their money. Basic money management is the same year after year: you earn it (preferably honorably and joyfully), live below your means, share, protect what you have, save some money for later. I attempted to spin this classic tale with a measure of spirituality in my book Living Inspired and Financially Empowered: Aligning Our Spiritual and Material Lives.
It’s not that you don’t know what you need to do; it’s the “How do I do this?” aspect of finance that is so bewildering.
Perhaps it’s also the lack of proof of anyone’s balance sheet that keeps us all guessing:
“Are they doing okay? I know they had some big medical bills”
“They must be doing well, he just bought a new car.”
“Should we be investing more?”
and relying on material items to communicate our (real or fake) financial position.
But unlike your financial position, you can’t fake your weight, so the diet books remain popular.
I heard a really interesting report on NPR about the psychological consequences of calling obesity a disease. Research shows that there are some benefits, such as improved body image and less feelings of shame (obesity is consistently deemed a moral failure, no matter how virtuous a person is in other respects). But there are also detrimental affects, such as people assuming they cannot change their weight and, therefore, continue to eat poorly.
It seems to me that part of the human condition is not only to compare oneself with others and subsequently judge ourselves and others, but to find patterns and, foolishly, believe in those patterns.
For example, it’s not uncommon for economists to provide forecasts at the beginning of the year. They base many of their statements on what has happened in the past and the likely outcomes for us with the given set of circumstances we now face. The problem is, every day presents a completely unique set of circumstances, and we all know skinny people who eat (as my mother would say) like stevedores (which means dock workers).
I’m currently reading the Book of Job in the Bible. This wholly upright fella loses everything he holds dear: his family, his livestock, his health. And his fair-weather friends berate the him with the reasons they think he “deserves” the tragedy that’s befallen him.
They were being human.
He didn’t deserve any of it.
There’s no surprise that Harold S. Kushner’s book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, continues to sell so well: we are bewildered when life breaks the patterns we hold so dear.
Not everything follows a pattern.