An Unusual 30 Day Trial

In addition to my silly experiment, this article discusses the relationship between logic and emotion, and how we can reconcile the two to improve our lives. I suggest the value of self-education (through experience) and shock in doing so. Openness and Foresight are emphasized, in addition to Honesty.

If you'd just like to read about the trial, skip to the section titled "The Trial." 


The New Year’s Resolution

As I was eating breakfast today I oh-so majestically realized that tomorrow is the first day of 2015. I figured I should probably come up with a New Year’s Resolution, which I prefer to set as a guidepost instead of a concrete goal. As opposed to “Make my business profitable and move out” or “Run 300 ultramarathons,” my resolution is (at this point) to follow inspiration.

I’ve discussed the meaning of this a bit in Building Trust with the Universe. Damn, do I reference that article a lot. The main premise is to listen to my gut more closely and more often, because it might have some smart things to say. Don’t be afraid to trust snap judgments. If it feels right and there’s no risk of major harm staring me right in the face, do it.

Part of the point of this is to get out of my head and into my life. So many times I have failed to act due to thinking about the situation incorrectly, and doing so too much.

 

Logic vs. Emotion (as always)

I have written numerous times about how logic and emotion are each wonderful when they work together, yet when in conflict they can sabotage you, quietly or loudly. We are more or less doomed to act on what makes sense to us an emotional, potentially semi-conscious level. The determining factor of whether this is “good” or “bad” is often whether this action also makes sense to us logically.

Of course, I don’t mean the logic that arises from your emotionally-held beliefs. Perhaps instead I’m thinking of a sort of universal logic which exists somewhere “out there.”

For instance, perhaps you smoke cigarettes, and you have developed the belief that “I need to do this for my sanity.” From there you will develop a pattern of reasoning that follows the belief, such that you act in accordance with it. In short, this means that regardless of whether you actually articulate (say) the belief, much of your behaviors and thoughts will arise from it.

However, every now and then you mentally look at yourself from afar and think, “Am I crazy? What am I doing? I know this is not good for me.” For the purposes of this article, I will call that part of yourself logic (though it may also be guilt, shame, and fear, in this case). Logically you know that your behaviors are unhealthy and do not need to remain as they are.

However, because you disagree emotionally the logical thought of “I should quit smoking” will fall dead on your ears. You will be unable to get sufficient motivation behind it. Logic is weaker than emotion, and thus loses every battle. How they continue to fight after all these years I don’t know. Maybe logic has a knack for reviving itself.

To successfully change your behavior, then, you must change your emotional-based viewpoint—that is, your beliefs. One way to do this is by educating yourself in favor of the viewpoint you want to hold, and then doing your best to use that viewpoint. Basically, this is the same as saying “use foresight.”

Though logic is slower than emotion when it comes to making judgments and decisions it is much faster to adapt to change. Logic may be weaker than emotion, and willpower may be able to get you only so far, but these things are not useless. Let’s see how that may be.

 

Shock-Value

I suggest educating yourself not only to make your logical map of reality more accurate (i.e. you draw conclusions about truth based on experience) but also to produce a shock in yourself. This is where the emotional component comes in.

When you learn something that shocks you you are likely to be emotionally averse to it, yet it may not be long at all before you logically agree with the information. You may think that emotion’s stubbornness in this scenario will ultimately mean failure; but, for me, logically-led changed initiated by shock has almost always in time been successful.

I’d like to think that you don’t have to worry too much about failing to be shocked, because shock is the result of emotional stubbornness. Without emotional stubbornness in the first place there would be no need for shock.

When you are shocked, this indicates that a suggestion may have been planted in your mind. This means that you are bound to act in accordance with the information you have processed. I discuss this briefly in The Search For Meaning, under the section "Finding What Makes Sense" (though you don't have to read that for this to make sense- no worries).

Note that “information” doesn’t have to be words on a page—it can be any experience. Everything is information—information just comes in different forms is all.

Based on my definition of a suggestion, information only classifies as a suggestion if you act on it. I suppose something can sit in your mind for a while before anything happens, but in my experience suggestions usually play out fairly quickly- that is, within a matter of days.

When you think back to the time the suggestion was planted it may seem that you knew something was coming. For me I remember thinking at that time something along the lines of, “Oh, sh*t,” and having some sense of knowing. Of course, this may just be bad hindsight, but who knows: perhaps we know more than we think we do. Then again, maybe we know less.

A personal example of successful shock-learning is my “conversion” from monogamy to polyamory, which I’ve written about in Contemplating Three-Person Relationships and You Write the Answers. When I first read about polyamory I definitely was shocked. It defied everything I was taught to be “right” about relationships. As I read and thought more about it, however, I quickly recognized it as a perfectly sensible approach to relationships. There’s the logic-win.

Based on the Phases of Knowledge I wrote about in You Write the Answers, I am reluctant to say that I have been fully converted emotionally. The reason is that I have so little experience in romantic and sexual relationships that I have been roughly-unable to fully form an opinion of my own (which would be characteristic of Phase 3). However, my approach is one characteristic of polyamory nevertheless.

Barring that caveat, the emotional-win has come about more gradually as I have led my thinking with foresight into this approach. Basically, this means that I choose to do my best to see the world through the eyes of a polyamorous person, and also to act with the heart (well, and maybe sex drive) of one. I certainly still have some resistance and emotional hang-ups, but to call myself “monogamous” would be dishonest.

I basically like to think that the information which shocks you is a delegate of truth. Of course, there are plenty of people who don’t seem to care about truth. I know that some people are so stubborn and set in their ways, it seems that nothing will ever shock them. Nothing will get them to change. The truth will probably fly right over their heads. And do so it probably will for a while. But don’t worry—I have been such a person, and probably still am in some ways.

Of course, I only began taking steps toward change once I opened myself to the possibility. Maybe the real question, then, is How can we nurture openness in another person? Some degree of openness, it seems, may be the first step toward change.

Perhaps you must first express openness toward the person who you would like to become more open. Look at the possibilities their situation may hold. See what good- or rather, Realness- you can inject into their situation. Do you have stories- preferably personal points of honesty- you could share with them? Do you feel or think a certain way about this person—perhaps that they are special somehow? What do you foresee for them?

However, only speak to them genuinely. The most surefire way to close another person is to treat them with dishonesty. Believe me- when you are at the lowest point of rock bottom, nothing sparks your appreciation like honesty. If you really and truly can only see doom for this person, at least be honest about it. Just avoid them if you want to avoid them. The last thing they want is for you to impose fluffy pity and woo-woo positivity on them—especially if you don’t mean any of that fluff.

 

The Trial

Well, that was a rather long-winded way to explain my New Year’s Resolution, eh? That’s okay, because it’s quite cool. Or, at least, I think it is.

Anyway, I shall now share with you the namesake of this piece: the unusual 30 day trial. Around the same time I was thinking about my New Year’s Resolution I asked myself, “Why the hell aren’t you doing a 30 day trial? You aren’t even in school right now!” I didn’t have a strong answer, so I got to thinking about what I could do.

The thought of this trial both scares and excites me. The very premise of it stirs me emotionally and definitely has some shock-value.

Ready for it? It’s called, Eat as much as you want.

Oh god, it sounds so gluttonous. So dirty. So impure and immoral. How could anyone do such a thing- for 30 straight days?! What if I die?!

Okay, there’s the shock. Let me express my qualms in a more sophisticated matter.

For one thing, I figured I should do a trial that wouldn’t potentially sabotage my efforts at running 100 miles 24 days for now. I thought a socially-based trial might be nice. Sure, it might not be such a bad thing to have a few extra pounds to spare for the event, but I’d have to lose more than 10 for things to become potentially dangerous (based on my past experiences with weight loss). To my knowledge, even ultrarunners twice my size rarely lose that much to a race.

In short, I am concerned that this trial may adversely affect every aspect of my life: basically, all areas of health (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual), my money, and my time. It will sap all of those from me. I’ll put on fat, insulin and other hormones will go nuts, I’ll be insanely foggy-minded, I’ll be depressed, I won’t be able to do much worthwhile, my bank account will become a worm-hole to grocery stores, and all my time will be spent eating. That sounds horrible. Oh yeah, and I’ll run even slower than I do now. And I thought that couldn’t get any worse. And I won’t be sexy! L

I’m sure you are wondering: if this is going to ruin your life, Why the hell are you doing this? No one said you had to.

 

Background to the Trial

Well, dear fellow, despite the aforementioned risk to it, the very reason I want to do this trial is emotional health. In some of my other articles- most potently Efficiency, Optimization, and Slight Insanity/ Running 100 Miles- I have written of my history of anorexia. I began restricting calories 2 years ago (December 2012) and re-attained a healthy weight by the end of May 2013. From what I can tell, all the related physical health issues had been resolved by February 2014 (yes, by that I mean menstruation. Maybe it’s an unnecessary detail, but the cycle can take some time to re-regulate. Just another reason to not do bad things to yourself).

Despite this physical healing, my relationship with food in the other areas of health has remained, overall, bad. When I eat there’s often some sense of being a bad, dirty, gluttonous resource-vacuum. Perhaps most of all, there’s a perception that I’m weak, and also that I’m cheating myself on health. A real person wouldn’t eat this much. No way.

For some added context, the unhealthiest food in my diet is probably whole wheat. I’m on what could be called a “whole foods” almost-vegan diet. All food additives- preservatives, flavorings, replacements- are eaten at an absolute minimum. Added sugar is avoided as much as possible. No dairy, no candy, no refined grains (aside from the occasional pretzel), no processed meats. No other weird stuff either. I eat about one egg per week and one serving of grass-fed beef per month. Nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits are emphasized most of all, with legumes and whole grains close behind.

I’m aware the whole wheat probably sounds terrible to some people, and I’ve thought often about changing it myself. But the point here is that my diet can roughly be considered healthy- no?

In addition, my weight fluctuates from 101 to 105 pounds, and I’m 5’ 2”. I have been running regularly for 6 years, I’ve had some sort of strength training routine for 5, and I have no issue taking on other activities when the opportunity arises. Last I checked my blood pressure was about 80/55, my resting heart rate is around 60, and apart from anorexia I have had virtually no significant health issues. Even that turned out no bad blood work. Also, I have a roughly-visible six-pack. Really!

The point I’m trying to drive is that I probably would not be shamed by other people for my health-related habits. More often I’m told that I need to let go and “live a little,” though somehow hot fudge sundaes and chicken wings seem more depressing than exciting to me. Any desire to eat these things is rare and fleeting, and it always loses.

Yeah, somehow I don’t need a cheat day. Everything I eat on a typical daily-basis satisfies me well enough. Regardless, I know if I gave in to those weak, brief cravings I would immediately be awash in shame, regret, and likely intense pain (the motivating factor for many of my dietary changes).

Another point I’d like to make is that if you are among the majority of the people on the Standard American (SAD) diet who does enjoy processed foods, please do not attempt this trial. Maybe you already do eat as much as you’d like, but I fear taking this too far on that diet could be dangerous. Or maybe I’ve become too much of a stick in the mud. Just don’t try this at home, kids. Maybe wait until I’ve gone through my trials and tribulations (well, or don’t. I can’t tell you what to do).

Anyway, the principle underlying this trial is basically rebellion. The inner critics who shame me for not restricting calories better have only given me grief, and their demands are, at this point in my life, unreasonable. Maybe some people have unlocked the secrets to eating nothing for decades but, well, I haven’t. Sorry. Maybe I don’t have a good excuse for not seeking out those secrets but… well, pooey. The criticism sure hasn’t helped out that journey. As a result, I now seek instead to walk up to the critics and win their disapproval directly, rather than “accidentally” (i.e. days when I “need” to eat more than usual).

I have wondered whether eating with shame causes me to eat more, which results in a cycle of self-hatred. Whatever the case, this trial is about gaining integrity. Most of the time I can barely stand to eat when people are in the same building that I am. I rarely eat outside of my house (well, aside from the backyard). When someone else comes around I immediately feel bad about myself and try to pretend like I’m doing something else or am not really that interested in the food. Of course, when they leave I go back to eating as usual.

Now that is just sh*t. Who should feel bad about eating? Are you out of your mind? Hm, perhaps that’s universal logic kicking in, with its oh-so-sophisticated start. I’d like to think so.

So often I clamor in my mind about how much would be reasonable to eat, and I hope that I won’t want to eat more but at the same time “more” is the only thought on my mind. Sometimes I give into “more,” and sometimes I don’t. As I’ve picked up the mileage in the last several weeks I’ve done more giving in than not. As natural as running long feels to me, perhaps I need to better acknowledge my increased nutritional needs.

My hope is that this trial will balance itself out. If I disgust myself enough early on then I naturally will want to eat less. Or, perhaps more reasonably, as shame leaves me then so will the self-hatred-overeating cycle. As my perception of reality becomes more accurately I will become more able to eat just the right amount.

Of course, I can’t pressure myself too much here. That would defy the point. If I am disgusting the whole way through, then so be it. Obviously continuing to do what I have everyday for the last 2 years isn’t going to make me feel any better about all this, and I just really don’t see the point in continuing the crappiness. The anxiety will probably do more to damage my health than a few extra calories will.

I will point out that my overeating issue doesn’t come from feeling ravenously hungry all the time. In fact, I rarely feel explicitly hungry: I just eat when I feel like it and when it seems fairly reasonable to. I typically eat two meals a day. The issue, then, is stopping once I have started.

 

The Rules

I must set some rules for this trial. Several weeks ago I pulled myself out of the habit of eating chips before and after meals. I think I will continue this because the chips actually create a feeling of emptiness in my stomach. If I’m full after a meal and I have some chips, I can kiss fullness goodbye. So chips (and crackers, too) will do me no good here.

I’d like to continue with eating two meals a day. If I see it will be helpful to balance I may add a third, though I’d probably need to start waking up a little earlier first. Thus, I will not give into fleeting cravings throughout the day: rather, the “eat as much as I want” will come into play during and immediately after meals. This applies to long runs as well: I will only eat once I deem it necessary, which is usually at least 3 hours in, though lately has been closer to 5 hours. I fear that eating too early on a run will create unnecessary issues. Before the run I will continue to eat only a small amount (usually two crackers with a couple nuts and raisins).

The content of my diet will basically remain the same. I may play around and try to replace grains with more fats, for instance, but I definitely will not allow myself the foods that are always off-limits. That would be a good way to hurt myself, and I don’t want them anyway. I don’t need to make this trial more hellish.

“Eat as much as I want” means I stop only when I am emotionally ready to. Sometimes this can be hard to determine. I am concerned because it often takes me a while to reach this point. I suppose what this looks and feels like will become more clear as the trial rages on. Rule of thumb: If I want to continue eating more than I want to stop, then keep eating. Otherwise, stop.

The most important rule: if I am suffering unnecessarily for extended periods of time, end the trial. I’ll try my best not to do this, but I will know if and when I must do this.

 

Final Thoughts

I think that just about covers everything. Becoming more able to eat outside of the house may be another issue. For now I want to strike at the root of shame. I suspect that doing so will make my food-life as a whole much easier to improve.

Today can count as Day 1 because I definitely ate as much as I wanted for breakfast. That ended rather late, so I’m not sure I’ll even want dinner. Of course, that may only make tomorrow more difficult. Besides- I always say that. Heh heh. J

I’ll post about the trial as needed (by my own desires). I’ll at least weigh myself when I wake up every morning. It would be cool to track other metrics too, such as blood sugar and blood pressure. Some are more viable to measure than others. I’ll look into what I may be able to do about that. As for calorie-counting, I’m reluctant. It may only fuel to the fire that is shame, but it would be interesting to know. Maybe I’ll do it a few times. We shall see.

On that note, have a Happy New Year! Eat as much as you want, but make sure it’s healthy! And if it’s not, try not to eat too much! But again, I can’t stop you! Peace out!


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(Written 31 December 2014)