One of the many epidemics in our society is obesity. Not just being overweight, mind you – serious, life-threatening body-mass-indexes (BMI) that are over 30. The high level view is that the cause is a preponderance of sugar/corn syrup in our modern diet. According to a Chris Stefanick podcast on the topic, eating less calories is good, but unfortunately, your body catches on, and then starts to metabolically slow down. Likewise, exercise is good, but exercise alone won’t allow you to eat whatever you want, because you’ll get hungry, and eat more. One of Chris’s suggestions (he mentions quite a bit of research on this) is that reducing carbohydrates is a key to reducing the insulin rush (cause by carbs/simple sugars) that cause this.
But even better? Going on a fast – voluntarily not eating. From the podcast, he mentions people who eat 2400 calories each day, if fasting every other day, they will eat 0 calories while fasting, and 2900 calories on the days when they are “catching up”, for a net reduction of (1900/4800) 40% calories in the long haul. It sounds a bit simple, but the science does seem sound.
What if we expanded this concept, to other areas of life? This was touched on by a post a few years ago (Learning To Live Without). You may have heard of a few folks who have gone on news or Internet fasts for weeks or months. I’m currently in the middle of an experiment where I’m only checking personal email twice a day, and it’s been a boon to concentration and getting things done.
Could society use a bit of this, in general? Jack Alpert, who founded the Stanford Knowledge Integration Lab has an extreme idea, which might be the ultimate in delayed gratification. He recently was a guest on JHK’s podcast (the KunstlerCast; he is interviewed here). The upshot? Almost everyone alive now is to be sterilized (!), and then lotteries for the right to have children, essentially, to lower the final population of the earth to 50 million – the “delayed gratification” of having a working (albiet small) civilization.
- The research on delayed gratification is extensive (check out the marshmallow experiment); how could delayed gratification be introduced into groups, instead of individuals?
- What sort of delayed gratification would you like to see more of?
- Could Jack Alpert’s idea ever get going? Seems like it is a bit extreme for most.
- Obviously, too much delayed gratification is a bit of a problem; if you don’t eat, you starve to death, so fasting does have its “upper limits.” What is the criteria for too much delayed gratification? Even an Internet “news fast” might not be good, in that you could miss timely news about storms, disasters that might be coming, or other things that might affect you.
- Missing meals, missing comforts – temporarily not having these may be a bit annoying, but in the end, there is a great gain. What have you deliberately cut out of your life, in order to make your life better in the long run?