Obesity: An Affliction of the Stomach

In 2004—that is, ten years ago—I visited Brazil and conducted a series of formal and informal meetings with friends and family about three scourges that are impacting people’s lives: obesity, religious extremism, and depression. From the Back-to-the-Body Perspective, obesity has to do with the “stomach”; religious extremism has to do with the “brain”; and depression has to do with the “heart.”  (For further information about these metonymies, please click here.) In this post, I will deal with obesity.

Staggering Facts

increasing_obesityAccording to the Center for Disease Control, 78 million US residents are obese. Obesity impacts a person’s well-being (bien-estar, Wohlbefinden). It decreases joy, zest for life, and joie de vivre. We carry obesity as a weight, a burden. People usually do not like what obesity does to the way they look.

health_risksWe also know that obesity can bring about other health risks, such as decrease of the heart’s ability to pump sufficient blood to the body, not enough oxygen in the blood supply, formation of blood clots, high blood-sugar levels, cancers of various types, excessive wear of tissues that protect joints, uncomfortable sleep, difficult breathing, infertility in women, increase in gall stones, increase in diseases in teens and children. You have probably heard this list of health risks associated with obesity, but it is good remind ourselves of the devastating effects of obesity in a person’s life.

Causes of Obesity

In this post, I take a look at three causes of obesity and what we can do to alleviate them. The causes are: Life style, education, and social interaction. Each of these causes has a plethora of implications.

–> Life Style. 

take_stairsAs for life style, I see three areas: the use of the automobile for transportation, the availability of fast foods, and the interaction with machines rather than animals for transportation and work.

Yes, it is true that modern life is less conducive to movement; but we can make a conscious decision to go against the tide, “take the road less traveled,” so to speak. We can design a life style that includes all kinds of extra steps–like taking the stairs going down, and sometimes going up also. Before you know it, those little steps add up.

–> Education

schooling_and_educationWith regard to education, I see the following causes of obesity: people spend more time in education as compared with previous centuries; people tend to look for abstract education rather than technical; people seek to obtain “information” rather than “know-how.” According to this trend, education will make us “better knowers,” rather than “better doers.” As a result, it may lead to obesity.

In earlier centuries, people would do a lot more physical work. Today, we can compensate for the lack of physical activity with physical exercise, including weight lifting. Exercise machines are readily available, to compensate for the lack of the work machines that we once operated.

–> Social Interaction

With regard to social interaction, our tendency today is to interact with people through writing rather than speaking. Our emotional impulses can come from images instead of actually seeing people. We get our kudos from “comments” and “likes” on social media networks instead of pats on the back, hugs, kisses, or handshakes. These trends result in a life style of less activity, which is conducive to obesity.

Compensate for that by joining organizations where you come in bodily contact with people. Practice a team sport. Go against the tide of lack of physical contact with people.


It is likely that nothing I have stated so far is news to you. We can find obesity statistics without difficulty; we can see the facts of obesity in our parks, beaches, and shopping malls. My special contribution is, first, to look at problems and solutions from the “body perspective.” And second, to have an integrated perspective that involves health, life style, politics, and economic development–all of it by going “back to the body.” I show that it is through the body that we will find solutions. In other words, all hope, all solutions, all sources of happiness, and all joy lie within the body.

So, here are a few suggestions on how to overcome obesity based on the Back-to-the-Body Perspective:

1. Eat for the body, not for the brain.

joy_of_appetiteWhen you eat, connect with your hunger, your desire, your yearning from the gut. Quiet your brain. Do not speak of agendas or things to do or tasks to accomplish. This is the stomach’s time. Let your brain rest.

2. Body is Boss

Decide what, when, where, how, and how much to eat by listening to your boss first—that is, your body. The body is priority one, voice one: all the other voices (books, diets, nutritionists, government guidelines)—all those other voices will have to wait until the body has had its say.

Of course, the stomach needs discipline and moderation. We are not talking about an indulgent tyrant here. We also have a brain and a heart. The stomach is like Congress in government. Yes, Congress can pass laws, but those laws can be scrutinized by the president (the “brain”) and by the courts (the “heart”). Still, the stomach is the boss. (I am referring to “stomach” as a metonymy, as I mentioned above.)

breakfast_pizzaSo, harm comes when we are disconnected from the stomach. If you gobble up your food while your mind races through all the tasks that need to be done next; if you work while you are eating; if you pick up “something quick” and go—instead of taking time to cook; if that is your life style, then you are on your way to obesity. Also, your joie de vivre will decrease. Romance? You will probably have less time for that… or less inclination.

3. Care for Your Emotions

One final point has to do with your emotions. First, emotions are not your enemy; they are your friends. It is emotions that give color and taste to your personality. Emotions are precious.

But emotions needs to be managed—just as you manage your power usage at home or your finances. Emotions are power; and power needs to be managed.

Are we using food to assuage emotions? Pay special attention to unpleasant emotions: sadness, grief, anxiety, fear, anger. If you find that those kinds of emotions are managing what, when, and how much you eat, you may be setting yourself up for obesity. Food is no solution for emotions. Food may provide a period of respite for emotions, but there are better ways.

bunch_of_emotionsActually, emotions play such a crucial role in a person’s life that it is worth having your own expert adviser in this area. Just like everyone needs a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant, and a dentist, you may want to add to that list your own therapist–both the kind that provides massages and the kind that cares for emotions.

As you can see, the Back-to-the-Body approach comprises a lot. Our body is the new frontier, the hoped-for paradise, our own “Promised Land.” For obesity—as for all things–the body contains all truths, all solutions. Books, yes, we need them; but they are only as good as they reveal to us the truths that we contain within ourselves.

I conclude with a quote:

To be one with all that lives! With these words, virtue removes its wrathful armor; the spirit of man lays its scepter aside; and all thoughts vanish before the image of the world’s eternal unity–just as the rules of the struggling artist vanish before his Urania; and iron fate abdicates its power, and death vanishes from the union of beings, and indivisibility and eternal youth bless and beautify the world.
(Excerpt From: Friedrich Hölderlin. Hyperion. iBooks.)

Paulo-Juarez Pereira
Ypsilanti, Michigan, USA
September 2, 2014

Photo Credit:
Photo: Increasing Obesity
Author: Mike Licht
Source: http://bit.ly/1pG57o2
Creative Commons License: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Photo: Take the Stairs
Author: Ludovic Bertron
Source: http://bit.ly/1tYqRvE
Creative Commons License: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Photo: Joy of Appetite
Source: http://bit.ly/1qzHBXL
Creative Commons License: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Photo: Breakfast Pizza
Author: Alan Myers
Source: http://bit.ly/1lBGgR9
Creative Commons License: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Photo: Bunch of Emotions
Author: GollyGforce – Living My Worst Nightmare
Source: http://bit.ly/Wf4wMW
Creative Commons License: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Photo: Schooling and Education
Author: Sigurdur Jonsson
Source: http://bit.ly/1lJx8dA
Creative Commons License: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Photo: Health Risks
Author: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District
Source: http://bit.ly/1unvBKq
Creative Commons License: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0

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