Monday, January 2, 2012

A New Year's Resolution

Every New Year's Day I take stock of my deficiencies and resolve to improve myself during the coming year. While many areas of my life cry out for improvement, I limit my resolutions to areas that are amenable to incremental progress. I want to be able to measure my improvement month by month. Admittedly, this program of mine is not suitable for deficiencies of character or spirit – lack of wisdom, lack of compassion, lack of backbone, lack of perspective, to name a few – but it serves me well for the deficiencies given top priority in modern American life: lack of fitness, money, possessions, and amusements.

For 2012 I choose to repeat my resolution from 2009: to lose thirty pounds. I felt this was a crucial resolution in 2009, as I needed to look my best for my 40th high school reunion. Happy to say, I kept the resolution and lost the weight. (The fact that nobody at the reunion remarked on my slimness – many weren't even sure who I was – should in no way discredit the resolution itself.) After the reunion I gradually went to seed again and regained the thirty pounds. In 2012 I have firmly resolved to lose this surplusage.

Nonetheless, I have some legitimate qualms about my New Year's resolution. According to my theory of Adipose Psychology Retention, there are potential psychological dangers in losing weight. The theory, reduced to its essentials, states that a person's psychological state is reflected in the kinds and quantities of chemicals released into the bloodstream from the brain and ductless glands. The chemicals – think of them as nuggets of molecular emotion – are captured in deposits of body fat. Then, when the fat is broken down during weight loss, these chemicals are liberated, triggering a psychological reaction within the brain. To be specific, the brain relives the past psychological state that had been chemically stored in the fat, but now it is a psychological state divorced from its previous context. The brain will attempt to impose this chemically-induced psychological state (contentment, dread, giddiness, melancholy, or whatever) on its perceptions of the current environment. This is where the danger lies. Imagine that you and your friends were dining at a nice Italian restaurant. As you are enjoying a plate of linguini, suddenly your fat releases emotive chemicals into your bloodstream and your brain experiences the psychological terror of a downtown mugging from six months ago. Your brain could impute this past terror to the linguini, causing you to fling your plate across the room.

As the year 2011 was a trying year for me, with more disagreeable psychological states than agreeable ones, I am justified in having qualms about losing weight. Clearly, in 2012 I will need to be prepared for some psychological flareups, echoes of past unhappiness, such as aggravations incurred while working proposals last year or disappointment with my last salary increase.

Now if I had enjoyed the psychological boost of a marvelous love affair last year, I would cheerfully begin a starvation diet at once.

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