16 September 2012

Poor Kids, Rich Kids, and Food

Today's post is a guest blog from Justin Locke, a long-time kindred spirit on the road to good mental and emotional health. This nutrition-focused excerpt from his new book, "Getting in Touch with Your Inner Rich Kid," got me thinking about my recent food issues in new ways. I hope it also inspires some new ways of thinking for some of you.

Desire and the Refusal Experience
One of the biggest differences between poor kids and rich kids is this: poor kids are taught that desire is bad. This is because when a poor kid wants something, there is a very high likelihood that when they express that desire, they will encounter a painful “refusal experience.”  

These refusals apply not just to requests for toys and candy bars; they also apply to requests for all sorts of physical and emotional necessities.  For the average poor kid, the most common workaround for dealing with the pain of these refusal experiences is to train oneself to simply not want things in the first place.  To get back in touch with your inner rich kid, it is essential to examine your desires and how you may have been taught to suppress them.  

One of the most consistent manifestations of desire is hunger.  And again, when you live in a poor kid “poverty thinking” world, desire is bad. That means hunger, that is to say, the desire for food, is bad too.  Managing your desire for food is key to good health.  So let’s examine how “poverty thinking” and desire suppression may be affecting the way you eat. 

The Preemptive Eating "Solution"
Many of us – not just “poor kids”– are taught to think of appetite as a bad thing.  It’s not just about handling the impending disappointment of a sparsely set dinner table.  Even for people with lots of money, the desire for sugary snacks is also seen as bad as well.  After all, the desire for chocolate often leads to a most undesirable result, i.e., of having body weight you don’t want.  As a result, we end up trying to stop our hunger. We think of desire as being a bad thing that will inevitably get us into a space where things are out of control.  So we look for ways to suppress our desires.  

One of the most common workarounds for suppressing the desire of hunger is a very simple one: it’s something called “preemptive eating.”  After all, if you eat constantly, now you are in control of your hunger, as it never occurs. 

Of course, to eat preemptively, one must eat things that can override the body’s natural resistance to overeating.  This means one must eat salty, oily, and sugary items.  Sadly, while this fills the stomach in a physical sense, it fails to fulfill the body’s overall nutritional needs, so it becomes a vicious cycle of actually increasing desire instead of suppressing it.  
What We're Really Hungry For
Hunger can be very a very difficult feeling to suppress, as there are many forms of hunger.  Poor kids hunger for nutritional sustenance, but they also hunger for things like safety, structure, trust, and emotional sustenance, and the wiring for these many signals of desire is often routed near or through the tummy.

Poor kids know that having any desire for anything equals danger.  It means a very painful refusal experience is likely to follow.  So when a poor kid feels a desire for some love and attention, what can they do?  How can one suppress this vague longing and make it go away?  For a poor kid, if the emotional sustenance they truly desire is not available, a quick remedy is to shove something – anything – down the throat, and hope it hits the empty spot.  After all, the stomach is right next to the heart.  Greasy fast food has successfully suppressed one form of gut-level hunger, why not all the others?  

Again, the poor kid eating philosophy is to avoid being in a vulnerable position of need, and not risk having yet another awful refusal experience.  If you have no desire, you cannot be refused.  

Eating Like a Rich Kid
To become a rich kid and get what you want, you must start by letting yourself want.  You must no longer tell yourself the catechism of lies that poor kids are taught to repeat every day, such as “I don’t deserve it,” “I can get along without it,” or “this is all there is, and there won’t be any more.”  Being a rich kid is about having what you want.  And you can have what you want.  You may not be able to get it right this minute, but even if there’s no sign of it on the horizon, it’s still okay to want it.  

As you get in touch with your inner rich kid, remember that a big part of being a rich kid is eating like one.  Your physical health is your most valuable possession, and food and your health are inextricably linked.  

Do what you have to do to maintain this wealth.  I don’t mean to sound paranoid, but we live in a hostile nutritional environment. There are large numbers of people (with large advertising budgets) who are constantly trying to persuade you to eat things that you don’t really want.  They will try to confuse you by linking your desire for emotional connection with a desire for chocolate.  One ad will seductively persuade you to indulge in eating a candy bar as a way of meeting your need for interpersonal connection.  Then the very next ad (for exercise equipment) will tell you that eating the chocolate bar is now making you totally unappealing.  It's all about confusing your desires, throwing you into a panic, to make you think you want to buy their product.  Don’t let these subtle threats of an impending refusal experience overwhelm your own rational thought.  

By the way, “poverty thinking” also assumes that there are limited amounts of everything.  This means you might feel compelled to eat as much as you can today because there may not be any tomorrow – or perhaps, a bag of potato chips is is the closest thing you will get to the emotional support you need, so eat as much as you can, and make do.  This presumption of “universal limitation” is poverty thinking at work.

Let yourself have the desire of hunger.  Instead of managing desire by suppressing it, try embracing it, expressing it, and managing it.  By the way, everything, even kale and tofu, tastes better when you allow yourself to get hungry before you eat it. 

About Justin
Justin Locke grew up in a rural community where he attended the local public “poor kid” school, but at age 15 he was transferred to a “rich kid” private school.  The culture shock was enormous.  This article was adapted from his new book, “Getting in Touch with Your Inner Rich Kid,” a comparison of the cultures and world views of poor kids and rich kids.

To read more about "Getting in Touch with Your Inner Rich Kid,"  visit Justin's website at http://justinlocke.com/RK.htm

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