Can We Please Acknowledge the Role of Cultural Standards in How We Speak About Body Size and How Much We Eat?

The first paragraph of the introduction to The End of Overeating by David Kessler is:

I’ve learned to recognize overeating in restaurants all over America. It’s not hard, because people who have been conditioned to overeat behave distinctively. They attack their food with a special kind of gusto. I’ve seen them lift their forks, readying their next bit before they’ve swallowed the previous one, and I’ve watched as they reach across the table to spear a companion’s french fries or the last morsel of someone else’s dessert. Certain foods seem to exert a magical pull on them, and they rarely leave any on their plates.

I would never take a companion’s french fries without their explicit permission, and I would not eat the last morsel of someone else’s dessert because eating other people’s leftovers grosses me out. But otherwise, this does describe the way that I eat, particularly rarely leaving anything on my plate after I finish eating. By this description, I ‘overeat’. Eh, whatever. I’m okay with this. What I’m NOT okay with is the next paragraph:

As I watch this kind of impulsive behavior, I suspect a battle may be taking place in their heads, the struggle between “I want” and “I shouldn’t,” between “I’m in charge” and “I can’t control this.” In this struggle lies one of the most consequential battles we face to protect our health.

On one level, I have trouble even comprehending this. It is such a firmly entrenched habit for me to eat everything on my plate that it is hard for me to understand people not planning to eat everything on their plates. If you aren’t planning to eat it, why did you put it on your plate? And if a restaurant put too big a portion on your plate to eat in one sitting, you’re going to take the leftovers home since you paid for them, right? As long as I don’t discover something awful about the food as I’m eating it, I always intend to eat everything on my plate. I make the decision about what and how much to eat before it reaches my plate, not after, so it’s pointless to struggle between “I want” and “I shouldn’t” at that point. Is this considered weird in American culture? Continue reading

How I Had Unintentionally Used Kessler’s Four Steps Towards Habit Reversal in My Own Life

The book The End of Overeating by David A. Kessler explains how people can change their habits so that they stop overeating.

In this blog post, I’m not going to comment on ‘overeating’ beyond stating that I don’t think anyone is obliged to try to lose weight. But Kessler says that these principles can be used for ‘reversing’ habits in general (i.e. stopping a habit), not just habitual ‘overeating’. And I find his claim credible since, looking back in retrospect, his advice pretty much describes how I transitioned to veganism i.e. ‘reversed’ the habit of consuming animals. I’m going to explain his ideas about ‘habit reversal’ and map them to how I transitioned to veganism. I hope, of course, that this can help people who want to go vegan, but I’m sure this will be useful for other kinds of ‘habit reversals’ as well, so I hope you will keep reading even if you don’t want to go vegan or you’ve already gone vegan.

A sense of powerlessness is one of the biggest obstacles to success. If you feel you have no choice but to engage in a behavior, the arousal that drives it will persist. But if you recognize that you need not engage in habitual behavior, that sense of arousal will begin to diminish.

Yes. About six months before I decided to go vegan, I made a statement along the lines of ‘I could never go vegan because I would never give up cheese.’ Guess what? I did give up cheese, and more than ten years later, I don’t miss cheese at all (yes, I sometimes eat vegan ‘cheezes’ but if all vegan cheese imitations disappeared tomorrow it would not be a big deal to me). This sense of powerlessness probably delayed my transition to veganism.
Continue reading

The Joy of Picking Fruit

It started with Himalayan blackberries.

On the left is a ripe Himalayan blackberry; the one on the right is unripe.

For as long as I can remember, I have known how to pick fruit, specifically Himalayan blackberries. It’s something I started doing as soon as I was physically capable. My father recalls that a gardener came to my kindergarten class to explain how flowers led to fruit, and that he was impressed that I already knew about all that because I had already seen it all happen with Himalayan blackberry plants.

I was primed at a very young age to figure out how to get ripe fruit, even if it meant navigating thorns, to get the sweet reward.

The Himalayan blackberries are in season now in San Francisco. Some years I ignore them (it is annoying to deal with the thorns and blackberries are not, IMO, the tastiest of fruit), but this year I am collecting blackberries. Continue reading

Thoughts on Renting Out Storage Space (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1.

Our physically closest competition among the big brand self-storage entities is the Public Storage at 2690 Geary Street, which I’ll call ‘Public Storage Geary’. In fact, it’s the only big brand storage facility for a large swath of San Francisco, which is why they often have no units available, and even when units are available they charge more than even the other self-storage facilities in the city, to say nothing of facilities outside of city limits.

We don’t charge nearly as much per square foot as the big brand self-storage facilities within city limits. We can’t, mainly for two reasons. Continue reading

Thoughts on Renting Out Storage Space (Part 1)

A while ago, I was listening to this interview with Gretchen Rubin, and she made some comment about how, if she had money to invest, she’d want to invest in the self-storage industry. My reaction is ‘I am involved in the storage business, and that’s not where I’d put money if I had a lot of money to invest.’

That’s not to say that the storage business is bad. It’s been a great side hustle for my mother for decades. But I also know that renting space to people for storage isn’t all rainbows and unicorns.

When I say we are in the storage business, I mean that my mother rents out much of the basement, including the garage, to outsiders (and in recent years I’ve been helping her). When I wrote about the ‘storage room’ in this post, I was being a bit misleading. The reason that room was empty was that it was available for rent. It has since been rented, and currently is full of the tenant’s stuff.

When my mother bought this building, she needed a mortgage. The only mortgage she could get came with an 18% interest rate. That means paying almost 1/5 of the outstanding balance of the loan every year. It was a time of high inflation, but it was still a steep interest rate. On top of that, because the house wasn’t inhabitable when she bought it, she also have to pay for a renovation, which ended up costing ten times more than the initial estimated cost. Suffice to say, she was under a lot of financial pressure. Of course she got roommates who paid rent as soon as she could, but she also wanted to make money off the basement to help pay the mortgage. Thus, she started renting out the garages and some of the rooms, and has been doing it ever since. The only room in the basement which has never been rented out, other than the basement corridor, is the furnace room.

So what are the costs of renting out basement space as storage? Continue reading