The Ardent Life: Whatever Turns You On Tones You Up

The world’s pharmaceutical companies are spending millions in their hunt to find a safe and efficient drug to ‘cure’ obesity. But what if the remedy already exists, and has not been found because the search has been made in the wrong place? Since the discovery of powerful antibiotic drugs in the 1930s we’ve been totally bedazzled by Big Pharma’s achievements. Within a short space of time it’s offered us vaccines against many of the world’s major killer diseases. It’s developed mood bending drugs which can allay our bouts of anxiety and depression and created potent analgesics which can ease the pains of child birth and the pangs of terminal illness. Such is its success that we now believe that, from the cradle to the grave, there’s a pill for every ill. As a consequence, we’re now sitting back and waiting for it to provide a cure for the obesity epidemic. But what if the remedy for that particular disease is to be found from the work of psychologists and philosophers, rather than the labours of pharmaceutical chemists? Many years ago a French philosopher said ‘Le seule morale est de vivre avec ferveur’ (The only principle is to live with passion.) Bertrand Russell, the British philosopher made a similar observation. ‘Zest,’ he claimed, ‘is the secret of happiness and well-being’. If these two students of human behaviour were right, our life style today is decidedly unhygienic.

Today’s youngsters are encouraged to play it cool. In the same way their

parent’s were taught to maintain a stiff upper lip, which meant their mouths couldn’t quiver with laughter or joy. For generations we’ve been trained to be apathetic, a word which comes from Latin a-pathos meaning ‘without feeling’. The idea is that in this cocooned state we’ll be shielded from the slings and arrows of life’s misfortunes. But if we succeed in achieving this state of schizoid withdrawal we not only protect ourselves from feeling pain, but also from experiencing excitement and pleasure. By adopting this ethos we’ve become voyeurs of the glorious pageant of life rather than active participants. Our excitement now comes second hand, as we sit in our cosy fireside chairs and watch dramatic TV plays of skulduggery and adventure. Our forebears listed sloth as the seventh deadliest sin because they believed it predisposed to wickedness. Whether or not that’s true, we know that sloth of body, mind and spirit predisposes to a multitude of diseases, ranging from depression to rheumatic aches and pains, coronary disease, premature senility, and obesity. These symptoms can be palliated with drugs, but are far better treated by changing to a more vivacious life style. This will automatically increase our metabolic rate and burn up surplus calories. Six years ago The New York Times published an article based on leaked documents obtained from the drug company Eli Lilly. These revealed that the firm had deliberately played down the fact one of the side-effects of its antidepressant drug Zyprexa was that it fostered obesity. The company’s data showed that one-third of patients who’d taken the drug for a year had gained at least 10 kilograms. Commenting on this finding, the New Scientist magazine warned that widespread use of these, and other psychotropic drugs , ‘Could potentially be causing a significant – and growing portion of America’s obesity problem.’

Instead of leading a life of narcotised torpor we ought to live with zest. This is the charismatic quality which wins friends and influences people, for as Ralph Waldo Emerson said: ‘Nothing great is ever achieved without enthusiasm.’ You don’t have to jog to boost your metabolism. All you need do is lead a more exciting life. Live, love, laugh and be happy, and you’ll increase the rate at which you burn up your stores of surplus fat. You’ll find that whatever turns you on, tones you up. Even being miserable can be beneficial, providing you make an effort to improve your lot. This was the experience of one unhappily married woman, who told her doctor that she planned to leave her husband when the time was right. ‘He upsets me so much I’m losing weight. When I’m down to 110lbs I’ll quit.’


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