Last summer, I had a rude awakening to not only how much weight I had gained, but how much bigger my fat cells grew, particularly around the waist and thighs. While on a family trip, all the shorts I previously owned did not fit and more alarmingly, I bought new shorts which were too tight but comfortably fit my father-in-law, who visually appeared to be rounder than me. I knew something had to change.

Having done multiple workout regimens from endurance running, Insanity®, P90X®, HIIT, I knew I was able to do these workouts, yet as soon as “life got busy,” I quickly found myself gaining all the weight back that I had lost for the few weeks or months I was disciplined in keeping to those regimens. Not to blame marriage, but after getting married, it was definitely harder to keep to strict workout regimens, so I was on a search for a sustainable method to keep healthy. After two and a half years, I finally found the only thing that works is—portion control.

Portion Control

By changing dietary habits and being strict to how much I ate in a given meal, I found that not only did I quickly drop to a healthy weight, but have been able to maintain that weight over a few months. During this process, I would receive a lot of remarks concerning how little I was eating and that my meal was not enough food. When looking at the amount of food relative to how much I was previously eating, it certainly would seem that eating an apple and drinking a cup of tea for breakfast is certainly a lot less food than a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich on a whole wheat bagel.

After a couple of months of portion controlling, I found that my body was able to sustain on much less amounts of food, and while being slightly hungry, I was not weakened by this state, but rather more alert, energetic, and perhaps both literally and figuratively, lighter.

Though it seems paradoxical, I realized how freeing it is to control what and how much I eat, leading to much greater benefits in my life. It is a stark contrast to being in a constant state of food coma, resulting from eating too much quantity of poor quality food. Though at the moment, eating General Tso chicken with pork fried rice combo is super convenient and delicious, or housing down mouthwatering, buffalo chicken wings with super thick and creamy, lobster macaroni and cheese is certainly enjoyable, I’ve rarely felt a lasting satisfaction or joy after those meals. Rather, I would feel uncomfortably full and know something was awry in my digestive tract. And the challenge with eating whatever we want, whenever we want, is that eating foods high in salt, processed carbs, and whatever other ingredient most people can’t pronounce, is that it is difficult to control that lifestyle of eating. While it may seem freeing at the moment to eat whatever and whenever, the lasting consequences are so limiting on our physical health as well as our mental and emotional well-being.

Life Coma

This recent change in eating habit led me to see a similarity between food comas and “life comas”. Living in the tristate area of the US, I’m surrounded by much affluence, status, intellect, and what seems like full lives. However, when I observe individuals living their lives, when carefully listening to conversations about jobs, relationships, or family, I find that most of us in this area are unsatisfied, despite having access to so much.

We have the ability to feast our lives with much to do, whether it be focusing on our careers, going to watch Broadway shows, searching for the new food craze, purchasing the next hypebeast sneaker, drinking the best craft beer, planning a vacation to the tropical islands, whatever it is, we have the resources and ability to do whatever we want. Yet, I find that many, including myself, to be bored easily, unsatisfied, feeling uncomfortably full just like when we eat too much and are in a food coma. I wonder, how many of us have life coma because we are filling our lives with such a great quantity of poor quality things and things to do.

Though there are a lot of criticisms, reassessments, and ongoing studies about the correlation between happiness and money, both on individual and national levels, one thing for sure is that there is a plethora of data, articles, and opinions on this topic. There have been arguments and discussions regarding the Easterlin paradox, or the hedonic treadmill and adaptation. Recent documentaries such as Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, Happy, or Living on One Dollar, have been creating a buzz around this topic. Without being an economist or psychologist, trying to discuss the differences between absolute and relative income and the effects or correlation to happiness, or different theories on the subjective perception on happiness and money, one thing I know for sure is that there is a consistent theme that there is something to discover about wealth, money, and its pursuit versus happiness, satisfaction, and the fulfillment of our lives.

On a personal level, I can attest to the fact that there is indeed a “happiness benchmark” when it comes to household income. As both my wife and I have degrees that offer well paying jobs and possibilities of careers, we quickly found that for the sake of our early marriage, it was not worth making a dual income, approaching nearly $200,000, at the expense of the time we have had with one another. I can also attest to the fact that living in North Jersey, cost of living is extremely high and not making enough money to cover the necessities, such as housing, basic transportation, food, and a little bit of entertainment can also be a major point of stress and dissatisfaction. We’ve finally found the sweet spot with her working full-time at a place where she enjoys the work and the people, and for me to work part-time to have a little bit of extra income and a lot more time with my wife. After experimenting with different scenarios and adjusting our lifestyles to fit what we made, rather than fitting our paychecks to a certain perception of a lifestyle we may have believed we needed, three years into our marriage and we can both truly attest to the belief that more is not always better, or that not having enough can be a struggle.

I’m finding that even as I take a look at the current possessions we own, how much of it do we truly need? Where is the line between our wants and our needs? I’ve personally found that stripping away certain things in my life such as social media, clothes, or a false sense of the need to be the primary provider for my household, or the desire to constantly please others at the expense of my own health, has brought me to a point of much greater freedom in my life. Yet, as I take further inventory, I’m wondering how much more unnecessary things or false sense of responsibilities I have that keep me in a constant state of life coma.

Just like learning how to portion control what we eat and seeing the numerous benefits, I’m seeing a possible correlation with what we consume in our lives and its effects. Perhaps there is something to discover, similar to knowing what foods are healthier and when and how to stop overeating, that there is a sweet spot in life with what we consume and not to overfill with unhealthy, unnecessary things or responsibilities.

As I reap the benefits of being hungry physically, I’m beginning to realize how much better could it be to have a hungry life, rather than what seems like a full life. And the irony is that how much more fulfilling it is to be hungry, rather than always being full.