Saturday, January 07, 2006

Damn you Lizard Brain!

Lately I've been having a nasty fight with my lizard brain. Come to think of it, I've been fighting with that idiot as long as I can remember. I hate that guy. This might sound funny to you if you're not familiar with the concept, but I promise, you too know your lizard brain all too well. I can prove it too, and I bet you hate yours like i hate mine.

Plenty of modern research suggests that our brain is made up of layers that perform many different functions (surely, I'm being simplistic on a complex topic, see Jeff Hawkin's "On Intelligence" for a far more informative discussion on specifics). In short, our brains share many characteristics as brains of lesser creatures. Different sections of our brains have different functions and some of our more primal instincts are controlled but what some call the "Lizard Brain" (implying we share this brain structure with lizards). Now mind you, the way I use the term, I am considering it to have a definition only I have provided. Again, if you're really interested in a better treatise, they are out there. I'm far more concerned with how this primal part of my brain makes me act rather than its exact anatomy.

Ok, so there's the oversimplified technical overview which probably doesn't clear much up. Allow me to give you a in-your-face introduction to what I'm talking about.

At one point in my adult life I went on a stunningly successful diet. At least it was stunningly successful in the "crash" sense - I lost more weight than ever before but it didn't last long. That's probably typical but my current point. I am 5'11" and after age 20 I have weighed between 156 and 206 pounds. The result of this diet was the 156. What was the secret to this super diet? I'll tell you (move your ear closer to the screen).. here it is... (don't tell no one, it's a secret) - it's simply: "don't eat".

Ah, you say, you've heard that before. But when I say "don't eat", I'm not kidding. And everyone knows that *saying* "don't eat" is about 1000 times easier than *doing* "don't eat". Let's be real, its pretty damn easy to make diet resolutions walking out of a restaurant. It's a heck of a lot harder to do it. In fact, that's the real secret - the way I made it happen.

It was really just a wild extension of a simple rule - if you have a bundt cake sitting on your kitchen table, eventually you're going to eat it. Thusly, I made sure that I had no bundt.

I learned this very important rule without knowing I learned it. Once lizard brain is hungry and sees a bundt cake, he is relentless - and he is really, really good at being relentless.

Lizard: ...zzzzZZZZZ...
You: "Huh, I still have that bundt cake Aunt Jane forced on me"
Lizard: "*cough* wha?"
You: "Um. nothing."
<*noises of Lizard brain processing the idea of bundt cake*>
Lizard: "Eat Bundt"
You: "No"
Lizard: "Eat Bundt"
Lizard: "Eat Bundt"
You: "No, I'm strong"
Lizard: "Eat Bundt"
Lizard: "Eat Bundt"
You: "Hmm, whats on tv?"
Lizard: "Eat Bundt"
Lizard: "Eat Bundt"
Lizard: "Scratch itch"
<*scratching*>
Lizard: "Eat Bundt"
Lizard: "Eat Bundt"
You: "Ooh. Reality TV about losing weight"
Lizard: "Eat Bundt"
Lizard: "Eat Bundt"
<*channel change*>
Lizard: "Eat Bundt"
Lizard: "Eat Bundt"
You: "Woah. Gwenneth Paltrow bikini special!"
Lizard: "Eat Gwenneth Paltrow"
Lizard: "Eat Gwenneth Paltrow"
You: "as if"
Lizard: "ok, Eat Bundt"
Lizard: "Eat Bundt"
Lizard: "Eat Bundt"
You: "Hmm. Maybe just a little bite"
Lizard: "Eat More Bundt"
Lizard: "Eat More Bundt"
You: "Damn, might as well have a whole piece now"
Lizard: "Eat Bundt"

Lizard is as dumb as they come, but he is persistent beyond all imagination.

Just like in the movies he'll be that little devil on your shoulder telling you the wrong thing to do. You'd damn well think that if you had a teeny-tiny angel on one shoulder and a stinky little devil on the other, you'd have NO problem figuring out who to listen to. Yet as my admission of 206lbs sits above, I was a bit fuzzy on the concept.

Truth is - its not a little devil. Its lizard brain (bastage).

Your perfectly rational mind can take days or weeks of consideration about how you'll plan your diet so long as the lizard stays asleep. Keep in mind, he is a benevolent master. Lizard brain is directly tied into your pleasure centers and he's damn well not afraid to use them. You give him strawberry cheesecake, he gives you seratonin (i.e., brain candy). Its a fair deal.

What I learned is that much like a real lizard, my lizard brain had absolutely no foreplanning. No concept of the future at all. He was ALL about the here and now. If my tummy was full he disappeared. Hell, maybe he went off to some lizard strip club smoking lizard cigars or something. Heck if I know. And heck if I care.

But - I used this time to scheme against him. In fact, he had so little perception that LATER he might want to lather my ass in bundt cake and Gwenny Paltrow bikini pictures that I could make it well-known inside my mind that I was plotting his demise - and in a blank stare of overconfidence, he just sat there in the back of my mind indifferently flipping through some lizard magaizine.

Aha! I have you my scaly friend!

I removed from my house all interesting food. Actually - more precisely, I simply stopped stocking my house with interesting food. Lizard helped me clear the house over a few days.

Then, I stopped carrying my ATM card (lizzie is dumb - but even he quickly realized that money can equal food). Eventually going to lunch at work daily, I ran out of money. Now I could have always driven home, got my ATM card, grabbed some cash, drove to McWendyKings's and got a Tripple-cow burger with all the fixins, but that was WAY too much work. Despite how bad lizard wanted that burger, he simply couldn't navigate motivating me through all those steps. At one point he had me sifting the seat cushions of my car (I swear, it was him - not me) for quarters and dimes to add up to 75 cents to buy a Rally burger. Let me tell you, Lizard is a powerful god. Its pretty scary to consider your personal resolve as you weave through a drive-thru to order a 2-ounce lipmeat-burger and pay in dimes.

But eventually, the dimes ran out. Now remember, we don't call him lizard brain for nothing. Lizards run through life following a pretty simple program:

1) If See bug, Eat bug - goto 1
2) move a random distance or wait a bit
3) goto 1

Thats it. Once there are no more bugs (i.e., or in our context we'd say dimes, bundt cakes or rally burgers) he does not lament the point. He simply waits for the next opportunity and really pulls the pressure off you. No need to have you scurrying about wasting energy trying to catch flies when there are none.

The simple fact is that you have the ability to plan ahead. Lizard does not. In fact, things like artificial sweeteners or contraception are commercial ventures at lizard brain deception. Both of these things are in some respects made for lizzie. They make him think he is getting what he wants without really giving it to him. Plain and simple, he's an idiot. He's happy as a pig in mud thinking that sucralose is sugar. You can even tell him to his face its not sugar - but lets be real, he's a friggin lizard - he doesn't know better.

I'm not saying this battle is won. I'm not even saying this battle can be won. Everyone has weak moments (probably even lizard). When you're weak and he is strong, you're probably gonna bundt.

In addition, I must admit - his existence is probably part of why life is fun. I love a good challenge and lizard is always there to provide me with one. Damn you Lizard brain! I shall defy thee! Well, right after I eat these cheetoes I will.