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'Outside the Loop'
A 40 Day Dietary Record
June 1 through July 10 2005

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Body Mass Index

According to the Panel on Energy, Obesity, and Body Weight Standards published by American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, your category is:

Last 12 days

Day 29 June 29
Feeling Full
I estimate having lost between 2-5 kilo since beginning this forty day reflection on eating. This is not enough to make an appreciative difference, yet it is a start. At no point was I following any dietary regime, though by being conscious of my eating I did make better choices, more often than not.

I am beginning to see how I use being busy and distracted as a rationale for irresponsible eating. Most of the busy-ness is habitual, my jamming-up time with mind stuffing nonsense. My TV, newspapers, mindless prattle, all serve a social purpose, so one does not want to promote complete abstinence, yet, when I use it to avoid deeper personal issues... self-moderation is essential.

Being alone with myself or even others, without the defense mechanism of background distractions, is very hard for me. I am not completely comfortable in actually seeing either myself nor into the eyes and heart of another. Afraid of confronting the fragile raw nature of interpersonal feelings, I like to have something on... my iPod, my computer game, anything but the awkward silences of human companionship.

I have found that being fat is the best friend a self actualizing warrior can have. Fat is the perfect barometer of consciousness. Fat is unavoidable, it hangs about you like a Scarlet F. Like my gout, the King's Disease, fat is the scourge of the affluent. The world's wealthiest .5% who allow greedy consumption come in the way of balanced hedonism. We are the cultural symbol guaranteed to shame.

We obese are walking bill boards of neglectful minds and ignored bodies. We are the tree not seen, because of our own forest of lackadaisical relapses. We fatties are living proof that man does not live by bread alone.

But too, I have come to see that 'watching carefully' can help convert this cellulose of sin into insight. Fat is my friend, in that it forces me to face myself. No matter how I hide, I can not avoid painfully revealing reflective surfaces.

Unfortunately this awakened state of self-consciousness is an arduous process. Some days after a hearty workout and appropriate diet I feel refreshed and confident. Yet all too soon, often within seconds, I tumble back into a wheel rut toward anger, over-eating, and despair.

So I smile at my awesome bulge, my worthy and formidable foe. I solute my colossus for I know it will either make me or break me. My obesity is my wide avenue to enlightenment, or it will become just another sad and trivial sidetrack to failure.

I can build the new me, as a hero and as a model of potential, or saddle myself to my habits, and ride the old gray mare to my grave. As always, the choice is mine.

Day 30
June 30


There is one point I should clarify before I go any further. Fat isn't the enemy, or even a fault. Fat is simply a physical marker for the worker of conscious. Being rotund in character, with a generous and sensuous disposition, is, as me, a bubbling perfection... an unequivocal bounty of flesh.

What is the enemy is the complacency and self-loathing that develops with neurotic self-neglect... Those times I get to singing, them 'Fat Man Blues.'

Drinkers, with an addictive personality, do not necessarily care if you drink. They just understand that they can't, without caution, because they have their issues. I eat well, when I am well, and this is just fine. But when I feel compulsive and insecure... when energy is draining toward futile and uneventful emotions... food, and It's consequence fat, triggers an alarm.

Fat is my friend in training and a reminder when I am not. Fat is my cushioned comforter when sitting on stones. Fat is dependable in chilly shadows, or when in warmer zones, with lovely sensual women... Women who appreciate the soft skin and tender rebound of my savory splendor. Fatties are flirtacious and fun, and make wonderful house pets. We appreciate our opportunities to love. Abounding in appetite, we are happy to please.

Riding the rotund is a complex proposition. At once we are fanciful and delicious and then shortly seem to slip into a deeper remorse. This is the natural outcropping of our complex inner workings. We do not mean to be complex, and some manage not to be, but generally fatties are fathoms of deeper speculation.

We want the world within us. We see everything as delectable and desirable. We peek under every silver platter at the grand buffet. We will eat you, with that same lavish succulence that we devour oysters and snails. We can be the sensuous soul's Great White Hope for satiated splender. Our snoring can be your serenade, as you slip into slumber, in a resoundingly invigorated universe.

Fat people are what dreams are made of. It is the job of every fat person to become that dream. Fat, friend or foe, in the pursuit of happiness, we build our nation of joy. We are warriors of opulence...

Bagmen in the banquet of life, running numbers for the Lucky Gods and Godesses. We make life glorious for the thin of heart.

Day 31 July 1

Fear of Happiness

Let me reflect on this anxiety. Moments, like now, when I feel charmed, when my life is fine, and I generally feel happy... within my excitement comes a mounting anxiety. I start to mix in anticipation for this happiness to end.

I feel a nervous edginess, a deeply felt paranoia, that someone or something will pull the rug out from under me.
In this state, I create my own self-fulfilling prophecy... a fated debacle born by jealous gods in my head. Gods who do not tolerate over zealous festivities. Underlings who flaunt their autonomy, with lavish display of confidence and frivolity, can not be given free reign.

My exhilaration of joy leans left and starts to smell of panic, it swerves to miss the curves, and soon I am spinning out of control... Confirming the odds set by my subconscious, my inner brain wins its bet, "I would be sorry, for feeling so good, and now I am."

So what can I do when I am feeling happy? To keep this happy rush and not let my fear of loss swing the pendulum against me... how can I have my happiness without guilt?

What Freudian misadventure in my past could have made me so terrified of all 'feel good factors'? Have I always been punished for my pleasures? Is this some Calvinistic misread of the Bible, or the angst of war victim Jews who shared their stories of the holocaust to an impressionable child?

The trauma of my childhood were all peanuts in the shadow of potential calamity... perhaps burned in the constructs of my DNA are subatomic scars of disaster remembered. I can not explain why I flinch when things go well, why I cower at compliments and approval.

Some Inner guilt, in need of exorcizing by a Bert Hellinger Family Constellation, a Tom Cruise Scientology remake, or for now a steady observation of behavior... in the hope of understanding why it is so hard for me to relax into a laugh.

Laughing, an aerobically efficient way to burn fat, does wonders for the spirit. Laughter Therapy a rising star in alternative medicine, in fact, has been around since 1935... arguably since the dawn of primates. Whether it is the chicken proceeding the egg, people who laugh are more relaxed, or the egg proceeding the chick, with a hearty laugh stimulating relaxation, in either case, I want a piece of the action.

I want to titillate my funny bone much more often. I want my 'inevitable right to happiness' worn like an amulet, a hex remover to ward off inner negativism. I want everyone to see how happy I am and to be inside twice as happy as I appear.

I've seen guru like this and I want to learn their secret.

Day 32 July 2
Diet as Microcosm

I feel exhausted from a night of clenching my jaw, my stomach rolls with discontent having kneaded my dinner into a sourdough cruller. My nights are often theaters of battle. A diet is a microcosm of the lab of life. We are a massive experiment, a rats nest of hypothesis, and a diet angles in on the war zone of dissertation.

Here I have come to the sanctuary of my computer. To seek refuge in logistics, I move words about on a virtual page. I hide in my tent on the hill, just above the raging fields of battle, a brigadier general dressed in the colors of sensibility... while all around the enemy circles.

With less than ten days left in my experiment, I grapple for an elegant advantage... A touche trounce to placate my injustices with vindication... sweet revenge for a life time of embarassment. Yet all I stand witness to is insurmountable odds and the darkening clouds of defeat.

In the end must be humility and surrender. There are expectations to be dropped like feces of the heart, cowardly truths of our character to be owned up to. Every day of a diet is the test of our strategic master plan, either it will work or it will not.

But like all of man's wars there is a fundamental flaw in the very core of the campaign. Inevitably a dieter must stop and desist. A dieter must sit within the raging madness and be still. All the desires and dreams must settle down to the bottom of the well. The letting go of all the struggle will bring stillness to the water, allow clarity of depth, cooling of passion.

I can feel so far away from such siliences, when I first arrise from my battle of subconscious scheming. My night time of sleep for me is an exhausting journey. Meals are emotional cesspools, a swirling chaos of conflicting impressions poisioned by reams of contradicting data. I feel disgrace in my weaknesses and ravenously lost in a hundred hungers.

This microcosm of life, my silly little walk through the valley of dieting, has made me aware. And awareness is a painful presence worthy of all the trouble we take to avoid it. We understand the lavish distraction in which we plaster our lives. It feels better to bath ourselves in news and amusing nothingness, then ponder the true nothingness that envelopes our humble existance.

Day 33 July 3
Staying Focused

Presently, perhaps perpetually, there is a debate between 'the use of psychiatric drugs' verses 'depressed folk weathering their storms of emotion drug free.'

Inspirational speakers and natural healers note, inevitably drugs must be withdrawn from, and the withdrawal process can be as ferocious as the initial symptoms. Also, there is nothing in the taking of drugs which empowers the patient to face the underlying trauma, that created their problem in the first place.

A counter argument might be, drugs empower by providing a calm, in which the patient might enjoy a sense of normalcy, to recoup forces and initiate the therapy necessary to conquer their initial woes.

Driving the debate has been a general distrust of the pharmaceutical industry and their willingness to put profits before the needs of the client. Also, the psychiatric community has a tendency to prescribe medication without proper follow-through therapy. Proper monitoring of side-effects may be non-existant.

As I recently have begun a regiment of multi-vitamins, gout prevention, and low blood pressure medication, I too debate which should be the prerequisite, life style change or symptom removal. If one begins to take psychogenic medication into the mix, where then is the line between symptom and cure?

Where is there a healthy divison between our expanding dependency on external cures and a personal sense of physiological and emotional independence? How dependent should we become to modern medicine, to the comforts of mechanized living, to our computers, air conditioning, our systems of communication...?

How far should we let ourself be swept away by the tide of our time, into the fast currents of modern living, before we jam our feet into the sand and declare enough is enough? Is it better to flow with, or take strides against, this relentless stream of expediency and convenience?

What creates in each of us a well anchored sense of emotional autonomy and self-confidence? When it comes to balancing our moods, should we utilize modern medicine, or formulate our own chemical balance, with a drug-free alchemy of forbearance and common sense?

Are we even capable of being self-prescribing alchemists, creating our own health plan in this wilderness of options? Perhaps we have no choice, drugs or drug-free, psychotic or self-realized, inevitably we are on our own. Only self reliance, and the communities we bond with, can help bring us across to the other side. We again find, we are on our own. It is up to me, to be more of anything I want to be.

Photo coutersy of Plum Village, France
Day 34 July 4
Independence Day

Thich Nhat Hanh

Codependency is a popular therapeutic term which describes a dysfunctional pattern of living and problem solving developed during childhood.

Codependency is most often used when describing the relationship between co-habitating alcoholic or substance users, but it can also be used for over-eatering or other family patterns which encourage an addiction.

The patterns of behavior are categorized as maladaptive, an inability for a person to develop behaviors which get needs met, and compulsive behavior, a psychological state where a person acts against their own will or conscious desires.

Some common sources of this behavior are the emotional stress and pain resulting from chemical dependency; chronic mental illness; chronic physical illness; physical abuse; sexual abuse; emotional abuse; divorce; hypercriticism: or other love-starved home environments.

I sense most of us have rubbed up against these kinds of relationships and many have experienced them first hand. But once we learn to recognize the behavior, and have taken the time to research alternatives, most of us, willing to abandon our unhealthy habits, should be able to cut clear of codependency.

*Interdependency is a term used in spiritual circles, most notably from the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh in explaining the relationship between the cloud, the rain, and the flower... How we all interact in the greater scheme of things... how much we need each other... how dependent we are on each other... How important each of us is for the greater balance of things.

What distinguishes codependency from interdependency is our willingness to take responsibility for our behavior. This middle way recognizes how important our relationships to others is and so takes care to remain self resilient, yet ready to compromise and serve.

*The Sun My Heart by Thich Nhat Hanh
Pg.67 Interbeing and Interpenetration
The dance of true independence, balanced between healthy interdependence and the unhealthy draw of codependent behavior, is an artful display of our inner discipline and creative adaptability. Interpersonal improvisation, drawing from clear ethical values and the grace of practice, allows us to fulfil our needs while serving our community.

Day 35 July 5
Another Wave of Sadness

I allowed myself to get angry today. Yes I know I have permission to feel anger, even express it, even justify it in the eyes of others, but in the end, anger, expressed spontaneously to others, does more damage than good.

Reflection before action and the conversion of 'anger energy' into constructive criticism is always wiser than the spontaneous expression of anger towards another. No matter what temporary relief we feel, anger is best utilized as kindling for kindness. There is no pedagogical advantage, for even when faced with passive resistance or blatant disrespect, an angry person only plays into the hands of the provocateur.

The Dalai Lama clearly illustrates the futility of anger, in his work written with Jeffrey Hopkins, How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life. "As long as anger dominates our disposition there is no chance to find happiness... Kindness is essential to peace of mind."

With patience, practice, and time, the Dalai Lama suggests I may overcome my anger. I feel as if I have always been angry and only now have begun to take measures to counteract this reactionary nature... this habit of ill content.

In listening to the Dalai Lama's audio tapes I am reminded of the Tibetan practice of Tonglen. There are such practices brilliant in scope which I have studied and practiced only to forget again.

I quote now from my own writing on the subject and wonder why my insights have dissipated... Perhaps I have much karma to burn... perhaps the burning of fat is a more metaphysically significant metaphor than I had previously considered.

"This is the secret receipt for anyone ready to take on the greatest chef of compassion, and practice the soft simple path of Tonglen. But cook it we must, in the hottest of ovens, our own day to day hell of survival.

Breath in what we witness as evil, take in this tragedy as our own, and then to life's victims we give all that is right and good in our hearts. For any one brave enough to do such a simple and silly gesture, of breathing in 'all that is bad' and out 'all that is good', the Bodhichitta of an awakened heart awaits.

By expressing ultimate love in this way, we may feast for the moment on our own piece of enlightened bliss... a delightful short-time stay, at the Pure Land Hotel of anointed action."

From Dalando's Favorite Dharma Delicacy "In with the bad and out with the good" the topsy-turvy world of TONGLEN
Day 36 July 6
Where are we going with this?

I find myself poised, fingers above the keys, waiting for insight to trickle through the clouds and rain upon this virtual page. I want to send myself a message.

My internal organs bask in acidic juices, I feel pickled from within. Every year I swirl around the cosmology of life options, tossing darts at maps toward the blank areas, uncharted territories on the fringes.

I am locked out of slumber, set between two days here at midnight, waiting for reprieve, salvation, or solace. What can I offer, some answer, some promise, some process of redemption?

If I were a man of independent means... what choices would I take that I hesitated to now? I'd go back to New York City and quietly, slowly, walk the same streets as before. I'd wander up and down brushing against the changes, free to believe I could be here if I wanted, free to believe I could say 'yes' or 'no' to my past, with adamant self-assuredness.

And then I'd fly to Europe, visiting old and new sections, old and new friends, old and new images of unfulfilled promises. I'd check under every cultural asset for secrets, clues to what went wrong. I'd ask the wise men and convenient strangers which way to go.

And then I'd fly further Central and South to the Americas. Afterwards Africa around and around, via maddening obscure whimsy, or casual curiosity, until travel bore a hole in my head. When quiet resinated and my body bore the sun weary signs of depletion, I'd make my decision to return.

But to whom, or what, or even why? What would I see there that was not me, that beckoned me on to some conclusion, further than where I sit now? After all, I have been so many places already. Read so many words, heard so many songs, slept within dreams still waiting, an arm's length away on cotton sheets.

Would it be a project? Homes in key cities, charities of generosity, spiritual outposts of simplified dress and minimalist perfection? Would I find myself my spiritual home, a worthy teacher, a sanctuary in pristine clear water mountains, in Sufi inspired desert seclusion, or in cloistered halls filled with choral splender?

Would I hunger for my children, my sisters, extended family, and old friends? Would I surrender to a new wife, a new life of many more children... Rekindling my earthly passions to toss and turn on straw mats in still another exotic rebirth? Or would I come to see what I know now, that my friends and family mean so much more than hilltop panorama, sandy beach atoll, or urban power base?

If I were a man of independent means... what choices would I take different from today?

Day 37 July 7
Tired and Tight Gut

Weary, I wonder, where will I get the stamina for my dream of a balanced body weight? I calculate the estimated Body Mass Index for my height and I am told I am extremely obese. Then next, I attempt to find the suggested weight for my height for maximum health, and see a number which has not been my weight since college.

My goals of losing 10, 25, or even 35kg would barely get me out of the danger zone of obesity, and of course this insight levels a blow to my solar-plexus. My confidence which normally would be flattened on the matt now just seems to wobble lost in the ropes as further blows of anxiety plummet my glass-jawed aspirations.

I feel there must be more to this struggle than kilo and centimeter ratios. I am learning to be self-disciplined. Discipline conjures up images of whips and chains to this old hippy, but I am talking about the ability to laugh in good conscious. To intentionally set aside my anxieties and learn the art of being laid back. Laughing along with the challenges. Making sense by sensing humor. Learning to be cool.

No, I am not saying this right. This is just jive talk, circling around some core issue. Something has to be dropped. Some inner ambition, some long held expectation, something is eating me from within as I eat my way out of every depression. Being laid back has nothing to do with self control, there is something much more to this than all these New Age axioms.

I am angry about something. But what? Nothing is wrong except the anger itself. What do I need to surrender in order to feel relaxed and whole again? What hole in my logic keeps this mental loop circling around and around?

I am overweight because I eat too much and I hardly get exercise. Extensive exercise would allow me to eat as much as I like, but that kind of exercise would be as depressing as my current weight. So I imagine a lifestyle where I am not so anxious, hoping I would not need to eat so obsessively, and that I could gently rediscover the joy of physical activity.

But I do not believe I can sustain such a simple pace. Where would the money come from, who would support me and my children. Obviously I associate manic behavior with financial survival. I fear my being 'laid back' is synonymous with 'laid off' poverty and thus despair.

Stymied Fatty Cow
Anger fuels my agression. When I feel clogged I explode, cracking my outer shell of confusion with the laser light of driven purposefulness.Yet manic behavior has a nasty aftertaste, a destructive edge that cuts others and leaves me emotionally wounded.

And anger does not sustain a diet, anger usually only undermines it.

Having excess adipose tissue, i.e. being fat, corpulent, fleshy, gross, heavy, obese, overblown, porcine, portly, pursy, stout, upholstered, weighty, rotund, beefy, bulky, chunky, dumpy, full-bodied, heavyset, squat, stocky, stubby, thick, thickset, paunchy, potbellied, brawny, burly, husky, chubby, pudgy, tubby, roly-poly, flabby, Porky Pig, remains my nemesis.

Still another K.O. against my self esteem. As little birdies flutter around my head, I fester at what it will take to win.
Day 38

morbidly obese
July 8

Day 39
July 9

in Motion

Dance, as though no one is watching,
Love, as though you've never been hurt before,
Sing, as though no one can hear you,
Work, as though you don't need the money,
Live, as though heaven is on earth. 
~Jalaludin Rumi~


The most read poet today in America is Jalaludin Rumi. This
*Afghanistan born Sufi mystic, provided the founding inspiration for the Whirling Dervish's spiritual dance 'sama'.

It is said, after he lost his beloved teacher, Shams al-Din Tabrizi, he wrapped his hand around a column at his Mosque and began encircling the column repeatedly, all the while reciting spontaneous poetry. Though he took no interest in saving these poems his disciples began writing them down. Today though most of us only access him through translation, his words carry his ecstatic esoteric vision.

In his motion he found the moment. In his ecstacy he understood. Swirling in regimented awareness, surrendering to his bliss, he found the balance that can be life. Disciplined into the quest, spinning essence, he made his mark without marking. He sang his song in the silent measure of languages yet to be spoken.

Rumi lived in the spirit inwhich I would like to create a new life. A way to be unfolding perfection.

Tu nîz del'kabâbî darmân ze dard yâbî
Gar gerd-e dard gardî, farmân-e man gerefte.

You are broken-hearted too, you shall find cure in love;
If you listen to me and pursue this ailment.

Love is the Water of Life

Everything other than love for the most beautiful God

though it be sugar-eating. 

What is agony of the spirit? 

To advance toward death without seizing hold of the Water of Life.

Teachings of Rumi (The Masnavi) translated by Whinfield

In The Arc Of Your Mallet

Don't go anywhere without me.
Let nothing happen in the sky apart from me,
or on the ground, in this world or that world,
without my being in its happening.
Vision, see nothing I don't see.
Language, say nothing.
The way the night knows itself with the moon,
be that with me. Be the rose
nearest to the thorn that I am.

I want to feel myself in you when you taste food,
in the arc of your mallet when you work,
when you visit friends, when you go
up on the roof by yourself at night.

There's nothing worse than to walk out along the street
without you. I don't know where I'm going.
You're the road, and the knower of roads,
more than maps, more than love.

The Essential Rumi translated by Coleman Barks

Inspiration waits shrouded in thoughts. Set her free. Below the 'I' waits 'me', let him see. In this moment sleeps God, let it be.

I have been trying for 40 days to find the way of a life time. To create a relationship with my body which will allow beauty to gracefully find balance. I want poise, an elegance, a magnitude of simplicity.

I feel I will succeed if only in my failure I can see.

*"Rumi was born in Wakhsh (Tajikistan) under the administration of Balkh in 30 September 1207 to a family of learned theologians. Escaping the Mongol invasion and destruction, Rumi and his family traveled extensively in the Muslim lands, performed pilgrimage to Mecca and finally settled in Konya, Anatolia, then part of Seljuk Empire ... [now modern Turkey]. " www.khamush.com

Video: Rumi poet of the heart, by Haydn Reiss, Magnolia Films

Modern Muslim dieting link to a Diary of aMuslim Feminist and a chat on a 40 days of Fat a Blog diet technique utilizing fundraising.
Day 40 July 10
40 Days and 40 Nights

Rumi was born into a learnedly religious family and nurtured on spiritual classics. He was an accomplished academic within his faith and he was neighbors to the great faiths of his time. Yet it was while lost in grief he received enlightenment.

After an ecstatic blissful intimacy, with his teacher companion, came his horrific fall into despair. Yet through this heavy portal appeared insight... His methodology of being, a marriage of idea and ism. He became finally Rumi and began to spin.

In the gray haze of a rainy Kyoto summer, I try and allow Rumi in. I was originally inspired by a fundamentalist Christian Born-again Jewish author to document a 40 day reflection and finished in wonderment of a Sufi. My sources are eclectic, or what others might call 'all mixed up'.

There seems also to be a see-saw rhythm, up and down emotionally, dietary and psychological, physical and spiritual. I appear to be trying to bridge a polarity, negotiate a settlement between the two halves of a brain.

Yet, what it comes back to is all I am trying to do is lose weight. Within all the tragedies and successes of humanity, nothing could be more trivial... A nemesis as simple as becoming trim.

I am tempted to rationalize this process as a metaphor for modern world ecology, an answer to global warming and the disparaging differences between the Northern and Southern economic hemispheres.

But that would be balderdash, for clearly all I really want to do is look beautiful in the eyes of the opposite sex, a model of manhood in my fifties. And, despite all my side-steps and skip-abouts, my weight is basically the same, my shape sedimentary and deposited in my chair by the glacier of my inactivity.

I have, though, enjoyed writing you and feel better versed in the variables of my own perspective. In time, too, I sense closer to solutions and more knowledgeable of options. Someday I hope to share my map out of obesity... A path into a sea of committed motion. To burn again this sediment in the fires of passion and erupt anew, as an island of fertile soil sprouting green luscious foilage.

But for now my plans are less grandiose. I will complete my work at the universities and take my family to a forested lake, where we will swim and hike for a month. I will play with fasting and reflective strolling. At the end I will return to my writing and teaching. More and more I hope to crystallize my reflections in prose and my thoughts in actualized progress.

I plan to succeed, though I quiver with knees less sure.

Robert L. Seltman "Dalando"

Diet Commentary 2006
Diet Commentary 2005
Diet Commentary 2004
Diet Commentary 2003
Robert L. Seltman
Personal Statistics