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The Benefits of Benevolence

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Friday, January 10, 2020

Not to be too personal, but as of late, along with the heaviness on my hips and in my middle, I've felt a bit of heaviness for a loved one struggling with a situation that is as unique as it is challenging. Unfortunately, it's also one of those situations I can't swoop in and remedy, because it's just too lofty for one person, for him or for me. I've been thinking about this since conversations over the holidays, it hasn't let go of me, and that niggling has had me striving to find some way, any way, to help, even if it's just a little. Then, something else dawned on me: When I'm proactively thinking about others and engaging myself in helping them, I am far less prone to be consumed by the boredom and stress that have me caving in to cravings and binge-ing my way to a bigger belly. Case in point, until I thought of this new undertaking today to help someone I love, I was very quick to cave in and devour one of the homemade Twix bars our very culinarily talented IT guy brought in for finger food Friday! I can't un-eat the treat, but at least it guilted me enough that I tried to occupy my mind with work and something else more meaningful to keep me from going back for seconds.

Now, I am no psychological genius, though I do enjoy being on the couch and do have a hairdo that resembles Einstein's when I go without one of my trusty scrunchees and headbands. That said, in thinking about performing some random act of kindness to assist this loved one, I realized that there are benefits to benevolence that might actually help us in our weight-loss quests. Below are a few I came up with, with a little insight from the Googler:

Giving to others and engaging in actively helping others...

...BOOSTS YOUR SELF-ESTEEM...and when we feel better about ourselves, we begin to see that we are worth the effort. We begin to trust our decisions and our ability to make positive changes in ourselves and the world around us. Not only that, but exercising compassion for others teaches us to have a little compassion for ourselves too. That can-do feeling is a must when fighting the battle of the bulge, particularly if your bulge is really big!

...GIVES US A SENSE OF PURPOSE AND LIFE SATISFACTION. The experts put this one smack-dab in the definition of "psychological wellbeing" and "emotional wellbeing" and have done plenty of research to indicate that obese people are around 29 percent worse off in these areas. Often, we're compromised emotionally and psychologically, but when we're a little less psychotic and neurotic, it's a whole lot easier to face the dessert bar and make level-headed decisions at the church potluck. Doing for and giving to others provides an antidote for a lack of meaning in life, and that can do every body some good.

...REDUCES STRESS. It's a scientific fact that "it enhances the release of oxytocin in interactions where two or more people are engaged in kindness behavior." By way of chain reactions, stress hormones act on fact cells and create abdominal fat. Also, we all know that binge-eating and overeating are more likely to occur when we're stressing out. Personally, I've tried to distract myself from stress with far too many handfuls of salty goodness on more than one occasion, and it shows. If being nice is mean to stress, then let's be nice!

...ELIMINATES BOREDOM...because it's difficult to be bored when you have something to do, even if it's for someone else. We are prone to give in to cravings and overeat when we have nothing better to do, so let's find something better to do!

...HELPS US FEEL THE BURN. Not a lot needs to be said about this, because it's pretty common sense that we're going to burn more calories helping an old lady across the street than we would sitting lethargically on the park bench staring jealously at the kid with the ice cream cone.

If it is true that what we focus on expands, let's focus on helping others however we can, because positive impact is always worth expanding. In my personal case, I decided to do something a bit vague and "private" to help out my loved one, so that no one is embarrassed by the situation, but it will give me something else to do and think about, and, if it works out at all, it will bless his life as much as mine. (P.S. If you'd like more details on this, feel free to drop me an email at autiej@gmail.com. I'm not too proud to beg!) Either way, the benefits of benevolence speak for themselves, and they'll hopefully speak to my scales too! Remember that karma is better for us than caramel!

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