The little known cause of obesity: scarcity thinking

Posted by Mike Campbell

coffee and life

Glancing up from my phone, I spotted it, directly across the street (and a crosswalk) from Starbucks, although they looked almost identical.

My journey up Montana Ave in Santa Monica saw me with head constantly up and down, going from phone screen to the actual world.

I was looking for Primo Passo Coffee, a place that seemed to have pretty decent reviews on their coffee.

With eyes naturally drawn to the overt Starbucks, I turned back to look at the slightly hipster, but clearly serious about their coffee Primo Passo. In all of my curious wonder, I thought “Why would you go there and drink shitty coffee when you can come here and drink very good coffee?”

Then it clicked.

Scarcity.

 

 

A left-field observation which then formed as an opinion, which I’m about to explain…

Scarcity mindset is one of the leading causes of obesity

Allow me to give a bit more context – The previous day I had walked into the iconic Gold’s Gym Venice Beach, paid for a casual visit then asked the guy if there was somewhere close by to get a coffee. “Yeah, around the corner, but it’ll cost you like 50c extra than normal and it’ll be the smallest coffee you’ve ever seen” he said.

As soon I heard those words penetrate the air, I knew it was going to be a coffee that I’ll like because it will not taste like crap, and it’ll actually be worth the extra 50c, or whatever it was.

To me there simply isn’t a comparison.

 

I’ll add to that – A week earlier when in Seattle, I ordered a small Americano. Already confused and annoyed by whatever baffling measuring system Starbucks use to name their sizes, this was exacerbated when the chick asked me “Do you want the Venti? It’s same price, and you get more!”

My face must have screamed bewildered. However, hiding actual distaste, I politely declined, choosing to leave out “No, because it’s going to be a shit coffee, I don’t want a greater quantity of it!”

This was met with her own confusion – why does this guy not want more, for free?!

 

The left-field observation was constructing itself in my mind.

 

Now here I was sitting drinking my quality black coffee at this minimalist shop in Santa Monica and the light bulb hit me!

Scarcity is making us fat!

 

scarcity abindance

Think about it…
That constant thought that we need to get as much as we can – like we’re going to miss out – causes us to consume more, ask for more, and something as simple as NEVER leaving food and drink ‘to waste’.

This is the difference between Abundance and Scarcity.

It’s not a case of having too much that is making us fat, it’s the mindset that we don’t, nor will we ever, have enough.

In short, it’s about quality vs. quantity.

 

Let’s take a look at the coffee example above:

The abundance mind says “I’ll gladly spend 20c or 50c more for a quality cup of coffee, no matter the size. I’ll go to Primo.

The scarcity mind says “Why spend more, PLUS it’s such a small cup! I want to get as much quantity as I can for my money. I’ll go to Starbucks.

Can you see the key difference in approach to this situation?

 

We see it everywhere.

People eating as much as they possibly can at ‘All you can eat’ restaurants. Even at a normal restaurant, how common is the sentence: “I’m sooo full”?

Just because it’s free or you’ve paid for it, doesn’t mean you should shove as much of it as you can in your face to “Get your money’s worth” – there will be more meals, more food.

It’s time to stop with the scarcity.

i-couldnt-eat-another-thing_clink_large

I was walking through the train station a while ago there were massive bins full of oversized cans of Mother ‘energy’ drink. People were rushing to it and grabbing handfuls.

What the fuck?!

Seriously, you don’t need that, nor probably like it, so don’t grab it and shove it in your face just because it’s free!

Stop with the scarcity.

 

We hoard things, attaching out happiness to them instead of chasing what will truly make us happy.

Even if it’s not from a place of money – i.e. it’s free, or you’re getting your money’s worth – you just really like the taste perhaps, well guess what: there’ll still be more opportunities in life to eat it. Just not right now, you’ve had enough!

Stop with the scarcity.

JUST STOP!

 

What is this so?

Our parent’s and grandparent’s generations grew up in and around war time and the Great Depression. This brought with it a very real sense of lack – a visceral feeling of never having enough.

It undoubtedly led to this way of thinking spreading through the industrialised world.

When money and resources were tight, you certainly don’t let anything go to waste. You don’t pay someone to do something when you can do it yourself.

Being unavoidable products of our parents, and theirs (obviously), we have inherited these leftover hang-ups around a deep-seated fear of lack – of not having enough. As such, we easily display greedy and gluttonous tendencies, constantly seeking more; more money, more food, more things, as if one day there’ll magically be enough and we can be happy and satisfied.

 

Having turned an observation into a (strong) opinion it’s nice to see actual research is backing up my coffee shop inspiration. Harvard economist Sendhil Mullainathan and Princeton psychologist Eldar Shafir have delved into why we are drowning in scarcity with their book, Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much.

Their argument is quite simple: scarcity captures our focus and attention, which provides one narrow benefit: we do a better job of managing pressing needs. But on a larger scale, it costs us: we neglect other concerns, and we become less effective in the rest of life.

They call this capture of our attention a tunnel; leading us into narrow thoughts where our only focus is solving the emergency of the moment; “I’m hungry and I’ve spent precious money on this, I must consume it all and get my money’s worth.” People who are coming from this place spend most of their attention stuck in this ‘tunnel’ of thinking, struggling to get a healthy perspective on life.

 

This was also backed up by two University of Miami marketing experts, Juliano Laran and Anthony Salerno. They suggest that the news we’re exposed to every day, specifically information about a tough economy, adversity, and everyday struggle in a harsh world, is triggering a live-for-today mindset that makes us short-sighted about how we eat.

They state that due to our evolutionary past, living in a harsh world makes us focus on immediate reproductive success, which makes us fiercely competitive for scarce resources. This sense of scarcity makes us ignore the future and focus on the here and now, including getting in a load of calories, beyond what we need – a function of something that had more practical implications for our distant ancestors.

 

Scarcity is the wolf in sheep’s clothing; it’s the fear of lack dressed up as the comfort of immediate satisfaction.

 

To me, this is it. This is the problem – the need to get more, get as much as you can because you might miss out.

No, you won’t. Unless you are in an extreme situation of survival, poverty or lack (which I’ll point out, most of the people who have time and opportunity to be reading pieces like this on the internet are not), you will not starve or go without.

There will be more food, more meals, more to drink, more money, another day to earn, to live and experience life or whatever that ideally looks like to you.

Just give it a chance.

Scarcity mindset is making us consume WAY too much.

 

It’s also keeping us impatient, short-sighted, and in my opinion, generally unhappy – stuck on the ‘Mediocre-Man treadmill’.

Coffee in America made this so obvious to me, but of course it plays out many ways.

Think of two common thoughts many people have to start and end their day:

Upon waking – “I didn’t get enough sleep” – setting the tone for the day.

Followed at the end of the day/before bed – “I didn’t get enough done today” – cementing this in our minds before we rest.

Can you see that these two thoughts, if a common occurrence, are a sign of a scarcity approach to life in general?

There will be another day tomorrow to get things done, so relax, enjoy life, sleep well knowing the ‘to do list’ will be there tomorrow, and the next day. It will never go away. The sooner you accept it, the better off you’ll be, the easier you’ll be able to shift your priorities from scarcity to abundance.

not enough sleep

 

Moving from scarcity to Abundance

Might seem all too ‘easier said than done’, but it really is about taking the positive view of things, safe in the knowledge the world will not run out of resources and you will eat tomorrow, and the next day, and the foreseeable future.

Because this is about you, not anyone else, not your children and their children, etc. This is you and your stomach (or whatever is relevant) – take responsibility for you.

Here are some strategies you can put into place when it comes to obesity, or just your individual body composition and life:

  • Put away the scales – stop working to some ideal number and think about how you feel and how you want to feel.
  • Connect your mind to your body – when you’re eating, do not be distracted. No TV, computer, phone, reading – nothing. Just light conversation at most and actually give your body a chance to let you know when you’ve had enough, instead of mindlessly eating like so many of us are guilty of. The more you can tune into this, the more skilled you’ll be at recognising your meal and daily intake requirements in the long term.
  • Work out your amounts – getting a better gauge of how much (and of what) you should eat brings forth information you can’t ignore when it comes to knowing when to stop eating. Try, reflect, assess, and alter. Repeat.
  • Ask yourself – Do I need this? Is this going to get me closer to where I want to go? If the answer is no, then stop. Think about what is more important, your goal body/feeling or this immediate satisfaction/fear of lack?
  • Learn to share everything – no competing or hoarding for yourself. The world is a better place when people give and act more selflessly. Use this when it comes to food, your time, anything that applies. The more you keep things for yourself, the more you’ll be stuck in scarcity.
  • Go on a media fast – stop reading the paper and watching the news. Shit, even stay off social media if you can (Not Unleash You Alpha obviously). Try and avoid all the stories that remind us about how hard life is and that we must get what we can when we can. Start looking for interactions and conversations with people who have an abundance mindset and ask them how they think about or approach certain things in everyday life.
  • Learn to say ‘when’ – ask the waiter for a doggy bag, put what’s left on your plate in a container for tomorrow, set yourself a target of how many drinks you’ll have when you’re out with mates and stick to it (i.e. be your own man, and not led by others)
  • Ask yourself “what does enough look like?” – whatever it is that has you thinking from a point of scarcity, sit down and think about what ‘enough’ will actually look like. What amount of money will be enough? How much of that yummy-but-calorie-dense-as-fuck food is enough to satisfy the want for it without going overboard?

 

Take a look at your life, pay attention to where you might be acting from a place of scarcity and start to employ general outlook that says:

“There is always another opportunity around the corner. Just chill and enjoy the journey – have patience, life is a marathon not a sprint.

Also, think about why you might be doing this, question it, look deeper into it and ask:

“Will the world end if I stop now/don’t have that/waste this?”

And for Starbucks drinkers (and the like), there is very good coffee that you don’t need to add a heap of sugar and syrups to in order to make bearable.

In fact, you can have a short black coffee and it taste very good. As long as you can get over the fact that you’re paying for not much actual quantity – look at it with an abundance mindset – and see it for its quality.

Abundance comes from your decision to make it so.

 

Want to learn how to fight scarcity and obesity and mediocrity of all kinds, while creating a body and life that you actually value and brings you self-esteem and abundance? Apply for Beast-Gentleman-Legend Coaching today. In this 16 week program you’ll learn from me how to go from ‘lost’ to loving it.

 

Resources:

Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/25/escaping-the-cycle-of-scarcity/?smid=pl-share&_r=0

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wray-herbert/let-us-eat-cake-the-parad_b_1471315.html

About Mike Campbell

Mike is the creator and author of Unleash Your Alpha. He is also a geek, like a massive geek when it comes to training, food and health. So much so that he ate 52 different meats in 2012. Plus he loves to cook, eat and talk to his food. He loves stone fruit, cold beer, red wine and to think of himself as Batman. And he likes to lift heavy things and eat many a variety of meat. He pours his energy into fine tuning the best ways for guys become the best man they can be.

View all post by Mike Campbell

There are 6 Comments

  1. Brian Watson
    - July 8, 2015
      -   Reply

    Wow Mike,

    This is a great article and also let me just say hell!! This is a great website. I see so many men on the buses of the street in my place of worship who are fat overweight, can’t do anything. low test, you name it because they eat and do nothing else put sit around.
    They are Betas, Gamma and Omega men, just existing and not living.
    After reading and browsing through the articles here, it has inspired me to up my game in life and continuing to become the man I want to be. BE GREAT, BE STRONG, BE ALPHA.

    BRIAN D. WATSON

    • Mike Campbell
      - July 10, 2015
        -   Reply

      Glad you liked it and the site Brian.
      Make sure you stick around and check out all that we have on here. You might want to take the Man test then: http://unleashyouralpha.com/alpha/

  2. - July 24, 2015
      -   Reply

    Great article 🙂 now about to send it to my clients so they can enjoy it and hopefully take something home from it. Thankyou!

    • Mike Campbell
      - August 7, 2015
        -   Reply

      Hey Polly, thanks! Glad you enjoyed it and I hope your clients can get something from it.

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