If my digestive tract is a symbiont inside of me, how do I communicate with it? If there is a dumb animal inside of me that controls how much I eat, how do I tell it what I want? If there is a beast within me that makes me overeat, how do I retrain it?
It all made me think back to my dog, Sid. We adopted Sid as an adult dog from a rescue shelter. He came knowing a few tricks, but he didn’t know the most important three: sit, come and stay. How did we teach him those tricks?
- Positive Reinforcement: We gave him treats when he did things right. He usually did them right by accident, but when he did, we gave him a treat and LOTS of praise.
- Negative Reinforcement: We scolded him when he did things wrong. We withheld the treat when he didn’t do the trick correctly.
- Repetition: We spent HOURS and HOURS working with him. There were some days when we put his food in a bowl and doled it out a few kibbles at a time as treats to teach him what he needed to know.
- Mimicry: I’ve heard that some dogs learn tricks from other dogs. We’ve never been able to do that with Sid because he’s an only dog, but I’ve seen that happen with others.
The problem is, my symbiont isn’t a dog. Most importantly, it’s a lot dumber than my dog. How do I retrain the beast within me?
Animals want a lot of things. You can reward them with food, but there are a lot of things that the beast inside of me may be appeased with:
- Community / Pack / Herd
Whenever I’m thinking about how to reward the beast within me, I look at this list.
I think it’s very important that I give the reward immediately after the healthy act. So, if I exercise, I eat some healthy food immediately afterward. If I choose a healthy dish, I immediately praise myself. If I refrain from eating dessert, I grab my Nintendo DS and play a fun game as a reward. If I have a perfect day, I spend some time with a good friend either on the phone or in person.
I realize that this is not a quick process. It took us MONTHS to train Sid how to sit, come and stay and he was only a two year old dog. My symbiont has had forty years of controlling my actions, so retraining it to do things that are healthy for me will take some time.
Thinking of my body as a joined species with my intellect as one and my digestive tract as the other has really helped me. There are times when I call Sid and he STILL doesn’t come. He’s just a dumb animal and needs a little more training. The same is true for my symbiont. I’m in the process of retraining the beast inside of me.