October 18, 2013
Return of the Health Jedi

Welcome to the final installment of the brain quintilogy. In the previous four posts we have addressed the reward center, the survival system, the stress response, and stress coping mechanisms. For this final installment, we will bring all of this together into one epic parable. Without further ado…

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away… (to set the stage)

Jabba the Glutt is a slug-like gangster alien creature who loves his hyperpalatable foods. He is the proud tyrant of millions of people on his home planet of Fatooine. Jabba keeps large amounts of sweet and fatty food available in order to pacify his subjects. Should they get stressed and rowdy, he simply loads goodies galore onto food hovercrafts (like food trucks but with way more hovering) and distributes them to the masses. He knows that sweets and goodies are like controlled substances and he keeps tight control of his people by feeding their addiction. But, there is one who cannot be controlled: Jedi-Master Joe. Jabba the Glutt just recently captured a traitorous candy-smuggler (and Jedi Joe’s friend) Hans Rolo, and Rolo’s girlfriend (who is Joe’s twin sister) named Princess Pleia. Jedi Joe wants to sneak into Glutt’s lair and rescue Hans and Pleia, but to do so he will need help. He recruits his friend of a friend, Chewy, a 7 foot tall sasquatch looking behemoth. The only downside is that Chewy loves food and the force is not strong with him. This is where we start our story…

Jedi Joe and Chewy hurried past a pile of defeated guards and crouched beside a giant closed door. They both took a moment to rest and reflect upon their mission. This door is the entrance to Jabba’s lair. Once they pass though things will surely hit the fan. Joe pondered how easy it was to make it this far. After only 45 minutes of kung fu and roundhouse kicks they had successfully defeated every guard surrounding Jabba the Glutt’s inner sanctum.

“Man, those guards were lame. They were so out of shape. Guaranteed their survival systems were on full alert, but they were physically weak sauce. At first I didn’t know if we could take them and I was worried. But then I remembered: we’re awesome!” Remarked Joe.

“Rrruughghuukuuughguuuu.” Replied Chewy.

“Dude, Chewy, I can’t understand you when your mouth is full. Could you please swallow before speaking?” noted Joe, with frustration.

Chewy nodded, and swallowed his donut. (Translation will be in brackets) “[Sorry Joe, I needed to refuel before we get to the next stage of this awesome adventure. There is no better fuel than donuts! And yes, those guards were so lame. My sister could hit harder than them.]”

Joe waited for a moment and then asked sternly, “Where did you get that donut?”

Chewy looked up with guilt in his eyes and hesitated, “rruuughhgugughhrr….[I got it off one of the guards.]”

“Dang it, Chewy! How many times have I told you to pack your recovery fuel? Don’t you remember how crappy you feel after eating that stuff? You have to plan for this and pack food! Those lame guards were eating those donuts, do you want to end up like them,” Joe scolded while pointing to a knocked out failure of a guard.

Chewy hesitated again, “[uh… I did pack my food. My recovery bar is right here,]” he said while pointing to his survival pack. He knew what Jedi Joe was going to say in retaliation so he jumped to justify his actions, “[c’mon Joe, the force is so strong with you! But not with me. I am so stressed and in survival mode right now. My brain forces me to zone in on the donut. Don’t you remember how high my dopamine gets?! This super awesome sweet food is the only thing that keeps me grounded.]”

Jedi Joe knew how challenging this was for Chewy. He was very quick to stress and did need support to keep him grounded. But not like this, if Joe could only help him understand. “Listen Chewy, the force is way overrated. I mean, it is really cool that I can move things with my mind and stuff, but I still need to plan my meals. I, too, love the taste of sweet goodies and yum yums. But eating all that sugar and fat decreases the power of the force. Relying on it is a sure way to the dark side.  It is easier to rely on my plan than rely on my own willpower.” Jedi Joe paused as he knew this could continue into a deep conversation. “Ok listen, we can talk about this later, but now we have to get in there and save Hans Rolo and Pleia from the Glutt!”

Chewy agreed. They remained crouched for a moment and discussed their plan of attack. Joe knew that Rolo was imprisoned in some kind of solidified material. Surely some form of a carbon based structure. Also, he was pretty sure that Jabba had dressed up his sister in some ridiculous outfit reminiscent of a 1980’s era sci-fi movie from that weird planet Earth. The next move would take bravery and gall. Jabba the Glutt was a tough nut to crack. Everyone knew that. But Joe had a secret weapon. He knew Jabba’s weakness. Jabba would often over eat and leave himself in a vulnerable state. It would be easy to handle any lame guards that were in their way. He could knock them out with a swift Jedi ninja strike, or just distract them with donuts. But they would not know for sure until they made the next move, and only time would tell if they caught Jabba at the right serendipitous moment.

“You ready Chewy?” Asked Joe, his survival system kicking in.

“Rughghghghruuu rrooorrghghar ghha” noted Chewy.

“Agreed. My survival system is so pumped up right now. I can feel my sympathetic nervous system kick in… you know, a little anxiety… but no worries, that is just to get my muscles ready for action. You remember the only way to fix stress?”

“[…. Eating donuts?]” asked the nervous Chewy.

“No! Action. Action is the only way to fix this. Eating donuts will not save Rolo and Pleia. And the Glutt deserves to be taken to the cleaners. We can’t eat our way out of this.” Stated the Jedi, confident in his ability. “Let’s go take some names!”

With that, Jedi Joe used his awesome strength to kick down the door into Jabba’s lair. Joe and Chewy quickly assessed the situation. This place looked like a dirty night club… but was absent of any awesome music. Jabba, Pleia, and something that looked like Rolo were 50 feet away on the other side of the room. Jabba had Pleia on a leash while she fed him what Joe assumed to be sweet treats. Behind them was a strange sculpture that bared Rolo’s resemblance. It looked like Rolo was trying to press his face through the front of a refrigerator and got stuck. Knowing that Rolo’s affinity for food rivaled Chewy’s, Joe was not surprised that this may indeed be a refrigerator. The Jedi and his sidekick stood at the door, ready for the guards to attack, but to their surprise all of the guards were on the ground or passed out in chairs, spread around the room… mumbling, in a daze, and some were even sleeping. Joe glanced at the ground around the guards. There were little pieces of space-food, empty bags of starfire-candy, half eaten galactic-pizzas, empty cups that surely used to be filled with neutron-slurpees, and what looked like melted ionic-ice cream all over the floor. This was it! Fate was on their side.

“Raaaargh?” Asked Chewy, with confusion in his growl.

Joe replied, “I am not completely sure… but it looks like this was a total food party in here. By the looks of the situation I’d say that the guards ate too much of this junk. They experienced rebound hypoglycemia and are now in the catatonic state we call ‘food coma’. By the looks of things, these guards should be knocked out for a while.”

“[Ha Ha, suckers!]” Exclaimed Chewy.

Jabba remained still. He was surely surprised by the grand entrance but showed no fear. Pleia hesitantly displayed a look of hope. She was so glad to see her rescuers and could not wait to get out of that ridiculous outfit Jabba made her wear. Joe could tell that the statue looking thing behind his enemy was indeed Rolo. But what was he trapped in? hmm… It was time to save the day.

“Let them go, Jabba, you glutton.” Joe stated with a heroic voice.

“Ha ha! Joe, the Jedi Master. Have you come to dine in with me? And you brought uh big hairrrry friend! Surellyyy your reward centers would like a taste of my sweet treats. Come, have a tassste.” Jabba invited them, clearly towards a trap.

Joe could detect the slur in Jabba’s speech. He was sugar drunk. “You can’t trick us Jabba. I know there is a trap door in front of you, leading to the prison pit where your pet Rancor lives. Your guards are in a food coma and I can see the chronic stress in your eyes. With all those sweet treats Pleia is feeding you I am willing to bet your blood sugars have rebounded below homeostatic levels. Not to mention your triglycerides are through the roof! All those blood fats will surely inhibit the function of your circulatory system. You are headed into a food coma and there is nothing you can do.”

Joe waited, letting the threat of his awesomeness sink into Jabba’s mind. He stood steadfast, but Chewy was restless. “What are you doing?” asked the Jedi, under his breath.

Chewy responded with fervor, “[oh my gosh, he has sweet treats! Have you ever heard of those? I hear they are amazing, like they are the best thing you have ever eaten. I have to try one, just onejust one, cmon Joe let me try a sweet treat before I go crazy…”

“Get yourself together, Chewy. I know you are stressed and your dopamine is elevated but this is no time to eat a sweet treat! Do you really want to get into a vicious cycle of reward center eating? This is because you ate that donut, isn’t it?!”

“[but my energy is low and I feel the pain of hunger and if I only had a sweet treat I would feel so much better, I remember how the donut made me feel and it made me feel so good, dang it Joe let me have one!]”

“You are hungry?! Don’t you remember that being hungry leads to cravings and that leaves you open to making poor decisions? You will eat a sweet treat and then want more and then spike your blood sugar and then it will rebound into hypoglycemia and you will pass out into a food coma and I cannot carry out a 7’ sasquatch along with my rescued friends! This is why you have to plan your meals!” With that, Joe used the force to pull a space-apple out of his survival pack and threw it towards Chewy. The hairy friend caught the apple an immediately bit in. “Don’t forget your protein buddy,” Stated the Jedi as he pulled out a piece of space-salmon jerky. Chewy quickly ate this snack and immediately felt better.

“[Thanks Joe. I can feel my serotonin increase. I am way more biobalanced now. I can think clearly now that my craving is gone. Let’s do this.]”

Jabba, in a sugar dazed state, said, “Ha! You fools, you cannot defeat me. I can pacify you with food!” With that, Jabba pulled out a giant hose. It looked more like a grenade launcher with a fire hose attached to the back. There were colorful buttons all over the front of it. With the press of the red button, Jabba turned it on. To the Hero’s surprise it was not liquid that erupted from the weapon…. No, it was… it was… Oh no!

Cinnamon bears!

Jedi Joe was the most awesome Jedi the galaxy had ever seen, but put him in front of a bowl of cinnamon bears and his resolve crumbles like a hungry kid in a candy story.

“Ha ha! I know these cinnamon treats are your vice, Jedi Joe. Try to beat me now! You WILL be thrown into a food coma if it is the last thing I do.” Taunted Jabba.

Joe could see the glowing cinnamon bears flying through the air. He instinctively pulled out his lightsaber and turned it on. He hacked away at the morsels of delight. Each time his blade made contact with a bear it burst into tiny rubies yumminess. Waves of sweet cinnamon and sugar came at him. He could feel each soft treat gently pelt his skin. The smell of cinnamon danced in his nose. It was like they were speaking to him… ‘Eat me, Joe! I am so tasty and yummy! Don’t you remember how awesome I am? I made you feel so great the last time I saw you!’ The great memories of the cinnamon bears and their constant emotional support flooded Joe. They have always been there for him. Any time he was down, or stressed, or worried, they were there to make him feel better. It would be ok if he ate one, right? Just one?

Joe fell to the ground. His lightsaber turned off. He looked up at the moving cloud of cinnamon bears in the air. He reached his hand out. “Must… have… just… ………. One….”

In a flash, Chewy leaped over the not-so-secret trap door and punched the cinnamon blaster away from Jabba. He snatched up the weapon and returned fire on the Glutt. Unable to resist, the Glutt opened his mouth and gobbled as many cinnamon bears as possible. As more and more filled his mouth and stomach, he could not keep up. They started to bounce off his face and body. The cinnamon-bear food coma quickly took over and Chewy turned the hose off.

As Jabba sat there in a deep hypoglycemic sleep, Chewy turned to Joe. “[Don’t worry. I have your back. Remember, you needed me to come on this journey with you. We all have weaknesses. I just happen to be allergic to cinnamon.]”

“Thanks Chewy. I knew I could count on you for social support. I would have failed if you weren’t there to help me through that,” replied the Master with sincere gratitude.

“Uhhh… could you please get us out of here?” injected Pleia. “I have been feeding this guy so many sweet treats that I think I might puke if I have to keep looking at them. And we have to get Hans, too. He is trapped in Carbohydronite.”

Joe recognized that name. Carbohydronite, also known as ‘Sugar Shell’ was used to imprison people. It is kind of like cryogenic freezing… but way more damaging. The constant sugar leads to increased oxidative damage and cell death. Hopefully, Hans had not been in there too long. A lot of damage is reversible… but sometimes it is too late to fix.  Jabba surely thought this would be a fitting punishment for a traitorous candy smuggler. Joe reached towards the top of the refrigerator looking statue and found the right switch to flip. With a flick, the sugar shell crumbled and Hans rolled out. He was in rough shape, being bathed in sugar for that amount of time, but Joe was confident that in time he would recover. He would need to avoid sugar and get to moving, but there was hope.

Joe, Chewy, and Pleia left the layer, carrying Hans with them. On their way out, Joe glanced down at the cinnamon bears and the guards in food comas and he thought, “wow… sugar really sucks.”

After that day, Jedi Joe still battled the cinnamon bear cravings. But he knew that a food coma was in store (among other physiological damages), and he had his support team there to help him keep it real… Real healthy.

And they lived happily ever after.

And Han shot first.

Written by Clark Masterson

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