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Programmer, hack thyself

Recently, the word ``hacker'' has fallen into disrepute, coming to signify in the popular media the perpetrators of various forms of computer-aided crime. But most of the people who call themselves hackers, who have proudly borne that title since the 1950's, are not criminals--in fact many are among the intellectual and entrepreneurial elite of their generations.

The word ``hacker'' and the culture it connotes is too rich to sacrifice on the altar of the evening news. Bob Bickford,  computer and video guru, defined the true essence of the hacker as  ``Any person who derives joy from discovering ways to circumvent limitations.''

Indeed.... Well, what better limitations to circumvent than ones you've endured all your life? For the last few years, I've spent a weekend every Fall attending the ``Hackers  Conference'': a gathering of computer folk who exult in seeing limitations transcended through creativity. A commemorative T shirt is designed for each conference, so when you fill out your application, you have to say what size you wear. Hackers being hackers, it's inevitable that somebody will enter these data into a computer and analyse them.

The statistics are remarkable. We're talking megayards here; one wonders what the numbers would be if T-shirts came in Extra-Extra-Large, Jumbo, Gigantic, Colossal, Planetary, and Incipient Gravitational Collapse sizes as well as the usual S, M, L, and XL.

People who thrive on unscrewing the inscrutable--figuring out how complicated systems work and controlling them--sometimes fail to apply those very techniques to maintaining their own health. How strange to on the one hand excel at your life's work and on the other, XL in girth.

But not that strange, really. I've been there. For decades I believed controlling my weight was impossible, too painful to contemplate, or incompatible with the way I chose to live my life. I'd convinced myself that the only people who were physically fit were lawyers and other parasitic dweebs who, not forced to earn an honest living, had the time for hours of pumping various odd machines or jogging in the middle of the road while hard-working, decent folks were trying to get to work.

Most extraordinary things are done by ordinary people who never knew what they were attempting was ``impossible.'' Hackers have seen this happen again and again; many of the most significant innovations in computing have been made by individuals or small groups, working alone, attempting tasks the mainstream considered impossible or not worth trying.

Once you possess the power to circumvent limitations, to control things most people consider immutable, you're liberated from the tyranny of events. You're no longer an observer; you're in command. You've become a hacker. This book is about one simple, humble thing: getting control of your weight and health. By circumventing the limitations that made you overweight in the first place and keep you that way, you're hacking the most complicated and subtle system in the world: your own human body. Weight control--what a hack! Once you realise you can hack your weight, who can imagine what you will turn to next?

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Next: Problems: managingfixing, Up: The Eat Watch Previous: Motivation and manipulation

By John Walker