Hugging El Chupacabra



Most people are fat because their bodies are starving and scared. This is the foundational counterintuitive lesson that I learned in my weight loss journey. The average American consumes foods and drinks that are rich in calories and poor in nutrients. This kind of malnutrition sends your body into survival mode where it then decides to pack on the pounds to protect itself with copious amounts of fat in the same way that a camel stores fat in its hump to survive in the desert. On top of that, our society is baptized in fear through the waterboarding of negative news stories, which only exacerbates the problem. Our minds tell our bodies that we are in constant danger, and our bodies believe this to be true.

The legend of the Chupacabra has largely been dismissed by the findings that these sightings are actually just hairless coyotes that have been exiled from their packs. My theory on the matter is that after being kicked out, these poor creatures live alone in constant fear of being attacked. Their state of perpetual anxiety burns through their bodies’ stores of vitamins and minerals responsible for protecting their skin and fur, which then opens the door to mange and a leprous appearance. What obese people often do not understand is that their bodies are much like those “chupacabras.” Your body is like a malnourished mammal that just needs some tender loving care. It is locked in a frightened hyper-conservative state, and the best way to free it from that prison of fear is with… hugs. The miracle of the human hug causes your body to release oxytocin, which tells your body that everything is going to be okay. Yep, if you want to lose weight, you best become a hugger because that’s the first step in getting your body out of survival mode. I’ve never been “the hugging type.” Back in college, my good buddy, Pete, knew this. Ever the comedian, Pete would hug me in front of our friends for an exceedingly long period of time. I’ve always been under the impression that you just gently pat someone on the back to let them know that the hug is over. Pete would repeatedly ignore my attempts at tapping out of his embarrassing hugs until he got a laugh from me and our friends watching our hilariously awkward exchange. In a strange way, those hugs spoke a prophetic word about lasting friendships and the nature of agape love. Over the years, our friendship has endured hell and high water. There were times when it would have been easy for either one of us to give up, tap out, and let go, but through persevering compassion, we’ve hugged it out and arrived to the place where we can still laugh at each other. The day after Christmas, I announced to the world on social media that I would have rock-hard abs in the form of a six-pack by the end of 2020. I also called out my good buddy, Pete, and challenged him to another one of our weight loss competitions. Pete, being the good sport that he is, politely obliged via text message, and now it is on like Donkey Kong.

Last November, I was reminded again of the power of the human hug while attending an intense relational training in Austin. After one of the group exercises where most of the people had experienced a simulation of massive rejection, the group concluded with people comforting each other. One of the volunteers found me and gave me a bear hug. Much like Pete, she would not let go. I tried to tap out. It did not work. Finally, I surrendered to laughter, and she let me go. To be crystal clear, there was nothing romantic going on in our embrace. It was like she gazed into my chupacabra soul and saw all the years of rejection living inside of me and then chose to hug it out of me until I was healed. I imagine that’s what the leper felt like when Jesus touched him. The weight I lost that day… it made all the difference in the world.

PAUL MICHAEL JONES is an artist who currently dabbles in music, photography and creative writing.

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