I persistently contemplate the blurry line between vanity with regards to my weight and the sanity of eating well. To what degree am I driven by the desire to look good for the sake of my ego? What drives me to seek approval from others? To my chagrin, this motivates me considerably. But is this an entirely corrupt way of thinking? Honestly, it is a very effective, if perhaps a bit acidic, well of motivation.
On the other hand, I know with certainty that, when I eat well, I feel better in all respects. Physically lighter and more energetic; mentally and emotionally clearer; and spiritually in right alignment. In short, I feel sane. Are these the more pure motivations that should fuel my efforts? Can it be that I feel sane because I also satiate my ego at the same time?
What if I were able to miraculously dissolve my ego and self-consciousness, would I then feel free to eat what I wanted? Be loose, be spontaneous. Be OK with the results? What would actually happen? Might I eat healthily, in perfect balance, and with ease merely because it was sensible?
Clearly there are “sides” in my mind, poised to be at odds, and jockeying for primacy. Therein lies my real problem. I have arranged the argument, established tension, created resistance, and caused warring needlessly.
The only peace treaty available is simply lay down arms and stay devoted to my sacred rituals of eating well, mediating, exercising, and practicing patience.
Be damned the argument altogether.
It is easy to allow ourselves to solely and perpetually live in a state of preparation for the future. We establish goals that dangle out in front of us; chronically beyond reach. Laboring today for future financial security. Exercising to someday have a body of our visions. Eat healthily for the promise of tomorrow’s reward. Praying for the betterment of someone life to come. All activities that cast their gaze on the horizon. Never at the navel.
While some goals certainly are realized, do we fully appreciate and show our gratitude? Or do we look past beyond, beyond, beyond.
Establishing clear-minded goals are essential, for sure. They are useful tools to dictate what we do today and define a purpose for why we toil.
However, we must acknowledge those toil’s immediate benefit. They must have a readily tangible purpose in the exact moment in which they are performed. Eating healthily must somehow be in of itself a complete and gratifying activity. And especially if, in the moment, we are uncomfortable or unhappy. All activities must somehow hold sufficient worth as though the future would never come.
To be truthful, the future is never to be. We only are in the present moment. Our toils become flimsy if they are detested in present and only serve a future self.
When we decide to lose weight and be healthy, we hope we will now become a “better” person; a new person. One who doesn’t cave to temptations. One who isn’t lazy. One who makes edifying choices. One who follows through on commitments.
While we may be able to achieve much growth in these areas, we remain perfectly fallible in our humanity. All will continue have have moments of weakness. All will make ill-advised choices. Trying to achieve a perfectly obedient personality is not the avenue to take. It only leads to frustration, failure, and disgust with ourselves.
What I think actually can happen is that we get better at working with our complicated, human selves. Namely, we can adopt systems and pick up tools that buttress our fallible; build scaffolding around us to prop up what is vulnerable.
For instance, we…
Such systems are always personalized and born from an honest and compassionate examination of our common pitfalls.
We don’t necessarily change our lives by first changing our inherent and ingrained personhood so much as change our environments to protect us from our inflamed desires. With that protection in place, we can begin experience serenity and some much needed separation from our more sabotaging behaviors.
A fundamental part of successful weight loss, being healthy, and sustaining a healthy body weight is creating the right environment. Context is everything. Statistics show that those trying to quit smoking are more likely to have success if they surround themselves with non-smokers.
So, let’s look at all the layers that make up our environment; the concentric layers that reach from the internal experience to external circumstances.
Let’s take a closer look at our home setting. Are there any foods in our fridge, cupboards, and pantry that aren’t conducive to our new healthy eating goals? Sweets, flour products, sugar-laden beverages, or processed foods? Can we get rid of them? Do you have family members or roommates that eat food that tempt you? Perhaps they would agree to store their food in a place where you won’t readily see it while preparing your meals. “Out of sight, out of mind,” as they say.
Now, let’s look at your broader footprint. Are there stores you regularly visit that weaken your resolve? For instance, do you visit your favorite bakery for a second cup of morning coffee where tempting baked goods abound? Perhaps, you can avoid that bakery and bring a cup from home. Similarly, do you go to the same sandwich shop for lunch every day? Can you shift your daily routine to include making your own whole food lunch to go?
And lastly, how is your own mental health and sense of serenity? However you might answer that question, consider a daily mediation or prayer practice for any amount of time. Even five minutes and working up to thirty minutes daily can root you in a state of focus, purposefulness, and serenity; all essential states of mind when endeavoring on the rocky road of a health journey.
Are you anything like me and struggle with food cravings? They usually come to haunt me after dinner. I will have just eaten a full and healthy dinner when a gnawing desire for peanut butter overwhelms me. I don’t know why. I’m not hungry, I just want it. The offending food can often be cookies, too! My only theory is that, perhaps, I want more of the feelings that eating food can provide. Fun, joy, relaxation, escape.
For many years I would do one of two things. Either fight or surrender. And I would either lose or win; a binary approach that stymyied a deeper, more subtle understanding of what’s going on.
Until one day I realized that this habitual thought that comes into my head, ”I want more food,” is really just that…a thought that has become a habit. It’s not real, it’s not literal hunger. This awareness ushered in a chance to react in a different way and choose a new path. Of course it opened me up to some deeper questions like “what is the root of all this craving anyway.”
So next time a food craving floods your brain, take a moment and ask yourself, “Is this an actual need or just a perceived need?” Therein lies your tremendous beginning to freedom from the forces of internal craving.
While I kept silence, my body wasted away
Through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
My strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
Psalm 32: 3-4
After my mother passed away 10 years ago, I decided I ought to read the books she’d be ashamed to know that I hadn’t read yet. If I keep it up, I can live with dignity in the shadow of a mother’s legacy as warrior for the written word and university professor. On the list was, of course, the Bible and I’ve been at it for a few years now. Just finished the New Testament and in the middle of Psalms. A mere 920 pages left to go.
U2’s Bono loves the Psalms and passages often become the cornerstone to his lyrics. Having read Psalms 1-31, I still hadn’t found my rock anthem. Though, when I got to Psalm 32, I came across a line that did speak to me. For context, it speaks of God’s ability to forgive our sins and protect us from troubles. In exchange for that grace, we are admonished to acknowledge our wrongdoings and not cover up our iniquities. Lastly, we are to trust that God will honor his promises if we stop hiding in our “silence” and come clean. The above quote is raw, immediate, corporeal.
For the first 40 years of my life, I was quite overweight. It was a lifetime of chronic shame, disgust, and frustration. Surely I tried gyms and brief diet regimens, but I never truly committed to healing with any legitimate plan or zeal.
Then one day I was shown a way to eat and live that actually did bring about REAL weight loss. I lost over 60 pounds in 6 months. It was a rigorous, yet extremely effective food plan that took out all sugar, flour, alcohol, and unlimited quantities. After staying devoted to that way of life for 18 months, I decided I could relax my behavior and reintroduce the items I had been avoiding. That was 7 years ago. I have since fallen into a routine of eating healthfully during the weekdays and allowing myself modest amounts of sugar, flour, and alcohol on the weekends. Nothing crazy, nothing out of control. And I exercised fiendishly 5-6 days a week.
From an outside perspective, one would say that I looked fine. Yet, during those 7 years I gained about 30 pounds back. Full of fret and concern, I tried to tell myself all sorts of stories to excuse the gain. “I am exercising so it must be muscle weight. Maybe a little extra weight was OK. Maybe no one notices. ‘Normal’ people eat far worse than I do and they look fine. Why can’t I? It’s the small trade off to enjoying sweets and alcohol.” Lots of internal chatter. As much as I tried to excuse it all away, though, I was very worried. The wolf of weight gain was chasing me through the woods and it took a toll on my mental health.
All the while, there was a voice in my head trying to whisper wisdom. Namely, to put down the sugar, flour and alcohol and reclaim my hard earned weight loss. Again and again I’d make the commitment to heed this voice and, yet, I could never follow through. The failure, the frustration, and the disappointment. Ugg. The mental strain weighed three times the actual weight. I knew I had to stop and truly listen, truly heed that calling. And I knew that voice to be the Divine. The gentle, encouraging, yet honest voice of God, the Divine.
It wasn’t until I read that line in Psalm 32 did I realize how hard I had tried to suppress the voice of wisdom speaking. In a sense, ”keeping my silence” and my mind and body literally groaned in response. Last November, I finally surrendered myself to this Divine calling and put down the offending foods once again. For how long? I don’t know. All I know is that the moment I truly listened, got honest with myself, and turned to real action, that wolf was decidedly off my trail. What a relief.
When the relief overcame me, I hadn’t even lost any weight. It was the relief that I was no longer at war with myself. My actions had become unified with my inner thoughts and desires once again. My spiritual, physical, and mental grounding was once again intact and living the solution.
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