First things first

Until I was established in my new eating habits, some things had to wait.

Proper nutrition is important. A wasteful lifestyle ought to be avoided. Perhaps I should eat less meat to lower my carbon footprint. I probably should save the planet … and the whales. Problem is, I am almost never successful when I fail to focus on one thing at a time. Right eating has to precede cleaning my plate, finishing every restaurant portion, and buying excessive quantities to be more economical.

Wisdom in action

It took years of weekly group discussions to absorb the wisdom of permanent weight control. In retrospect, I didn’t get it so much as it got me.

After many attempts to lose weight, I had lost hundreds of pounds cumulatively, once losing over 60 pounds in one year alone. I had abundant knowledge about dieting but no confidence I could achieve permanent weight control. I needed to learn how to let it happen while still taking responsibility for making an effort.

A thought experiment

I practiced a deep technique to become desperate for right eating.

In as much detail as possible, I imagined the sadness my family and friends might feel were I to die prematurely. I thought specifically about the burden that my becoming incapacitated, disabled, or unable to work might cause my spouse. I even imagined that one of my children needed an organ, that I was the only available donor, and that the surgery was too dangerous at my present weight.

Hungry for water

Water was surprisingly difficult thing to remember, and I even had to track it like food to make sure I drank enough.

The difficulty continued until I realized two things. First, room temperature makes water much easier to drink. Second, there are many interesting substitutes for water like seltzer, tea, and coffee. (Save for the day’s first cup, I drink only decaf.) Variety makes it much easier to get the 2.5 quarts of liquid I need daily. Word to the wise, create a hydrating routine that tapers off after mid afternoon to avoid getting up at night.

The gift of desperation

Who hasn’t been amazed at what they could accomplish when the chips were down?

Desperation is a gift when it gets me moving on something important. Not desperate yet? Imagination can help. I conducted a thought experiment and pretended what it might be like if my weight stood in the way of the happiness of those who love me. As unpleasant as it sounds, it’s a gift to be desperate enough to do anything required to lose weight permanently.

Trust the process

I have confidence that the steps I am taking will produce results regardless of how uncertain the outcome appears to me in the short term.

My new actions, behaviors, and techniques work to change my desires, cravings, and appetite, but only gradually. I show up and do my work, even when the results aren’t readily apparent. It’s the minimum faith needed to succeed, no more than the amount required to believe that the sun will come out again, even when it’s cloudy today.

The cunning physician

Sadly, my doctors couldn’t get me to change poor health habits simply by pointing them out; they had to convince me that I was sick.

I have found primary care physicians to be sophisticated and wise people who excel at the medical soft sell. Years ago they started turning up the heat on my eating habits by ordering tests, and one of the first was an ultrasound of my liver. After looking at the scan for a few minutes, a young technician left the room and returned with an experience physician who continued to study the screen for ten minutes before announcing “fatty liver.” I don’t know to this day how a fatty liver can hurt me, but the whole experience alarmed me.

Welcome to the (bad) neighborhood

Mindfulness means regaining control over my rational thought processes when it comes to eating.

My mind can be like a bad neighborhood, a dangerous place to go into alone. Where food is concerned, the most absurd thinking can make sense to me. How else would we explain a thought like, “I’ve eaten too much. I might as well eat more,” instead of “I’ve eaten too much. I’d better cut back, then look for the cause and try to deal with it next time.” Someone said, “Just because I fell off the wagon doesn’t mean I have to roll around in the mud.”

A moment of grace

Some call it a moment of grace, when I receive without apparent effort on my part a kind of strength that I didn’t formerly possess.

I do not know the motivating event that started me toward effectively controlling my weight. I know only that a day before I was not committed to a course of action, and the day after I was. These moments might visit me regularly in a lifetime, but I am not always prepared to take full advantage of them — to take an action required to change.