I’m nearing the end of month four. The first two months the weight was gliding off, and I was inspired by the fast results. Even through the holidays.
For the last two weeks, it’s been a trickle. The inches seem to be dissolving, but the 3-4 pounds a week has stopped, at least, temporarily. And so, I’m facing the challenge of ending another addiction: My love of instant gratification.
I’ve had to be even more vigilant about planning ahead, preparing and packing food to take to work, and mindful about making sure I’m still eating three meals a day. And some days? I just want to be free of all the thinking and planning and doing. But really, it comes down to one distinction: How much do I value myself? And how committed am I to the big picture? The bigger plan?
When I think about it, is there anything extraordinary in life that came without commitment or focus or consistency or work? There are many days when I put on my wishful thinking cap and imagine myself as one of those naturally thin people (who by the way, make up only about 30-40% of the world population). You know the ones: They can have just a little. They aren’t particularly focused on the next meal.
They don’t have much anxiety around food, and more often than not, there just isn’t a big charge about it. It’s just food. I’ve had a taste of what that’s like. And even though there are some days when I get bored, or wish I could be ‘normal’ (whatever that means), I am faced with accepting me where I’m at. I look in the mirror more often now and am reasonably happy with who I see staring back at me. But I’ll be honest, some days I am not believing it. I’m dissatisfied because I want the needle to move faster. I want exercise to become easier. I want to be that single digit size sooner. I want. I want.
Some days it just pisses me off. I move into a state of feeling outraged that I’ve struggled with this for so long. The road back may take a little longer than I’d like. The road to peace around food and body and weight is sometimes rocky. Sometimes old habits tap me on the shoulder, beckoning me to fall back into the old, comfortable ways.
The other night my daughter asked me to pick up ice cream. The tone in her voice was cautious, perhaps afraid that I might be tempted or perhaps feeling guilty to be asking her sugar and flour free mother for something I can’t have. On my way home from work I stopped at a convenience store, and wow–there came a flood memories of times in the past when I’ve been hungry or had a long day and I went in to buy the frozen deluxe french bread pizza and the swiss vanilla ice cream with the chocolate covered almonds. Those thoughts are still there. They’re less powerful, but they still do make themselves known in my weaker moments. And the sadness creeps in. Sad because this longing is really not about the food. Not really. It’s a longing for comfort. And even though that food is an empty promise, it still calls to me.
I should also mention that this convenience store was where I used to buy my cigarettes. I’d get a free lighter with the carton, and sometimes sneak a chocolate bar, readily available at the counter. Last night as I walked through, something else crept in. It was anger over how many things in this store really are toxic. The junk food, the readily available quick fix was all there. I thought about how much money the ‘industry’ makes packaging highly addictive food, beverages and tobacco. Looking around, most of the people in that store were overweight, or were there to buy their cartons of cigarettes. Four months ago, I was one of them. I was on the road to opting out of ever being healthy again. I was addicted to an empty promise. I couldn’t see how I could possibly lift the boulder that was sitting on top of me. I just couldn’t see the possibility that with consistency and learning a new way of eating, things were guaranteed to get better.
At the counter, I put the vanilla ice cream down. I paid, and walked out. The little rats chewing on my wires were still there. But what kept me from caving was one simple thought: I’ve come this far, and it feels really good most of the time. In the past, I gave myself a pass one too many times and ended up not only going off the rails, I went over the edge into a very deep dark canyon. Hello obesity. I’m not one who can have just a little. The sadness comes from the realization that I may never be the one who can have just a little. My success is truly guaranteed if I stay on the plan. It’s simple cause and effect. And while I get tired of all the planning sometimes, when it’s easier to cave into a bowl of ice cream, or sneak a pack of cigarettes, the impact of those decisions is never simple. In fact, it’s really a sabotage. It’s telling myself lies in the moment.
It’s selling me out. And it destroys my sense of integrity. Right now, it’s hard. Right now, it would be easy for me to chuck it all with great excuses. I know the routine well: “I don’t have the time. This is too hard. Why bother? Who cares anyway? It’s not all about being thin. I can’t find enough healthy options. Why live a life that denies me pleasure?” All familiar voices. The consolation comes in knowing that previously, all of those lies would have worked. I probably would have grabbed sugar or junk food, hidden away somewhere and had a little cheat. But the air has gone out of that ‘dream.’ I know what the aftermath will be. So I’m working on accepting where I’m at. The plan of rapidly losing each and every month is not the way this journey is going now. And I can either accept that it might be a little slower, or I can go back to the way things were. Given the choices, I’m choosing to accept it’s not always going to be big numbers and smooth sailing. I’m choosing to accept that change is still happening, and the results are showing.
So what is my 911 emergency plan when things aren’t going according to plan? Sometimes, I just breathe. I literally take a few moments to center myself, and really call out those old thoughts. Sometimes I use distraction. Like reminding myself there is a meal waiting at home and it’s already made. The most effective tool has been to simply pull myself into the present with the simple phrase “Not now.” Maybe tomorrow I’ll choose to have that again. But right now, I’m not eating that. And in the tough moments, I write. I accept. I force myself to name five things I’m grateful for. Doesn’t matter whether they’re little things. And finally, I practice my ‘flash forward.’ I think about how I’ll feel afterward.
I think about how every time I’ve caved, it never felt as good as I imagined it would feel. Because, each time I cave, it’s not really about the food. It’s really about my integrity. When I don’t keep my word to myself, I am on a very real level throwing myself under the bus. Dismissing my promise is chipping away at my integrity. If I can just take those few seconds to snap out of it, to breathe and to remember that things are changing, it passes. Maybe not as fast as I want or as easily as I’d like. Decades of habits don’t die easily. I choose not to chip away any more of my integrity. I committed to going the distance. Every time I choose to keep my word, the rats gnawing on the wires get a little more manageable.