The moment after you commit something to print and release it, that is the very moment when you realise you need to correct or balance or clarify some point or points.
Alas, this has proven to be true in the case of my recent pontifications regarding weight-loss, Parts 1 & 2.
In describing my story, my struggles and the way forward that I have found, and in selecting what to include and what to leave out, and in deciding what is relevant and what is not, I feel there is a danger that I’ve overstated something(s) and understated something(s).
Both overstating and understating hinders communication and can have an egregious effect in their own right.
Therefore, let the corrections, refinements, adjustments and additions commence…
It is important to note that what I have propounded in Part 1 & 2 is not a ‘regime’ or a ‘hard and fast approach to eating’ or a ‘inviolable rule’. It is not intended to be a ‘law’ or ‘task master’.
I believe that I understated the principle of ‘moderation in all things’.
The way I proposed is not to be viewed as an absolute, rigid set of rules which are to be adhered to, come what may. The way described is an attempt to change the narrative, to see the larger picture and to make choices based on what we really feel is essential and important, to make conscious decisions about how we live and eat, rather than passively letting ‘nature take its course’ in our lives.
The ultimate goal is ‘freedom’; freedom from the bondage that many ‘automatic’ decisions and their ‘undesired consequences’ bring into our lives – these ‘unthought’ decisions and ‘inescapable’ consequences that are the polar opposites to what we truly wish and desire.
When I examined my own struggles with weight-loss and I considered a new approach to eating, I believe that the viewpoint needs to be broader than just a particular moment in time or a singular meal or a special event or even the current day… to examine things within their wider context.
What I eat today is inextricably tied to and in relation to what I ate yesterday, and the day before, and what I will be eating tomorrow. The overall context has a bearing on the choices I make – both in allowing and disallowing various things.
How I ‘generally, habitually live and eat’ determines the ultimate outcome of my physical life. Because of this, my focus in Parts 1 & 2 was on my own inner hedonistic tendencies which lead, invariably towards indulgence and, in my case, obesity (and depressed self-esteem, diabetes, hypertriglyceridemia, high blood pressure…).
But, in choosing a more ‘thought out’ approach to, in this case, eating, in engaging my mind as well as my desires, in seeking to make intelligent choices, it is important to acknowledge that this approach does not equate to a tasteless, boring, life of gruel and unappetising slop.
My food choices are tasty, enjoyable and delicious. Choosing wisely does not negate good tasting food. It does, however, by and large, negate ‘junk food’ and ‘food which is ultimately harmful’ to our bodies.
Additionally, in making these changes in the foundation of my choosing, changes from whence my choices arise, and rationally, consciously thinking about what I eat, this in no-wise excludes the odd ‘treat’ or the odd, rather ‘unintelligent’ choice.
In determining how I am to live and eat, the way forward is about balance and about moderation.
Unfortunately, those of us who have in the past indulged in our hedonistic tendencies, can, as a result, run the opposite direction so fast and so far as to be in danger of erring on the opposite extreme – asceticism. This, too, is an error along with its opposite, hedonism; both are immoderate.
And so, for instance, if today I allow myself a special ‘treat’, something which is eaten solely for the pleasure of it with precious little nutritional benefit, this is best viewed within the context of my general overall eating habits.
I suggest that it is a question of context:
“Is it truly a ‘special, one-off treat’ or has it become a tasty part of my daily eating?”
“Is my weight inexorably going upwards, downwards or is it waffling about?”
“How is this ‘special treat’ in regard to my weight?”
“Why do I desire to eat this?”
My eating choices are best viewed in the context of my ‘general, overall eating’ and according to the proportion of ‘special treats’ that I have allowed myself in recent time.
It is prudent to acknowledge that the danger of ‘special treats’ comes when they become part of an uncontrolled aspect of my eating or, in other words, the ‘special treats’ simply have become incorporated into my daily eating routine.
Special treats need to be just that… ‘special’.
But if I rigidly exclude all ‘treats’ and if I then live a frugal, joyless, tasteless existence, it will be incredibly difficult to maintain, and at the same time it will be wholely unappealing to others who also struggle to lose weight.
Ultimately, it will be a monkey on my back, a scourge with which I beat myself. And whilst it may produce a ‘healthy weight’, it will also, most likely, also produce an ‘unhealthy spirit’.
Personally, I have a range of weight that I waffle about in. I rarely see the low side – my goal weight. But there is a point upon which when I reach or get within a reachable distance of that point, that I will demand more attention, more discipline, more ‘denying myself’ to attain the prize of a healthy weight and good self esteem.
Mine is not a story of ‘solved it, done it, it is a wrap’.
For me, it is an on-going process. I struggle with temptation. On occasions I struggle a great deal, and on other occasions, I struggle not enough.
At times I am too generous with my ‘special treats’.
Currently (as of this writing), my weight is down, but, due to my build and inclinations, it can go up in a frighteningly short period of time. For me, with my body-type and temperament, I prefer to weigh myself daily – to try and nip in the bud any dangerous tendencies…. I find it is easier to recover when the discrepancy between what I am and what I want to be is as small as possible.
Hence, the questions that I ask myself are more like:
“How am I doing over-all – generally?”
“What is my base line, how am I habitually eating – what are my eating habits?”
“What do I ‘normally’ eat in the course of a day / week?”
“Why am I wanting to consume this?”
I emphasised the last question earlier (“why?”), as it relates to my motivation and the danger of my hedonistic tendencies. This is a very important question and it needs to be asked, but, so too are the preceding questions.
Sometimes the answers to these self-queried questions provoke a more determined approach to my eating choices. This is especially so if I have wavered and strayed from my own defined path, the path that will produce the results that I truly desire in my life.
One other point that I fear went either unexpressed or understated was the essential nature that what I am proposing is not to be viewed as a short term diet, or time-limited regime.
Diets all come to an end, and then the problem of weight gain returns.
Rather than a ‘short term’ diet or ‘regime’ what I have found to be essential is to fundamentally ‘change the way I habitually eat’.
In changing the underlying way I eat, there is no end point – this is how I have now decided to live and to eat. The fundamental choice is not to be led by my passions nor by my desires, or in plain speak, my fundamentally hedonistic, nature; no, rather my choice is to be led, with my mind, with my will, with my logic, with all that I am, to a selected, chosen, intelligent way forward. In a proactive manner, I am determining the way to live, the way I choose to live and that this is a life style, for a life time and is a life long decision, with no end point.
I must stress that this does not equate to a life of culinary paucity; nor a life of sustenance destitute of any pleasure or joy.
It is self evident that if I establish too rigid a regime, if I determine to be too restrictive, the day will come when temptation will present itself, it will be at a point when I am a feeling weak, and I will give in. Afterwards I will be overwhelmed with the guilty pleasure so released and flooded with guilt for the choice I’ve taken and also feeling guilty for enjoying the choice and its associated pleasure that I have experienced.
The danger then, is once fallen off the wagon, as it were, I will fail to climb back on.
Unfortunately, this too, is attested to by the many.
So, I need to craft a regime that I can live with, something I can actually implement, not just in the short term, but, most importantly, in the long term.
This is the goal.
However, I recognise the ever present danger that I can identify a new life style which is primarily healthy and good, but also tends to be so rigid or so ‘high and lifted up’ that, at the end of the day, I can never attain it, then this ‘good’ and ‘healthy’ life style is destined to fail under its own weight and tyranny.
Flexibility over rigidness, in essence, moderation over extremism.
I described the desired ‘new eating life style’ as ‘primarily’ healthy. This will form the base line, the norm, that which is to be aimed for, the goal. But, always in the context and understanding that ‘life happens’. I must build in an allowance for exceptions, for the odd ‘special treats’ on occasion.
Life happens – I need to be prepared for it and have a practical, reasonable, pre-conceived, preplanned, predetermined means to cope with it without breaking the new ‘eating life style’.
There are things which can be done to reinforce and assist in maintaining my defined ‘healthy eating life style’.
For example, I know when I am hungry, or in diabetic-speak, when I go low blood sugar (but this is not limited to diabetics, it is true for the many), when I am hungry, I am far more likely to make bad food choices. Often, self-control is ‘on a break’ or is the first casualty of hunger (low blood sugar). Often ‘portion size controls’ are also off-line in moments like this.
The solution is simplicity itself. It involves proactively managing myself.
I labour to know what are acceptable and helpful snacks to ensure that debilitating hunger is kept at bay.
Crisps, chocolate bars, rice cakes, and the whole plethora of ‘snack foods’, most ‘fast foods’ and ‘convenience foods’ are the absolutely worst things anyone can consume. These foods, in addition to being exceptionally attractive, tasty, salty or sweet; in addition to being empty of any meaningful positive nutrition and liberally laced with prodigious amounts of fat, oil, salt, sugar, and untold, uncounted, additives, these snacks have the ability to spike our blood sugar (true for all people, not just diabetics) which is then followed shortly thereafter by a dramatic plunge in available blood sugar (again, for all people, not just diabetics). This experience follows a predictable, known course – an initial satiation and feeling good and full on the immediate consumption of the ‘junk food’ followed after a while with a flash return of hunger (plunging blood sugar values), with all the associated weaknesses in choice-making and portion control that that brings in its wake. In short, a brief moment of feeling good followed by a return of the hunger and its associated side-effects.
Therefore, I need to be broadly aware of my general state, and as hunger begins to rear its ugly head, to have a small, appropriate snack to maintain the balance at hand. This is all that is required. It is surprising the effect of a relatively small, but appropriate snack can have in reversing the hunger affects and staving off the soon return of hunger. And a wise choice does not facilitate a plunging of the blood-sugar afterwards.
This works for non-diabetics as well as us diabetics.
The goal here is to make it easier for us to make the right choices, the choices that when we are satiated and in full possession of all our facilities we desire and chose.
Another straight-forward way to maintain control of my eating is to make decisions when my hunger has been slaked.
For example, if I know that I will be going out at an odd time, to meet friends and have a bite to eat together and because of the timing, I can predict that I will be hungry when it is time to order; and I can predict, in my hungry state I will be tempted to eat that which is ‘appealling’ rather than that which I should eat; and I can predict that I will be rather weak in regard to portion control… I can anticipate all this in that set of circumstances and hence, I know that it will be difficult for me to stay true to that which I desire.
Therefore, earlier in the day, and after I’ve eaten, when I am full and in full possession of my facilities, is the time to decide what I should or should not select later, when my hunger will be returning or dominating. Making that decision, whilst full, will enable me to do so as I would desire. Therefore, before I leave to meet my friends, my “chosen food choice” decision has already been made.
When I arrive to meet and eat with my friends, since I’ve already decided what I will eat – there remains no choice left to make (when hunger may be affecting my ability to make a choice that I ultimately will approve). At the time, with my friends in the restaurant, all that remains for me to do, is to simply sustain the decision previously made.
It is easier to sustain a good choice rather than make a good choice in a time of weakness.
Another helpful act to facilitate this, is to vocalise my choice beforehand. Interestingly, by vocalising the choice, it empowers the decision. I can think a whole raft of thoughts – good and bad, but, only when my thought or decision is uttered, when spoken, even if only to myself, will it then take on a whole different complexion and meaning. It become real and fixed on speaking it.
This is why, in Holy Writ, it speaks of those who ‘believe on the Lord Jesus Christ’ (this is the essential, elemental starting point) but it continues to state that those who so believe must also ‘confess with their mouths,’ for this expression of what they have ‘believed’ then establishes it.
If we declare what we intend to eat to another individual, that also reinforces our ability to keep to that which we have chosen. It forms a basic degree of accountability – I said it, they know it, if I vary from it, I will declaring my inability to make a wise choice when faced with temptation.
This is about really about choice.
This is about the basis we make our choices from.
This is about being in real control of our lives.
This is about living an ‘abundant life’, a ‘chosen life’, a life determined not by passion, desire or by my underlying hedonistic nature, but according to my mind, my will – a reasoned, balanced and selected choice.
To reiterate that which I felt was deficient in the earlier promulgation:
- ‘moderation’ in all things, even to this approach to eating,
- ‘grace’ (not legalism) – how I chose to eat must be able to accommodate the vagaries of life
- ‘new way to live that is sustainable’, that is, it must be a way to live day by day and over the long haul
- ‘identify and apply strategies’ which will enable me to do what I have chosen to do in the rough and tumble of normal human interaction.
Again I declare:
Eat and enjoy.
Enjoy what is eaten.
Enjoy the odd treat even.
Know that ‘life happens’ and make practical, realistic provision for it.
But I must not eat merely to enjoy nor allow my hedonistic nature to drive or initiate my eating.