Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Difficult Until it Isn't

Despite contrary opinion, losing weight is not hard to do; it's amazingly simple:

  1. Eat a little less than you want
  2. Wait five minutes before you start
  3. Walk a little more than you would
  4. Focus on today (tomorrow will take care of itself)
  5. Repeat process until desired results are obtained
Voila! No pills. No bizarre food concoctions. No expensive plans. Simple. To the point. Successful.

As stated, it's not difficult.

Why then do Americans spend $33 billion a year on a process that can be outlined in fewer than 50 words? Here's the thing: Losing weight is not hard; changing one's mind to accept reality can be another issue.

I offer my own experience as case in point. I am no Johnny-Come-Lately to the rigors of dieting; having been on weight loss programs since before my memories were formed. As an overweight child who wore "husky" pants and XXL shirts, my mother served skim milk in (non-sugary) cereal and fruit for dessert. Doctors tried to shame me into losing weight; again and again forcing upon me those purple mimeographed pages overloaded with food lists, calorie counts, and dieting "secrets" (which never worked). Upon reaching adulthood, well-intentioned friends pointed out the health risks of obesity: heart disease, diabetes, and stroke; attempting to nudge me toward change. My life has been forged and melded in the furnace of dieting. I know this stuff better than the back of my slightly chubby hand.

So, why do I STILL have trouble sticking with it?

The answer? We make the process more difficult than necessary, gunking it up with all manner of artificial mental barriers and obstacles. Instead of accepting what must be done, I lament the process of change; stubbornly hanging on to the ineffective, seeking to finagle my way around what is required. I devise excuses for not waking in time to exercise. I tell myself, "just this once won't hurt" while nibbling leftovers from the refrigerator. I protest the higher price of healthier foods, opting instead for the long-term cost of greasy, crunchy, fried bags of chips.

Our thoughts are the problem, not the diets. We put ourselves at odds with our own best interest. At day's end, it is usual to want to "shut down," and unwind. Close the curtains. Turn off your mind. "Relax," coos the seductive call of well-worn behaviors, "You can start tomorrow."

"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance," said our third president. To obtain independence from the tyranny of destructive habits requires ongoing diligent effort, as anything of value does. Yet, it is equally accurate - and too often forgotten - that when we pursue our passion, treat our bodies with respect, engage our better selves, and witness the results of those actions, there is no comparison to the elation, joyfulness, and euphoria that floods our soul.

At that point, the whole thing almost seems too easy.

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