I know the panic, the fear, the hopeless, swallowed-up feeling your extra weight can give you. I know. It’s awful. It is. It comes at that point when the diets stop working, or you know, because you’ve proved it to yourself many times, that the weight will just come back on again. The diet is temporary, but your body’s desire to be fat is not. Even successful dieters live with this fear. I live with this fear every day.
And it’s tempting to go in search of “the cure,” “the guru,” “the secret.” The one missing piece, the lost map, the secret code. You want to be saved. We all do. We put a lot of time and energy into finding some simple solution to the obesity epidemic.
But until we find an easy cure, the more complex one will have to do. We have to get more exercise and eat differently. Our food has to be both of a better quality and fewer calories.
As adults, then, we have to save ourselves. Somehow.
Somehow you need to trust that you have what you need inside you to do it, the wisdom, the curiosity, the drive, and one or two very good reasons to keep at it when you would normally turn back.
The day you stop looking for the easy out is a very good day. That’s the day you decide that you don’t have to go on another diet, but have to learn to eat differently for the rest of your life. That’s the day you decide your body really does require daily exercise to get well and stay well That’s the day you begin to turn the ship around.
I love that expression. If you’ve ever been on a very large ship, a cruise ship or a naval vessel, then you know that ships don’t turn quickly. When a ship turns, it must do so with real effort, and slowly. First it has to stop heading in one direction, and then it has to turn, and then it has to start heading in the other direction. Slowing the ship down, turning it, getting it up to speed again, these things all happen so slowly that, if you’re standing on board the ship in the middle of the ocean at high noon, you may not perceive any movement at all for quite a long time.
There’s plenty happening, but no evidence of progress.
If you have decided to regain your health, whether that means losing weight or giving up lousy food, or getting control over your drinking, or starting an exercise program, or giving up smoking, you’re turning your inner ship around. You must be patient, encouraging, respectful of the momentum you’ve created to propel yourself in the wrong direction. It’s not a bad idea to employ a little self-directed kindness.
Today’s journal assignment. In your body log or health log, whatever record you’re keeping of this passage, draw an arrow to the east and an arrow to the west. Let’s say the east arrow is the direction you’ve been traveling, the one that has resulted in extra weight or poor health or both. The west arrow is the direction you want to travel now. Write all the habits that you’ve picked up traveling east along the eastern arrow, one after the other. Is it skipping breakfast? Eating too many empty starches and sweets? A sodapop habit? Afternoon candy bars? TV snacking? Late night eating? No exercise? Then write down the new habits you know you’ll need to successfully move west, toward your healthier future: daily exercise, more veggies, less red meat, portion control, better fats, walking instead of driving everywhere.
Let this plotting be the beginning of your plan. Figure on dropping those eastward-moving habits over time, picking up the westward-moving habits as you go. Know that turning your ship takes time. You may not perceive any real movement or progress for weeks. But if you keep a careful log, trust your sense of direction, patiently and kindly allow your ship to turn and build momentum, stay with it long after you might have quit before, forever perhaps, soon you’ll see that where you are is a lot farther than where you’ve been.