The Christmas season officially hit our home this weekend. We got the tree, decorated the house and started to buy the gifts for the kids. A lot of Christmas music was played and hot chocolate was consumed with joy. I consumed a lot more than just hot chocolate though. After making it through the Thanksgiving holiday with no major setbacks and dipping below the 270 barrier and fitting into a 38 inch waist I got bit by the food bug. Bad. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I am a food addict. Fortunately, I didn’t go too far overboard with things but I definitely consumed way more than I have been used to. Most of it was also not good for me either. I had candy, soda, hamburgers, fries, soda, chili, nacho chips, doughnuts and more soda. I completely ignored my usual food choices and ate pretty much whatever I wanted. I did it with full knowledge and awareness of what I was doing and I didn’t let that stop me. Even though I ate more than I normally would I didn’t consume the way I would have once upon a time because I can’t physically do that any more but it was definitely calorie overload. I’ve already put the brakes on this behavior and have stuck to water, coffee and salads for today and I plan on having a nice salad for dinner tonight but this weekend really was an eye opener for me.
My brain is wired to respond positively to sugar and fat and salt and even though I’ve made some big changes, this basic issue hasn’t changed. I don’t know why I was craving sweet things so much this weekend but I was. When I took the kids to see Tangled this weekend I enjoyed, and I really mean enjoyed, a bag of Reese’s Pieces and a large Root Beer. I haven’t had a sugar rush like I had on Saturday in a long time and I enjoyed it. After this little “exception” to my normal food choices, it became very easy to make more “exceptions”. After all, I’d already “blown it” for the day right? And on Sunday it was easy enough to make another exception since I’d “blown it” the day before. See how the reasoning of an addict works? As I look at it now I realize how ridiculous it is though at the time it seemed perfectly reasonable. It can be quite a shock to come to your senses in the middle of a “food bender” like this and that’s the shock I had yesterday. I actually had the shock while I was pulling into the drive through of a Taco Bell. I really wanted something full of greasy meat and cheese and a big ass Mt. Dew to wash it down. Fortunately, my wife was there to ask me if I was making a good decision and right then and there I realized what I was doing and instead, because I had the window down and was ready to order, I got a few of their “fresca” items which aren’t really too bad when you look at their nutrition information and a bottle of water to go with it. I made it a point to not eat junk food or snack for the rest of the day and enjoyed a nice tofu dish for dinner.
My biggest regret about the weekend was that I didn’t get to the ice cream before I came to my senses. OK, I’m kidding (kind of). Actually, I’m not beating myself up over it or wallowing in regret. I’m putting the past where it belongs and I’m focusing on the now. Regardless of what I ate yesterday, or the day before, or the hour before now, I always have a choice to do the right thing with the next meal. Being regretful won’t help me in any way and make it harder for me to continue on the path of healthy choices. Why is that? It has to do with my motivators for why I eat what I do. Since I have these addiction issues, my brain wants to lift my mood if I’m feeling down or upset so wallowing in regret will give my brain even more motivation to try to “lift” me out of it by consuming things that are bad for me. It’s a horrible vicious cycle that quickly spirals out of control. This is where the Noble Eight Fold Path really shines as a way to put an end to suffering. Since I’m practicing right view and right mindfulness and right intention I’m able to keep this in perspective and move on. Instead of feeling upset about my “failure” or trying to force myself to “behave the way I should”, I allow the feelings and regret to fall away since my focus is on the present moment and my experiences right now. This also makes it possible for me to open up to the entire world about something that would be a source of shame for me if I were nursing regrets. This is what the Buddhist concept of detachment comes in to play. I’m detached from the past and allowing it to be what it is instead of clinging to it. Often in the West, we read or hear about the concept of detachment and we see it in a negative light or as some type of nihilistic approach to life but it’s not really like that at all.
If you’re struggling with a “failure” of your own or you are kicking yourself over mistakes of the past, I hope you can take something away from this. I screwed up, made a few mistakes, felt regret for a short while, applied the correct remedy to it and acknowledged it for what it is. After that, moving on was easy. Telling the entire world about it was just as easy. My brain is still trying to push me to consume foods that aren’t good for me but my awareness is making it easier for me to allow my brain to rattle on and scream and beg for something bad and I am able to resist it. I’m not resisting through an application of will power because anyone who has ever struggled with an addiction can tell you that will power is useless to beat an addiction. Instead, I’m applying the correct remedy to the problem and making the right choices at the right time. That’s the most that anyone can ever do.