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Posts Tagged ‘Weight gain’

What happens when you start something, make great progress, redefine what a “normal” life is and then lose it all? That’s a question I’m asking myself lately because that’s what I did. I lost over 60 pounds and felt better than I had in a very long time. The next 40 pounds seemed like a small bump in the road compared to the hurdles I had already crossed. Losing weight was second nature at that point and I was going to coast to my goal. Then my life got turned upside down. Then it got turned upside down again and again and again. I spent 2011 and the first part of 2012 just struggling to keep my head above the emotional waters I was drowning in. I was in survival mode and all the progress I’d made evaporated. Sixty pounds down, sixty-five back up. The clothes that were stuck in the back of the closet never to be worn again made their way to the front and even they started to feel a little tight. I didn’t have the energy or the emotional bandwidth to focus on being healthy or mindful. I was still meditating and that helped me to stay focused through the turbulence and make decisions that reduced the suffering of myself and others but I wasn’t able to draw strength from it to be mindful of what I was putting inside myself.

And now, here I am. Back at square one. I watched my scale go over the 33o mark and not stop. I lost hope of ever losing again. I figured I was doomed to a life of medical complications from obesity. I had failed. Then, at this very low point, I remembered that this is how I felt when I first started to lose weight. I re-read some of my old posts and saw that I was repeating 2010 all over again. I realized if I did it once, I could do it again. I talked with a friend about the need to make positive life choices and started to focus once again on doing that. The emotional turmoil I was dealing with has mostly subsided and I have learned how to cope and with things and process issues as they arise. I could do it.  I will do. I am doing it.

I’ve started exercising again. I haven’t had soda for a week. I’m paying attention to the food choices I make and I’m trying to plan ahead to have healthy foods when it is time to eat. I am focusing on why I eat what I do and asking myself if it’s a good idea to eat it. I’ve already lost seven pounds. There is a saying in Zen, “Correct Situation, Correct Function, Correct Action” and I’m trying to put this into practice when I sit down to eat. At a meal time, the situation is to provide my body the fuel it needs to be healthy. The correct function is to eat mindfully and be aware of how my body responds to eating. The correct action is to eat foods that are healthy for my body and to stop once I’ve provided the fuel my body needs. When I find myself craving sugar or fats or unhealthy foods I am asking myself what the correct action and correct function is for the situation I find myself in. Ten times out of ten, the correct function and action is to not eat the unhealthy food or drink the sugary drink. I haven’t made healthy decisions every single time but more often than not I am. When I do make the wrong choice I am making it a point to have compassion on myself and to pay close attention to the long-term negative effects of the bad choice rather than the short-term reward of a quick fix. Reminding myself that after the soda there is a crash and being mindful of that crash makes it easier to resist the next time around. Last night I wanted a soda so bad I could taste it. I chose to focus on the task that I was supposed to be doing instead and sent a text message to a friend for support and a reminder that I’m making the right choice. It was just one small victory in a long chain of good decisions that will lead me back to good health.

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It’s confession time. Attentive readers will notice that I haven’t updated the widget that tracks my daily weight in a long time. There was a good reason for this: the numbers weren’t going in the right direction and updating it would be like admitting that I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do: lose weight. After all, if I didn’t admit it, it wasn’t really happening right? There were a lot of reasons for the gain. A lack of exercise, a lack of mindfulness, a lack of proper items to eat, a flare up of depression etc. Regardless of why, the fact is I was gaining instead of losing.

When you make losing weight a big part of what you are doing, you start to label weight gain synonymously with “losing”. Then, when you couple issues of depression and anxiety over weight with “losing” it morphs into “failure”. Then, in a particularly cruel twist of the mind turning in on itself, the reason for the “failure” is defined as “you”. Once that has happened, it becomes a relatively small step to the conclusion that “I have failed in losing weight because I myself am a failure”. So, I go from gaining a few pounds to accusing myself of being a failure as a human being who can’t lose weight because that extra layer of fat surrounding my organs is exactly what I deserve.

This is a pretty twisted way of looking at one’s self. It’s also a classic view of the ego of an addict. In the extended periods of meditation that I enjoyed [ed. note—mostly enjoyed] this weekend at the Providence Zen Center I was forced to confront this ego and get a grip on reality. There were a number of times when I had to stare my own unchecked desire in the face and I realized that I was allowing it to run away with me. Desire to be thin, desire to eat well, desire to eat sugars and fats, desire to just have something to eat, desire for a flavor—any flavor—to experience were calling the shots in my decision-making processes and causing me to spiral out of control again. This is the strength of practice: to cut through desires. Unchecked desire—whether for something good or bad—will lead to suffering. Do I desire to be healthy? Yes. Do I desire to be thin? Yes. Does it reflect on me as a person whether or not I am? No.

That last realization is what my practice reminds me. My real self—my true self—is not my desires. Practice makes it easier to cut through those desires and the delusions that they give birth to. Thanks to some hard practice this weekend I’ve gotten back in touch with my goals and not my desires. Taking the precepts gave me the time I needed to examine my attitudes and feelings and I am able to face reality without the need to shelter my delusions or fear being a failure. Sure, I’ve gained some weight and I’ll lose it again. This moment, this very moment, is all we have. Practice reminds us of this. With no delusions and a strong commitment to being present and mindful in this moment, it becomes no problem to do what is right. The happy side effect of doing what’s right just happens to be that I will become healthier and lose weight. Weight loss can’t be the goal: doing what is right in this moment is the closest thing to a goal I can have.

I’m 285 today. Tomorrow I may be 284, I may be 286 but I’ll be me.

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