Monday, November 10, 2014

Battle of the Bulge: Patience, Young Grasshopper

I was once asked what my weight-maintenance system is. 

I explained to her my first step, which is to eat only healthy. 

"OK," she said, "So the first week you go healthy, then—" 

"No," I cut in. "For the first year." 

With recent research showing how the overweight who diet eventually get at least some of the weight back, I had an epiphany. 

Rome wasn't built in a day; weight gain occurs gradually over time. Nor was Rome destroyed in a day, come to think of it; it's unrealistic to expect, when planning on losing a considerable amount of weight, that it should disappear all at once. 

When it comes to overhauling eating habits, one has to give the body time to adjust to this new way of life: healthy food, mealtimes, less sugar, and portion sizes. But not all at once; lasting triumph can be found in gradual stages.
Teaching oneself to crave good foods is a major step. One day I decided to only eat well, and it took me at least a year to purge myself of less-than-noble desires. I don't eat a piece of cake consisting mostly of margarine by a kiddush because, now, it is actually loathsome to me. I can feel my body becoming sluggish and unhappy. Really. 

When the day came that I found I hungered for an apple rather than chips, I moved on to strict mealtimes. I used to eat all day, all the time; life was once big snackfest. I erected clear, distinct mealtimes.

Yes, it was hard. But I discovered the joy of hunger. Soon, I didn't want to eat unless I was hungry, when beforehand I would wander to the fridge every time I was bored. I realized what fun it is to eat a meal on an empty stomach. It tastes better.

Then, after a couple of years of that, I cut out daily sugar. Again, to get myself not to crave something sweet (that wasn't a fruit) after meals required serious overhaul. No more daily chocolate or cake, 

The stomach virus that inspired cutting down portion sizes was not just a battle, but a full-out offensive. Nor can I—yet—triumphantly crow my victory. My current weakness is when dining out, removed from the safety of my household parameters; the lovely and insistent hostess always manages to serve my oil-ridden favorites. Oy, Shabbos meals. 

Expecting to do all this at once will just lead to failure. The body will be in shock, and not willing to accept it; the mind will be so befuddled that it will lapse into magical thinking. 

Don't bite off more than can be chewed (pun intended). The same strategies when it comes to acquiring good middos—slow and steady—apply here. 

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