As many of you know I’ve fought a battle against excess weight most of my adult life. This is not a fun existence, but it’s just one of my crosses and shared by many other people, so I’m hardly unique. I engage in emotional eating which (for me) means I eat when I’m stressed. I’m stressed a lot, lol. Once I tried to follow the “only eat when you’re hungry” advice but when you’re hungry (as in, stomach growling) most of the time, that’s not good advice.
The only success I ever really had was when I did low-carb for over a year. That’s great and all, but when you can’t purge your house of tempting carbs because there are eight other people in it, and people tend to gift your family with carb-heavy food, especially during feasts (Christmas, Pascha…) eventually you start to crack.
Recently I had a come-to-Jesus talk with myself and realized that my previous few months of trying (with mixed results) to do low-carb again were ineffective. I examined it critically and decided it was mostly due to consuming too many low-carb calories, coupled with eating sugar-free snacks. While working one day I had idly watched an episode of My 600-Pound Life. The new format was heavy on patient soliloquy and narration. This was more interesting than the old format because it helped shine a light into the thinking process that resulted in obesity. I watched another episode. And another.
The unfortunate part? I started hearing familiar phrases. I watched more episodes. Same phrases. I was horrified. Truly, deeply, horrified. Granted, there were some significant differences: I wasn’t anywhere remotely as big as these people, hadn’t suffered severe childhood trauma, etc., but there was no denying the similar thinking patterns.
As I said, I had a come-to-Jesus moment. I decided there was absolutely no getting around it. I was going to have to decide that I was going to be hungry. I decided to aim for 1,200-1,400 calories a day. Three meals. No snacks. Still low-carb.
The first couple days I counted calories carefully. Then, having figured out what 1,200 calories looked like I just put the meal setting on repeat. Occasionally I stopped to calculate when having something unfamiliar.
I was hungry. I hate being hungry. I’m past the days when I have to worry about hypoglycemia (thankfully) so I knew nothing bad would happen if I didn’t eat. I stuck to it. The kids made cookies. They made brownies. I’m still fixing meals/plates for the youngest two so I had my hands all over the wrong food and at the wrong times. I was in the kitchen two-dozen times a day, making cups, fixing meals, putting away groceries, fixing meals, making sandwiches, filling cups, getting coffee. The temptations never let up.
Previously I felt victimized. Poor me, I can’t have this, I can’t have that, it’s not fair, etc. Not so much out loud but as a running inner monologue. This time, there was a difference:
I reframed it.
For the first time I didn’t hold out the mental carrot on a stick of “don’t you want to lose weight? You will fit into X. You won’t be ashamed of your appearance.” Instead, when I really wanted to get something to eat, even a few nuts because the last meal was five hours ago, I told myself, “if you don’t say no to the little things, how can you say no to the big things?”
Let me explain. The “big things” means serious spiritual battles. For instance, you’ve heard things like, “you think you’ll stand up for Christ and face martyrdom but you can’t get up in the morning and say morning prayers?” If you don’t exercise your spiritual muscles on a daily basis they’ll be so flabby you’ll crumble immediately when you encounter anything remotely difficult.
This accomplishes two things: it reframes refusing an extra bite of food as “a little thing”, not the end of the world, and it reframes the refusal as an ascetical exercise, the goal of which isn’t to lose weight, but to strengthen yourself spiritually.
You see, deep down I know it doesn’t really matter what I weigh. Sure, being overweight has earthly consequences, and I’m not discounting them, but they have finite motivational powers whereas spiritual consequences are eternal.
You see what I mean? If I’m thinking about this in a purely earthly way eventually I’m going to lose the argument but if I’m thinking of this as an ascetical exercise I have a lot more strength to draw upon.
Anyway, I’ve lost five pounds in a week (yes, includes water), but the most important part is I’ve stopped thinking of myself as a victim and more like an athlete (spiritual) in training. It’s all in the reframing.