A couple of days ago I ran into an old friend of ours, whom I hadn’t seen in about a year. She is a highly successful, intelligent, middle-aged woman who, the last time I saw her, was at least 30 or so pounds overweight. She is now slim and trim. In fact, I almost didn’t recognize her.
I told her she looked fabulous and asked her what happened. I knew that she had been a perennial low-carber, but, like so many people, never really got into it seriously for any length of time. She knew how much better she felt when she stuck to her regimen, but a million things kept coming up – parties, weddings, business travel, etc. – preventing her from really taking her diet seriously. As she put it:
There was always a valid reason that I couldn’t really get going. I had a friend’s wedding coming up, and I knew I was going to eat and drink. So, I put off starting until after the wedding. Then it was a business trip, then it was something else. It seemed that there was always something lurking in the future that kept me from getting serious today.
As she related it to me, one day, late last summer, she had been invited to a beach party. She agonized over going because she didn’t want to be seen in a bathing suit. But she went. And she ate too much of all the wrong kinds of foods and she drank too much. That night, in her bedroom at her host’s house, she couldn’t sleep. She was propped up in the bed trying to keep her acid reflux at bay, looking at her reflection in the mirror across the room, and wallowing in misery. She started ruminating on her condition, or, as she put it, meditating in her Garden of Self Loathing.
She looked back over her life and realized that her financial success had not come without a price. She had made commitments that were difficult to keep, but she kept them. She had worked all night long, numerous times, on projects to get them finished on time. She had gone to work sick. She had traveled when she didn’t want to. She had overcome looming financial disaster in the early days of getting her business going. She had met all kinds of challenges and dealt with them successfully, but she couldn’t meet the challenge of staying on a diet that she knew was good for her.
When she analyzed the situation during her meditation, she concluded that all the commitments she kept – sometimes seemingly having to move heaven and earth to do so – were all commitments to someone else. She had promised someone to have a project done by a specific time. She was working under a tight deadline imposed by a boss or by a customer. If she made a commitment to someone, she delivered. No matter what the cost to her in angst, lost sleep, time away from family, whatever. Her word was good as gold. When she committed to anyone, she came through. For everyone but herself. When she committed to herself to change her eating, to lose weight, to get rid of her GERD, she never followed through. But she did recall that she had easily given up drinking and smoking (she smoked at the time, but hasn’t in years) during her pregnancy. Again, however, she realized that she made these sacrifices for someone else.
That was her epiphany during her self-loathing meditation. She was perfectly capable of making commitments to others and keeping them but not commitments to herself.
She decided as she lay there in misery that she was going to commit to herself, and she was going to by God keep the commitment just as if she had made it to someone else.
The first conflict arose in her mind immediately after making the commitment to herself. It dawned on her that she was staying with friends over that weekend (in fact, she was in their guest room at that very moment), and that they had all planned Sunday brunch before she left. And Sunday brunch for her always included a Bloody Mary followed my several mimosas. So, she decided to start her commitment to herself on Monday morning. Then she realized that this was what she had been doing all along: making commitments to herself, then putting off getting started on them until after some future event had passed.
She recommitted at that moment and decided to eat correctly starting the next morning. She also decided to forswear alcohol until she lost the weight she wanted to lose. She concluded that if she ate right and didn’t drink starting the next morning, she would be one Bloody Mary, several mimosas and a whole lot of carbs ahead of the game come Monday morning.
She went to Sunday brunch; she ate right; she didn’t have a drop to drink; and she told her friends about her commitment. They all had just as pleasant a time together as they would have had she indulged. The difference was that she didn’t have reflux that night and was a couple of pounds lighter on Monday morning.
She maintained her commitment to herself just as she would have maintained it to someone else. She ate just as she told herself she should eat, and she avoided booze until she reached her goal weight. She persevered through weddings, parties, and travel – all the events she formerly thought she couldn’t make it through without eating the wrong foods or consuming alcohol. Now she eats whatever she wants whenever she wants it; but she doesn’t eat everything she wants all the time. She drinks again, but she watches herself. Whenever she does overdo it with either alcohol or food, she gets back on the straight and narrow until the pound or two she may have picked up is gone. She says she views her days of no drinking and following her low-carb diet to the letter as being in boot camp and her current life as like being in the regular Army. She requires some discipline, but not like she did in boot camp. She can live with it. She says it getting easier every day.
And she looks terrific.
My conversation with her got me to thinking about the whole diet/health commitment from a different perspective. Which is why the photo of me with my grandsons is at the top of this post. (It’s not totally just because I want to show them off.)
We all have people in our lives whom we have loved dearly and who have gone on because they didn’t take care of themselves. Think of a loved one who has died who would have lived longer had he/she been more committed to improving or maintaining his/her health. What would a year or two more (or three or five or even 15) with this person have meant to you? A lot, I would imagine.
And how many of these people had the attitude that it was their life, so they would live it like they wanted? I suppose that’s true if you leave no offspring or have none that count on you. But most of us do. And, although it is our own life to live how we like, we owe it to those who love and depend upon us to stay around as long as we can. It’s really kind of selfish to deny your children or grandchildren or great grandchildren your company because you would rather eat carbs. That’s the way I like to look at it.
When MD and I left after our recent visit with the grandsons, they both wailed when we departed. During the last couple of days we were there, they kept asking if we couldn’t stay just a day or two longer. I know the PETA folks probably hate me, but there is no doubt in my mind that my grandchildren love me. And they love their granny (MD) even more (or at least they think they do at this stage of their development 🙂 ). We want to be around for them, not just for our sake, but for their sake.
When I was a kid, I loved my maternal grandfather so much it hurt. He got sick once, and I started worrying that he might die. (He was in his mid sixties at the time, but he seemed old as a rock to me.) I stressed over the loss of him mightily. And must have looked really down in the mouth. Finally he asked me what was wrong. Why was I moping around? I told him that I was worried that he might die. He said to me, ‘Mike, don’t worry about that. I’m going to live until you’re way up in college.’ (He actually made it until I was 30.) I can’t tell you how much relief flooded over my young self on hearing those words. (It never occurred to me, of course, that he really couldn’t predict such a thing, but since I trusted him implicitly, I was assured of his long survival.)
I know my grandchildren feel the same about me. So, I don’t want to live a long time just so I’ll be around to watch them grow up – I want to live a long time so I’ll be there for them.
Thinking this way helps keep things in perspective, and it makes it a whole lot easier to avoid eating what I shouldn’t eat.
Should you ever find yourself meditating in your own Garden of Self Loathing (and who hasn’t?), take a page from my friend’s book. If you can make a commitment to yourself like she did, go for it. If you don’t seem to be able to do it that way, then make a commitment to someone who would be devastated to lose you.
Either way, whether it’s making a commitment to yourself or to your loved one, you need to do it. And keep it. I would bet that everyone reading this post has had to overcome major adversity at some point. We’ve all had to do a lot tougher tasks than just to eat right, and we’ve done them. Following a proper nutritional regimen is far easier than many, many things we’ve all done. Just make the commitment and follow through.
Enough sermonizing. Back to the normal in the next post. Meeting this woman and leaving our grandkids has had an effect on my psyche, so I figured I would spread it around.