Thursday, February 26, 2009

On Lenten Discipline and Food

I sent this to one of the clergy at my church, for what it's worth. Sparked by his musings about giving up dessert for Lent.

You may not know, given as I have not been around church much lately, that I have been wrestling The Food Beast since just before Thanksgiving. I joined Weight Watchers online (I don't do too well in "group" situations) and am doing well, but have a long way to go. The weight would come off faster if I could supplement the diet with exercise, but I injured a muscle in my hip trying to go from 0 to 60 on a new exercise program. It has been an interesting winter, trying to get around in all the ice and snow, and trying not to fall down in the process. I got an ice grip for my cane that could double as a weapon if someone tried to mug me, and all has been well. I do feel like I'm on the mend, but have to be careful about what exercise I take up. Looks like it will be yoga for a bit, as my dear friend Larry, who is nearly 61 and still leaping all over the stage with his Stratocaster, says that's his secret. I, too, would like to move like a 16-year-old when I am Larry's age, so I'm going to try it. Hopefully I will like it, and if I am never as lithe as Larry, that's OK. Just so I can move easily and be healthy. Anyhoo...

I have not given up chocolate. Dark chocolate is one of the things I can eat, that does not have too many "points," and dark chocolate is supposed to be good for you. So, a little bit here and there. what's harder for me is giving up bread and cheese. Bread is such a quick fix when you are tired and feeling run down and don't want to cook on any given day. So is pizza. I have eaten pizza exactly twice since I started this program. Oddly enough, I don't feel a craving for it. (Thank you, Great Spirit!) Weight Watchers has terrific recipes on line, and I have learned a great deal about portion control. I didn't realize how often I was reaching for the "wrong" foods, and that the portions I was eating were not likely to create a state of svelteness.

In November, I found, much to my dismay, that I was 100 lbs overweight and heading into gastric bypass territory. My doctor had said he didn't want to hear from me until I had lost weight and started an exercise program. His exact words, in an e-mail, no less! "You're not going to want to hear this from me, but you need to lose weight and start an exercise program, and then we'll talk about why you don't feel well." A snail mail letter from him a few days later confirmed that, and suggested I book a physical sometime in February. Well, I'm going in early March, and I cannot wait to show that smug little so-and-so that, even though the exercise had to fall by the wayside temporarily, I have stuck to a very good diet, got educated about food, and lost (as of today, anyway) 34 lbs.

In musing on how I ever let myself get as big as I did, I have to keep coming back to self esteem. Almost everywhere I went, it seemed nothing I did was good enough. I did not feel like a temple fit for the Spirit. I felt like a black hole. I felt like it didn't matter if I maintained the temple or not. Despite taking a good anti-depressant which is indeed helpful to some degree, I was getting into that mindset where I did not care much if I lived or died. What gave me a good swift kick in the arse? Dunno, but one afternoon I sat in front of the computer, read about the dismal future of gastric bypass patients, and the failure rate, and if I cried out to God in that moment, I wasn't aware of it, really. It was more like, suddenly I realized I didn't want that radical a life change. I wanted to be able to eat AND live healthily. I have books to write, yarn to knit, fiber to dye, and family to nurture. Too much to do and finish to go belly-up just yet. (And what a belly up that would have been! Yuck!)

Somewhere inside this body lives some sort of God-given gift, and I need to keep this body well, so I live long enough to find it and act on it. Food-wise, every day for the rest of my life, it will be a sort of Lent. I'm OK with that. Happy, even.

But scared, too. This is every day for the rest of my life. One cannot give up food as an alcoholic, theoretically, can walk away from booze and never touch it again. I have gotten thinner in the past, and gained it all back and then some. It has been an endless rollercoaster ride, in a bad way.

Every day for the rest of my life, shoring up this crumbling temple, so the Spirit will not be homeless.

Every day, considering options like: "Well, if I have a quarter of a piece of Keith's carrot cake, that's five points, and it will mean I can't eat much for supper today. I should have an apple or some raw carrots, but..."

Some days I will inevitably fall for the cake. The trick is, to not fall for the cake too often. My treats, when I do feel inclined to cheat, are a few squares of dark chocolate, or a shot of whiskey. Not both. I will never touch beer again. Too many points in a pint!

But if this endless Lent teaches me discipline, and I can stick with it, it will be better for everyone.

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