If I decided to write a novel I could work on it, basically one of two ways. I could drop everything, work exclusively on the novel to the detriment of every other thing in my life, or I could work on it a little bit every day, time permitting. One way might get me a finished product in a very short period of time, but would probably cost the finished work in terms of quality and artistic merit. The other way may get done some day, but it would be something created thoughtfully, and completed completely. The art that is produced in record time cannot fairly be compared to that which is produced in the fullness of thought, without regard to time.
Why do I bring this up? Creating a new way of life is best done in the same way as the best works of art. You change your life, you change your eating habits, by changing them thoughtfully, in a way that you can safely maintain for the long haul (the rest of your life). Who has read a book or watched an infomercial where the proposition is that you stop doing this part or that part of your eating habits, for a short while. You measure your progress daily and you look forward to the day you can be done with it. In a short period you have dropped the weight, as though the weight were the point.
We gain weight very gradually. At 20 I weight 125 pounds, and at 66 inches tall I was so thin I had to walk past a place twice to cast a shadow. At 30 I weighed 135, and still was so thin you would think I was malnourished. At 40 I had gotten up to 155 and decided that I had a problem. I went on a DIET. I went on the Atkins diet and cut all carbs and anything sweet from my diet. For six weeks it was with a religious fervor that I would only eat the topping on a pizza, no breading on my meats, no flours in my chowders. In two weeks I dropped off eight pounds, by the sixth week I had lost fifteen. Then the diet was over. In short order I was eating fries and drinking Cokes again. I did not gain the weight back quickly. I did gain it back though, and when I recently decided to make ONE SMALL CHANGE, I weighed almost 150 again.
This time it is different. The point this time is not to lose POUNDS, it is to lose HABITS. I do not think at all about whether or not I have lost any weight or inches today. My struggle now is only to eat foods that do not have any added sugar to them, to eat only the starches that it takes to put a meal together. I have not sworn off of anything at all, and I will not swear off of anything in the future. Swearing is a sin. My goal is to mindfully consume the things that I need to eat, and be aware of the consequences.
Already I have learned that there is a feeling you get when you eat a massive dose of sugar in a short period of time, and that there will be a physical reaction and a certain period of time required to recover from that. If I had never changed the way that I live I would still not realize that I had constantly been in that mode of reaction to sugar, so much so that I didn’t really notice the physical reaction after eating a bowl of ice cream, for instance.
The beauty of making a lifestyle change is that my results will be slow, but the change will be permanent. The results will constantly be changing, the physical results constantly improving. When I make a decision to allow a dessert into the menu, it will be a conscious decision, made in the full awareness of the effects and repercussions of doing so, without guilt or remorse. We don’t need to add the stress of guilt to the stress of dessert. We know that eating one meal does not a lifestyle change make, and that only if we let it, will one meal cause us harm.