by guest author Joanne Reid Rodrigues
The available evidence suggests that about 90 percent of people who lose weight regain it. When I got serious about losing 63lbs, the only question in my mind was how can I make sure I’m in the 10 percent who keep the weight off? I’d been a junk-food addict for more than a decade. I’m clear about it being junk food, since I was never addicted to healthful food. I’ve never known anyone to get addicted to apples or spinach. But addictions to processed foods containing sugar, white flour, and salt, as well as deep-fried foods, yes. These are the foods I was addicted to, though, let’s be honest, food is too honorable a word for most of it.
Since I’m short, I looked very fat, and I felt depressed. For such a long time, life felt like a painful struggle, and a dreary cycle of eat, work, and sleep. It seemed that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t control my eating or get my life on track. I obsessed over my lack of self-control; I felt like a failure. For years I ate about fifteen bars of chocolate every day as well as deep-fried foods and lots of bread and pizza. But eventually, I found the strength to make many changes and I released 63lbs of excess fat – it was like releasing an unnecessary burden. I’ve kept that weight off for thirty years. Today, I rarely eat sugar and I haven’t eaten chocolate at all in fifteen years. I’ve been vegetarian for more than twenty years. Today I’m slim, happy, and free. I’m free of the depressive, obsessive patterns of thinking that fuelled my junk food addiction. I’m free of a fault-finding mind. And I’m free of the aggressive and relentless cravings for sugar and junk food. I’m at peace with myself and I richly appreciate my life.
I’m often asked how I changed from being a junk-food addict with out-of-control eating habits to being a healthy eater. I’ve gone from being obsessed about food to thinking about it only at mealtimes, and preferring healthier Vegetarian-Mediterranean-Style dishes. It didn’t happen overnight, but over time. When I ﬁnally gave up looking for a miracle cure, I decided to take control of my behavior and become responsible for myself. After years of making every excuse under the sun, I began making peace with gentle daily disciplines. And in time, the persistent practice of self-discipline brought a sense of order to my life. It gave me peace of mind, and I’ve come to realize that peace of mind is everything.
Discipline Is Your Key To Freedom
I can understand why people resist discipline, since I did the same for years. We’d all rather have our cake and eat it; we want results without sacriﬁce. There’s nothing glamorous about discipline; it’s not very marketable. People seem to want a fast, miracle cure, and where there’s a demand, the world will create a supply. While we might criticize the charlatans who create and sell fad diets or weight-loss drugs, we have to look at the part we play in the diet industry. When we buy these products, we contribute to the problem. The truth is, people don’t transform their lives on a fad diet of any kind.
When I was a junk food addict, I often binged in automatic pilot, feeding my body while my spirit starved. It’s the same all over the world. The Buddha said: Every human being’s deepest need is to feel valued, loved, and appreciated. No one can deny this simple truth. When our need for love and a sense of connection to other people goes unfulfilled, we might feel lonely, sad, or even depressed. Intense negative emotion can be unbearable – it’s the trigger for self-defeating behaviors such as overeating or drinking alcohol. When we’re eating we don’t feel the pain. Eating feels good, but the pleasure is fleeting and often yields to remorse, guilt, and shame, increasing the intensity of our negative emotion. Earth is a learning planet and in this earthly school our personal soul lessons include learning to value, love, and appreciate ourselves. When we love ourselves we do not put ourselves in harm’s way or constantly find fault with ourselves, or punish our bodies with harmful behaviors. We cherish what we love.
The body is a reflection of its inhabitant. All addictions are psychological as well as physical. The mind is the cause and the emotions are the effect. Behavior and the consequences of behaviour – both in the positive and negative – are also effects of the cause. Everything is a direct flow of the mind. For this reason, bariatric surgery is certainly no cure for addiction, and for many people, it simply adds to their troubles. The surgery does not retrain our patterns of thinking or negative self-talk. There is no surgical solution to changing our way of living. After surgery, most people can’t overeat, and since they’re no longer able to use junk food as their drug, it’s not unusual that they transfer their addiction onto something else. If their way of living has included self-sabotage, many will repeat this pattern by drinking alcohol instead of eating, for instance, while others might become dependent on prescribed medication.
To have an addictive personality is to have unhealed pain. Changing our behavior is necessary to get results, but if we only change our behavior without compassionately confronting and healing painful core issues that prompted the need for comfort in the ﬁrst place, we’ll ﬁnd another way to ease our pain, usually forming a new unhealthy habit. To accomplish our goals, we have to work at the spiritual, psychological, and emotional levels as well as at the physical level. Only then can we outgrow the pattern of eating to hide from ourselves and to escape emotional pain.
The Tipping Point
I recall the moment I thought I either have to end my life or change my life. I can’t live like this anymore. I’d reached the point where the pain of being overweight and living too small a life exceeded the pain of the self-discipline I knew I’d have to implement. Strategies for change that worked for me included the practice of self-observation and self-awareness. I had to confront my laziness and my tendency to wallow in self-pity. I had to change my manner of thinking as well as my behavior. The desire to change must be strong. The process is simple, but hard. We have to be willing to bear the discomfort that self-discipline can bring in the beginning; step by step, we can replace self-defeating behaviors with life-enhancing behaviors.
If we operate from the perspective of dieting to correct our flaws, we’re setting ourselves up to fail. When people perceive themselves as flawed, they continue rigidly identifying with the problem – even as they lose weight – their body shape changes, but their sense of self-value does not. This is a significant reason why so many people who lose weight regain it in time to come. When we make healthful choices as an expression of self-respect and self-value, we shift our energy vibration.
We are born worthy. We don’t have to earn our worth – we simply have to embrace it. We need to become in consciousness the equivalent of all we’re seeking to accomplish. In addition, our behavior needs to reflect our beliefs and desires if we are to reach our goals.
We are never given a challenge greater than our ability to overcome it – this is a spiritual truth and applies to you. Each challenge is a personal lesson. The inner riches we most desire cannot be purchased. With money we can buy many things, but not self-mastery. Our soul growth has to be earned, our skills have to be developed. With money, for instance, we can buy a Stradivarius violin or a Steinway piano, but we can’t buy the ability to play it. We can buy self-development books and CDs, but we can’t buy self-development. We can buy bariatric surgery and cosmetic surgery, but we can’t buy freedom from food addiction. Freedom from a fault-finding mind can’t be purchased; we have to earn it with our self-discipline, our patience, and our persistence.
Mastering our cravings for food is one of the great disciplines, and it gives us much more than a trim figure. Practicing this discipline, we can gain many inner riches: freedom from an obsessive mind and physical compulsions; joy of accomplishment, and self-respect, self-worth, and self-appreciation. Authentic confidence and peace of mind are the fruits of self-discipline.
Realizing your worth as a human being is an essential element in ending self-defeating behaviors and fulfilling your potential. Making peace with gentle self-discipline can help us transform our lives. There’s no use looking back and wishing you’d done things differently. Let the past go. It is finished. Today you have an opportunity to sow new seeds – seeds of success. And you will reap what you sow. You can have the peace you hunger for.
Adapted from Slim, Happy & Free: The Ultimate Guide to Ending Yo-Yo Dieting, Finding Peace, and Fulfilling Your Life by Joanne Reid Rodrigues.