By Troy Headrick
Over the Thanksgiving break, I made an important decision. I decided, during one of those holiday periods when people gorge themselves, shoveling the food in with both hands, that I needed to lose some weight.
Six days ago, at the start of my diet, I stepped on the scale and the device groaned. I was not surprised when the digital readout of my weight showed a number that I wasn’t proud of. I’ve always been athletic and played competitive sports when I was a younger dude, so I’m hating the fat guy I’ve become. Over the past, let’s say, four or so years, I did what happens to many of us. I’ve grown—pun intended—less self-aware and self-disciplined. It didn’t help that I’m married to a foodie and maker of extraordinary breads and desserts from the Mediterranean region—my wife’s home turf—which she sells for a pretty penny to people who don’t mind paying up to get real quality.
As I began to think about this piece, I realized that I wasn’t only writing about how to lose a gut. I was also looking at how we fall into habits, some of which are like traps. Of course, not all habits are bad. Meditating, when practiced habitual, can help the meditator become more meditative, and that’s a good thing. So, I’m not condemning all routines. I’m only critical of those that have harmful effects or are practiced mindlessly.
All habits, whether good or bad, are, by definition, things done regularly and routinely. Unfortunately, due to the recurrent nature of such acts, they gain a kind of inertia that keeps them going even if they no longer make sense. In other words, we do them without thinking and often to our detriment. The first step in ending a bad habit it to conduct a critical self-appraisal of how one is living.
There was a time when consuming everything I wanted to, without considering type of food or quantity, worked for me. But I was a different person then. I was younger. My body processed foods differently. I wasn’t paying enough attention to the kind of individual I was becoming. We assume that ways of being that work for us now will continue to be beneficial in the future. As we change so must we abandon old ideas and practices. We must live imaginatively rather than clinging to ways that are outmoded.
Over these past four years, I knew that I was getting bigger than I wanted to be, but because the transformation was so gradual, I was able to convince myself that all was well. When bad changes come upon us gradually, we often don’t notice them until it’s too late and we’re in trouble. This is an indication that we’ve quit paying attention and have gotten complacent.
I’m about six days into my diet. I decided to take a very extreme approach and radically change the kinds of things I was consuming and the amounts consumed. During the first three or four days, I felt terrible. I had headaches. I couldn’t think clearly. I felt disoriented. My body and mind were rebelling against this jettisoning of the familiar. Then, about a day ago, my discomfort began to lessen, and I noticed a clearing in my head. This was a sign that a new habit was replacing an old one. I was, in fact, changing, and I stepped on the scale and saw that I had lost six pounds. Already, there was a little less chubbiness in my face. A new me was beginning to take shape.
My goal is to lose twenty pounds. If I’m able to pull that off—and I can be tenacious in my determination to make things happen—I will, in fact, be a new person. I’m certain as my body changes, so will my mind. Perhaps, even, the kinds of thoughts I think will be different. I tend to believe that a dramatic change in one part of a person has deeper and broader consequences.
Thanks for reading. I look forward to seeing your comments.