Most of my adult life, I have been able to maintain, with relative ease, the same weight. Then, here comes midlife. And with it, a crisis or two. Factor in stress and a slowing metabolism, a more hurried pace, various anxieties, and the softness glued itself stubbornly to me and would not let go.
I can't say I have ever been among those who follow the latest diet trend. Pshaw. None of them have ever made sense to me. I got it: eat less, move more. Everything else is doomed to fail. I'd seen it enough among friends and colleagues: longterm, diets fail. To remain healthy lifelong requires a lifestyle, not one of suffering and deprivation, but one that can be maintained with ease and, yes, even pleasure. That's for me.
I picked up Martha Beck's book with great interest. I had recently read and enjoyed her book, "Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live." Now, here was a respected life coach and psychologist who debunks diets and disdains suffering as a way to lead to healthy living. She speaks of attaining "thinner peace." Diets, after all, are stressful, and the last thing we need in the typical American lifestyle is more stress. Indeed, recent studies have shown that the same amount of calories ingested by stressed animals and animals at peace turn into fat on, you guessed it, the stressed animals, while the calm ones remain at a healthy weight. Beck is onto something scientifically sound.
Another important item Beck has understood well is our short attention span. Four days. We can do just about anything for four days. If we approach any change in our accustomed routines, if we do it in small bites, small bites eventually accumulate into a big pie (so to speak). If we do not overwhelm ourselves with immense and heroic goals, we might just be able to conquer this gremlin.
Her approach is almost frustratingly gradual. But that is as it should be. Gradual changes can sneak up on us to become life-transforming. And any change begins in the mind, in the spirit, deep in the heart where all our anxieties breed.
Since I began reading Beck's book, I can honestly say without any deprivation (I still eat at restaurants with my friends, still munch out of the party snack bowl, still eat popcorn while watching a movie), I have been shucking off, gradually but permanently, the extra bit of softness midlife gifted me. I am also feeling a thinner peace. Being at peace, for me, may have been the most crucial factor in this, as I have come to believe that in the past years, I was carrying the "weight of my emotions."
Beck's book is effective and it's downright funny to read. With various thoughtful questionnaires, she prompts us to think about what brings us stress, what brings us peace, and how to work with that. She teaches how to quiet the voices in our head, how to identify emotional hunger versus physical hunger, how to feed both. Have a nibble of chocolate - and read. Four days at a time.