Thursday, July 30, 2009

Nothing's Ever Shot To Hell

As I posted here, I've spent a couple of years immersed in diet, fitness, and weight loss (total to date: thirty five pounds). And there's one insight I've had a hard time trying to express, but it just came to me. The issue is perfectly encapsulated in the old joke about the woman (not sure why it's always a woman, but it is) primly pouring Sweet-N-Low into her coffee after having eaten a massive meal of fattening food. Ridiculous, no?

No. Sweet-N-Low Lady is dead-on right, and understanding this is absolutely key to successful dieting: no matter what you just ate (at this meal, or during this day, week, month, year, or lifetime), the decision you're making right this second about what to eat - and whether to eat - next is what matters. In fact, it's all that matters. This moment-to-moment deciding is your sole means of exerting control.

I used to figure that if I've just scarfed three slices of meatball pizza, I may as well have a fourth, since everything's all shot to hell, anyway. And a cannoli? Why not.....

But after two years of ongoing decisions to (mostly) not ingest such things, it's clear that there's no difference at all between no pizza slice yesterday - when I've eaten healthy - and no pizza slice right now, after having already consumed four of them. The declined slice has the same health impact, regardless! An extra 400 calories in a 4000 calorie day might seem a petty trifle. But calories don't magically devalue in the presence of lots more calories. It's the most logical thing in the world, but it took me 45 years to see it. And now that my perspective has flipped, I no longer deem Sweet-N-Low woman even mildly amusing.

Nothing's ever "shot to hell". That's a fallacy. All we have in this life are our moment-to-moment decisions; i.e. what am I going to choose right now?


Chuck said...

Great post, Jim. Obviously it can also be applied to productivity, exercise, relationships, and any other area in life where personal change is notoriously difficult.

Jim Leff said...

It's true that this is a versatile thing.

Practicing meditation, I learned to simply let thoughts drift by, until my mind quieted. But for years, inevitably, in the midst of the silence, I'd get some gripping mental alarm bell ("Did I close the car windows?" or "I've got to cancel my dentist appointment!"). Exasperated, my peace seemingly disrupted, I'd feel as if I needed to "start over". My meditation had been "shot to hell".

It was a very long time before I realized that these were simply more thoughts to let drift by!

Thoughts are thoughts. Calories are calories. There is no Big Arc going on; just a choice of what to do in the present moment. And it's always, inescapably, the present moment!

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