Attachment to certain foods can be very difficult to overcome. A lot of people have fallen into bad habits with food where they don’t even think about what they are eating because it has become so routine that it is no longer at the forefront of their minds. This is how we operate with a lot of things (like driving a car, playing an instrument, etc) – we don’t have to think about how to do something or what we are doing because it has become such a common thing for us to do that our brain doesn’t need to think about it anymore. It just does it almost automatically. This is called the cognitive or association power of the material side of our intellects.
These are the types of habits that we must change. Bad habit is called vice whereas good habit is called virtue. We are weak as human beings because of our passions (or emotions) getting the best of us. Emotion is a very good thing and is a part of us. But it must be relegated to its proper purpose. We have to let our reasonable side be the part of us that makes decisions. We must avoid making decisions because of how we might feel at a particular moment. Feelings can change on a dime. But if one thinks out a particular problem and thinks about a good solution, that solution often does not need correction. This is because of your mind’s capability to reason out what is true.
For instance, if I leave my computer behind at home and thus cannot perform some of my job duties, and I live 30 minutes away, I need to think of a careful solution to the problem. I grow irritated and frustrated with myself with a moment such as this and my first instinct is to race back home and grab the computer, cursing at myself the whole way home. However I hit the pause button on that option because it actually doesn’t make sense given the circumstances (I need to see my patient in 5 minutes when his or her appointment starts). My patient is waiting for me so I have a duty to stay and make the situation work. Instead, I will need to either find another solution or find a time to go back home when time allows. Because of taking an extra five minutes out of my day to plan around this problem, I was able to find an alternative more reasonable solution than trying to race back home (and risk causing a wreck and missing at least one patient appointment) - all to get that computer that I really didn’t NEED at that time. I instead chose to suffer the loss of my computer for the day and use an alternative one (that has not been tailored to my work flow) as that allowed me to see my first patient without delay or rescheduling. Ultimately, I knew that by not getting my computer, I would be suffering the inefficiency of a slower work flow and thereby staying later at work and missing out on family time. But it was my mistake, and so it was reasonable of me to fight that emotional instinct that I wanted to follow initially.
The same thinking process can be applied to bad habits of choosing unhealthy food. In this instance, one must choose to accept that one is going to suffer the lack of the pleasure one gets from eating very tasty but unhealthy food. The human brain sees that as an evil (because of attachment to the pleasing effect it gives us) and we naturally try to avoid evils. But the mind knows that this is really not an evil and is actually good so it overrides the emotional side of us and wills what is truly good. One will then suffer the emotional consequences meaning one must suffer the effects of not feeling those pleasing effects for a short time (the brain doesn’t secrete as much dopamine). However after one eats a healthy meal, he will then realize that this was actually good for him even from an emotional side because he actually feels better too after finishing it (no bloating, fatigue, feeling gross, etc). By choosing the right path, one has accepted suffering and pain into his life and thereby strengthens his will and tempers his emotional attachment. With continued practice, the emotions/passions become detached from those bad foods. The pace of this differs amongst people depending on where they are at mentally/psychologically.
This is ultimately the step one must make when trying to lose weight and maintain a healthy balanced body. One must accept pain and suffering in one’s life. Suffering will find you either way as if you do eat unhealthy or do not exercise enough, then you will likely suffer the consequences in the long run with associated diseases and disabilities. Suffer the lack of pleasure now for the good of your body later. It doesn’t mean you can never have snacks and such – it just means it needs to be tightly regulated for your health. I always encourage my patients to continue to think two steps ahead. Where are you going to be at in five years with this weight gain you have had over the last year? Something has to change, and the time for that change is now. By accepting that pain and suffering is just a part of this life, and choosing to bear it well, you will go far with getting your passions/emotions under control and thereby making it much easier to lead a healthy lifestyle.
Remember too that this process is not simple. One may accept the idea that he will undergo a lot of suffering to overcome his attachments to certain foods. But this does not mean that he will be perfect in his quest. In fact, there is a very high chance that he will “fail” quite often. This is OK. You should never fret over such things because, as human beings, we are weak. It is ok to accept that. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t or can’t try to grow stronger though. But by accepting that you are a work in progress, you can accept minor failures in the process and move on to grow from them. I also encourage everyone to have someone there for them to help them with this process whether it be a family member, friend, provider, health coach, etc. The journey is easier when you have a helping hand. We will continue to delve more into the specifics of dieting and how one can hold one’s self accountable moving forward in the next blog.