Weight loss: Time to get serious

So I’ve lost 4-5kg using my approach, and I’m borderline overweight according to my BMI.

At this stage the pleasure of eating still motivates me to eat more than I need to keep going. It’s easy to think “screw it” and eat more for dinner and also have something for dessert.

I’ve been at this point for a couple of weeks and the beauty of doing this mindfully is that I’m increasingly conscious of my decision to overeat.

It’s simply cause and effect: my overeating maintains my current weight.

But as time goes on the pleasure of the food holds less allure, or rather, the displeasure of being overweight becomes more salient.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be in the normal weight range? Wouldn’t it be nice to not be carrying excess weight? Wouldn’t it feel good to be lean again?

I’m well-versed in the pleasure of eating, but what about the pleasure of a lean and healthy body? What about looking good? What about wearing whatever I want?

It feels good to be attractive and healthy. It feels good to be lean. And these good feelings are motivators that can counteract the allure of food.

Feeling good about my body can help me make a different decision as I approach mealtime, or when my wife brings home snacks (it’s all her fault!).

Appreciating your body in a healthy and normal weight range is far more powerful than the pleasure of most of the food that most of us eat on a daily basis.

And it is possible to have both: you can be lean and healthy and still enjoy the pleasure of truly delicious food; just not to the extent that it robs you of the pleasure of a lean and healthy body.

Just-a-taste strategy

I skip breakfast because I can’t stand the thought of it in the mornings.

I skip lunch because I don’t need it, and I’ve found that if I do eat some lunch I don’t need any dinner.

I cook dinner for my wife and kids most nights, and I tend to enjoy it more when I’m a little hungry myself!

So that leaves dinner as my main meal. We all sit down together and eat the food I’ve prepared.

But now that I’m mindful of not overeating, what should I do if I find I can keep going without eating?

I’ve tried skipping dinner but that doesn’t seem right. The point of this diet is to find balance and there’s nothing balanced about fasting.

Even intermittent fasting is too arbitrary for my preference.

No, for me the solution is to eat some dinner. Try some of the delicious food I’ve made and share this time together with my family….but do so with a ridiculously small portion.

If I’ve made pizza, taste just enough to appreciate the flavour and the texture. It doesn’t take much at all. If I’ve made pasta, a spoonful of the sauce would be enough.

If this sounds too severe, that’s fine. But for me it doesn’t make sense to eat a large portion of food just for the enjoyment. If you can enjoy a tiny amount you will savour it more. Repeat performances in the form of larger servings take us back into “eating for pleasure” territory.

So in the name of balance my solution is to eat just enough to sample the food and join with my family in eating it, but nowhere near enough to turn it into a pleasure-seeking activity through overeating.

It is not easy at first. But the whole point is to bring our eating habits and bodyweight back into balance. That can’t be accomplished if we are, while overweight, allowing ourselves to overeat for the sake of pleasure.

I’ve done it before, and I will do it again. However tantalising the food may be, I am placing greater value on finding a more enriching life that does not depend so heavily on the pleasure of eating.

To look at it from a different perspective: what pleasures and joys and fulfilment have I neglected to find in my life, preferring instead the more easily accessible pleasure of eating to excess? What needs have gone unmet or unacknowledged because I have found immediate distraction in large quantities of tasty food?

That’s a question I can’t begin to answer on a full stomach.

What does it mean to be rich?

I love using etymology to inform my philosophy as I ask and answer questions like: what does it mean to be rich?

Full credit for all etymological resources to the magnificent website etymonline.com

Rich comes from Old English rice “strong, powerful; great, mighty; of high rank,” in later Old English “wealthy,” and was influenced in Middle English by Old French riche “wealthy, magnificent, sumptuous”.

So the high-ranking elites in Old English society were powerful and mighty and also wealthy. What we think of as rich most directly links to the wealthy component.

So what is wealthy?

Wealthy is the adjectival form of wealth, which means “happiness,” also “prosperity in abundance of possessions or riches,” from Middle English wele “well-being” (see weal(n.1)) on analogy of health.

Now we have a bunch of new words to track down:

Happiness, prosperity, weal, and abundance of possessions and riches.

Starting with riches, which, you might have guessed, is a bit of a dead end since it takes us back to rich.

In fact riches means “valued possessions, money, property,” c. 1200, modified from richesse (12c.), a singular form misunderstood as a plural, from Old French richesse, richece “wealth, opulence, splendor, magnificence,” from riche (see rich(adj.)).

What about possessions? Possessions are things that you have or hold, believed to stem from a root word that means “having power, able”.

Abundance means “copious quantity or supply,” mid-14c., from Old French abondance and directly from Latin abundantia “fullness, plenty,” abstract noun from abundant-, past participle stem of abundans “overflowing, full,” present participle of abundare “to overflow” (see abound).

So abundance of possessions and riches basically means having or holding so many things, especially the kinds of nice things high-ranking people have, that they are metaphorically overflowing.

But that’s not necessarily what we mean when we say “I want to be rich”. There’s more nuance needed, though in some respect it can simply mean “I want to be like one of those high-ranking elites!”

Let’s keep going.

Weal isn’t used much these days. It means “well-being,” from Old English wela “wealth,” in late Old English also “welfare, well-being,” from West Germanic *welon-, from PIE root *wel- (2) “to wish, will” (see will (v.)).

Will means “to wish, desire; be willing; be used to; be about to”. A fascinating word that predates our contemporary notion of free will, and appears to combine intentionality (he wills it) with behavioural commentary (he will do it).

What makes it even more fascinating is that well as in well-being comes from the same root as will.

Well means “in a satisfactory manner,” which makes sense if we take satisfactory to mean as desired or as willed.

Well is satisfactory because it matches what I will. And well-being therefore means being as I will.

So let’s add weal, meaning “being as I will” to our understanding of wealth. Wealth doesn’t just mean having so many things that they are metaphorically overflowing. It also means things being as you will or desire them to be.

Let’s keep going.

Prosperity is traditionally regarded as from Old Latin pro spere “according to expectation, according to one’s hope,” from pro “for” + ablative of spes “hope,” which sounds a lot like things being as one wills.

Finally, happiness, from happy means lucky, favored by fortune, being in advantageous circumstances, prosperous;” of events, “turning out well,” from hap (n.) “chance, fortune”.

Etymonline notes that: From Greek to Irish, a great majority of the European words for “happy” at first meant “lucky.”

And just for the sake of completeness, hap was a purely positive conception of luck. “chance, a person’s luck, fortune, fate;”.

So going back to where we started, Rich referred to a class of people who, amongst other things, were wealthy.

Wealth turned out to refer to a number of concepts, most predominantly the idea of things being according to one’s will.

Happiness has come to mean the emotion once associated with being favoured by fortune.

And abundance of possessions clarifies the overflowing of material things, presumably desirable things, which most people associate with wealth anyway.

If I had to summarise, I would say that the underlying historically-informed meaning of wealth is about the fulfilment of desires, which for most people includes material possessions and is commonly believed to rely on fortune or good luck.

I would argue that the word rich retains additional implications apart from wealth that touch on things like status and power. Perhaps that’s why we have the phrase rich and famous but not wealthy and famous.

Crazy wealthy Asians doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

Do you need to eat to feel better?

I’ve just made two delicious pizzas for my family, but there’s a problem: I don’t need to eat anything to keep going right now.

So these delicious, hot, wonderful pizzas…I’m not ready to eat them.

I’m not thrilled about this, but if I want to get into the normal BMI range I shouldn’t overeat, and by my definition eating when I can otherwise keep going is overeating.

They smell really good…

But what’s actually so bad about this situation? The food smells good. It probably tastes good. It would be pleasant to eat it.

So what?

Am I so lacking pleasures in life that I would rather ignore my body’s guidance than find something else to do?

Am I trying to hide from feelings of boredom, loneliness or dissatisfaction by gorging on tasty food?

Or do I feel like I’ve been on duty all day and dinner is supposed to be my time to relax!

I think that’s a big part of it. It’s not so much the food but the context. The time of day, the lull in activities, the proximity to bedtime for the kids and me, the promise of winding down.

But there’s something funny about that: if I look forward to the evening “wind down”, I’m implicitly excusing being wound up in the rest of the time.

I don’t like being wound up and tense and on high alert. Having the wind-down time seems like a reprieve…but wouldn’t it be better not to get so tense in the first place?

Maybe taking away the solace and comfortable escape of overeating at dinner time will help me find a way to stay chilled all the time?

I’m going to give it a try, because I respect my approach to diet and the signals my body is giving me. If I don’t need more food to keep going, then I won’t eat more food.

I already feel clearer with this decision and the stress of losing the escapist comfort is fading. I don’t need to eat to feel better.

What motivates your diet?

About three weeks ago my BMI was 26.59. A BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight.

Today my BMI is 25.68. I’ve been focusing on my eating habits and motives for about ten days, and from past experience I’d expect to refine my process more over the coming week.

I won’t put a timetable on it, but while I’m preoccupied with my own motives and sensations around eating, I’m eating more to keep going with other aspects of life and less for escapism and pleasure and therefore it won’t be long before I’m back in the normal range for BMI.

Where I go from there is an open question. I tend not to focus on weight or aesthetic goals, because I really like the idea of seeing how my body and mind respond to a balanced and…let’s say philosophically satisfying…approach to eating.

If I eat only to give me the energy I need to keep going, what will I look and feel like? Not just because I’m consuming fewer calories but because I’m no longer using food to manage my emotional state. I’ve walked that path before, but I have to admit I’ve never gone right to the end.

To me that is an exciting and intriguing question. I’m curious to see what happens. Will I have to make myself eat more to have enough energy? Will I become someone who forgets to eat because I’m so engrossed in other activities? Will I find even more refined and satisfying sources of pleasure and fulfilment?

These questions are, for me at least, far more motivating than weight-loss goals and physical aesthetics these days.

Revisiting my approach to diet

I’ve gained weight in the past few months, and to me this is a visible indicator that my relationship with food has changed.

My environment has changed, and my inner world has changed too. I’m happier than ever, but I’ve also let go of some hobbies and interests that used to bring me pleasure.

So my overall balance of happiness needs some recalibrating.

This time around it’s immediately clear that my diet changes my perception of eating from “entertainment” to a source of energy for my body.

I can eat whatever I want; but if I’m eating more than I need to keep going in all my other activities, I’m over-eating by definition. That will be reflected in my physical condition.

And of course there’s the question: why am I eating more than I need to keep going?

The answer is always either for the pleasure of it, or to escape unpleasant emotions.

The solution is to find more alternative sources of enjoyment and pleasure in life, and to allow myself to feel the unpleasant emotions rather than escaping into food.

That latter path may require professional support from a psychologist or counsellor.

I sometimes go jogging and I often practice a martial art. Both count as exercise, but they are also sources of pleasure that give me options other than eating to boost my happiness.

I can’t eat while I’m training, and training keeps me occupied and happy. But I haven’t been able to train for a month, and I’ve also let go of the pleasurable problem-solving aspect of training that had kept me mentally stimulated for years.

For me, at this stage in life, pleasure will come from moving towards my goals. That sense of purpose and direction (even if it’s just “enjoy life more”) puts eating into its rightful place as a support and enhancement of more important and pleasurable things in life.

Abraham Hicks and Aristotle

I haven’t posted in a while but I’ve been doing a lot of work behind the scenes, both with psychology, and my favourite New Thought teacher, Abraham/Esther Hicks.

A lot of things that used to matter to me don’t matter anymore. As I clear away negative beliefs about reality I’m discovering that what I thought were important issues and questions were really just my attempt to shore up unstable and burdensome beliefs.

The Abraham Hicks teachings have helped me a lot with their insistence that life is supposed to feel good, and that our reality is a reflection of our beliefs and expectations; what we are willing to allow into our lives.

But at the same time aspects of the teaching didn’t gel for me. And this is not a great surprise, given how far I’ve delved into different philosophies and interpretations of life.

A message that is tailored to a mainstream audience needs adjustment for people on the fringes. And to her credit, Esther is more than capable of adjusting her explanations to adapt to people’s preferred terminology.

What does “good” mean?

Years ago I learned that the original philosophical meaning of “good” was not some kind of arbitrary stamp of approval from the heavens, but short-hand for “good for me” in the same basic, visceral way that sunlight and water are good for plants.

The mainstream concept of good and bad is warped by moralism. People think good and bad is about approval and disapproval; and this is usually coloured by our temperament and our upbringing.

Religion exacerbates for many the ingrained belief that God is a big parent in the sky, just waiting for you to f*** up big-time like you always do; or distant and remote and coldly aloof regardless of your striving and struggling.

So it makes sense for Esther to avoid talking about God, using other labels instead.

And it also makes sense to focus on feeling good rather than what is good.

Aristotle’s happiness

The Abraham Hicks teachings are all about heeding our emotional guidance. Our feelings are a direct indicator of how aligned our thoughts are with the perspective of our inner being.

Like Aristotle, Esther states that the only reason anyone ever desires anything is because they think they will feel better in the having of it.

From the perspective of what motivates us to act, Aristotle observed that the ultimate end of our actions is well-being or happiness, comprised of a number of things that contribute to our happiness – things like friendship and knowledge and basic needs and appreciation of beauty.

Aristotle observed that friendship fulfils a capacity in us and contributes to our fulfilment in a unique way. To put it in Abraham Hicks terms: friendship feels good.

For Aristotle friendship is good for us because there is something in human nature that is fulfilled by it. If humans were by nature solitary and unmoved by friendship, friendship would not contribute to our fulfilment and therefore would not be good for us.

For Abraham Hicks the emphasis is on the individual’s desire for friendship, and the goodness of friendship is glossed over. Instead we are told that friendship feels good because it is desired by the individual. If friendship were not desired, it would not feel good.

Reconciling the two

Both theories are important to me in different ways, and it’s also important to me that I feel comfortable and sure in my beliefs.

I don’t hesitate to abridge and adapt Aristotle, and I also note that Esther is always answering people’s questions….I’m yet to hear anyone ask my question of her.

So I’m both excited and forward in asserting my belief that the Abraham teachings are intentionally avoiding the terminology of good and bad because of how much resistance people have around it.

But for me, those terms don’t hold resistance anymore. Good means good for me. I desire things because they are good for me, and they feel good because they are good for me.

This shouldn’t impinge on other aspects of the teachings – such as where our desires come from. I’m not an Aristotelian after all, I just take whatever helps me from wherever I find it.

To me it just feels more solid and meaningful to accept that the things I desire are good, and feeling good is my natural response to the very thought of good things.

I prefer not to focus too much on feelings, because my focus is intense and feelings are a response to stimuli, and not meant to be the object of sustained focus in their own right.

My worldview has its own integrity, and it is good for me to find clarity and unity across all my beliefs.

All the work I have done in philosophy and psychology have changed and developed my understanding of concepts like God, truth, and good and evil, precisely where most people have a lot of baggage. Having done that work and attained that clarity, it is good to integrate it with the new insights I have obtained from the Abraham Hicks material.

Triggered by ignorance

Recently I heard second-hand a relative disparaging the martial art I practice.

It really got to me for a couple of reasons.

First, I struggle to understand how someone can make self-assured pronouncements on subjects they are profoundly unfamiliar with. I’m bewildered and don’t know where to begin.

But beneath that, if I’m honest with myself, I’m sensitive about my proficiency in the art. I’ve been training for a long time and I don’t think I’m as good as I should be.

That’s not to say my relative’s opinion had anything to do with me or my proficiency. She didn’t say I was bad at it, she just disparaged the art itself in a sweeping statement.

She’s never seen the art, she’s never seen me practicing, and as far as I know she’s never done a martial art nor is she interested in them.

But that doesn’t stop part of me thinking that if I were just more proficient then I would change her mind…in much the same way that part of me thinks I can change people’s minds by providing logical arguments supported by facts.

When was the last time that happened?

You create your reality

So despite my irritation at this person’s opinion — no, because of my irritation, I have to acknowledge that this is my creation.

My insecurity and self-doubt is making me react to people’s words regardless of what was meant by those words.

And I don’t just mean my self-doubt about my proficiency in martial arts; I mean my self-doubt in thinking I need proof, evidence, and convincing arguments to validate my own beliefs, perceptions, and feelings.

The reason it bugs me so much when people make ignorant and inconsiderate pronouncements with full self-confidence is that I don’t allow myself the same privilege.

No matter how much research or experience I accrue, I always err on the side of self-doubt. So it’s galling to hear someone just say what they think, without fear, shame, or hesitation.

Appreciating contrast

These interpersonal conflicts are so valuable because they highlight areas where we are resistant to our own wellbeing and expansion.

This person’s comment would not upset me except that I hold myself hostage to rules they refuse to follow.

They may be ignorant, but they don’t care. I know more than they will ever know about martial arts, but I’m the one feeling constrained.

Must ignorance be contemptible? Is life about being as knowledgeable and rational as possible?

Well this particular episode is not. This episode is about whether I make my happiness conditional on other people, or really accept that it doesn’t matter what I or others think, say, or do.

No one can assert anything into my experience. This came about purely because I was primed to react.

But I’ve chosen to clean it up instead, taking it as an opportunity for expansion, freedom, and joy.

It doesn’t matter what others think, say, or do, because it doesn’t matter what I think, say or do either, so long as I feel good.

No one is measuring the validity of my words, thoughts and deeds (and if they are they’ll be disappointed). There is no measure more objective than how I feel. If other people say disparaging things, why is that my problem? I don’t have to agree with them and they don’t have to agree with me.

The best part is feeling good whether we agree or not, whether our opinions are based on deep knowledge and experience or not. It really doesn’t matter, it doesn’t have the power to stop me feeling good.

It’s a game…18!

If you practice feeling good/better/less bad/relief you will gradually encounter and then release all resistance within you.

You don’t have to go looking for it. It’s just like water flowing into a river and gradually eroding all obstacles and blockages.

And spontaneously issues will arise, discomfort, negative emotion and resistance. All you need to do is find relief and the answers will come.

Today my path of feeling good has brought me relief from some more resistance.

I learned as a child that I was wrong to feel good when those around me felt bad. I was told – and eventually accepted – that it was unfair and selfish for me to be happy when those around me were unhappy.

From this I understood that before I could legitimately be happy I had to share in the burdens and problems that were responsible for other people’s unhappiness.

As a simple example: it was put to me that I was happy because I wasn’t responsible for the upkeep of the family home. My compassionate response was to help, to lessen the burden on those who were suffering.

It took me many years to learn that this kind of “suffering” was not caused by burdensome tasks. Rather, people’s attitude and vibration of burden and suffering caused them to find corresponding tasks and use them as excuses to stay out of alignment with their own inner being.

There was nothing I could do to help a misaligned person find their alignment. The best thing I could have done at that time or at any time is to find my own alignment and not add momentum to others’ stories of trouble and woe.

The best and most compassionate thing I can do for anyone is to begin with compassion and love for myself, which means allowing myself to feel relief and practicing feeling good regardless of conditions and circumstances.

I don’t need others’ permission for me to feel good. I don’t need others to be happy as a prerequisite for my own happiness. I can be happy right now, and let those good feelings be enough for me.

It’s a game…17!

When we focus on unwanted conditions we feel bad.

When we focus on wanted conditions we feel good.

But what actually feels good or bad is our alignment or misalignment of thought/vibration relative to our inner being.

Alignment feels good, so why don’t we practice it all the time? Why do we focus on things that feel bad?

It’s because we think that having the conditions we desire right now will make it easier for us to find good-feeling thoughts about them, appreciate them in more depth and detail, and thereby find even greater alignment more easily.

Which is partly true – it’s easier to appreciate a bright sunny day when it is actually bright and sunny, as opposed to when it is raining and dark.

It’s easier, but often we take these good things for granted; the habit of thinking “I’d feel better if…” is pernicious.

After all, that’s what you are doing right now: you’re thinking “I’d feel better if…” and ignoring all the things that are already manifested and going well for you.

So the “I’d feel better if…” attitude is theoretically true but actually false. You won’t feel better if you have the physical manifestation of what you desire, because you’re practiced in the attitude of “I’d feel better if…” and so you will soon turn your attention to something else that is lacking or unwanted in your experience.

That’s why it is more powerful to practice appreciating things that are already going well for you, however small and taken for granted they may be.

The ideal is to accept that feeling good, feeling better is the real essence of our desire, and (don’t panic) find a way to feel good/better right now and let that be enough, even though your physical conditions aren’t how you want them to be.