I've always been a very patient person. I'm happy to read the same book to my grandchildren 10 times in a row or listen to elderly people's stories a zillion times. Back in my days on the Carbohydrate Addicts' Diet (CAD) in the mid-1990s, I earned the reputation on a CAD listserv as being an unwavering advocate of patience. My mantra back then was "You can only control what you put in your mouth; you can't control what your body does with it," brought out largely in response to people who didn't lose any pounds for a few days and were hysterical about being on a plateau. If I wrote that once, I wrote it a hundred times to different people in the group. I even believed it. I had faith that if I worked the program, everything would come around eventually.
Unfortunately, that didn't happen. I had a 2-year plateau, probably caused by the shift in metabolism that seems to come with middle age, and despite (or perhaps because of) my increasing restriction of what I ate, I never lost another pound and finally gave up in despair.
Fast forward to September, 2005 when I first arrived at Green Mountain, feeling desperate to get healthy and promising myself that if seemed like their program would be a good fit for me, I'd hang in there with it as long as it took and keep coming back till I reached my goal. It was and I have, but I confess to having some dark moments along the way.
The Green Mountain program is a non-dieting approach to weight management, using techniques of mindfulness to do away with most of the causes of overeating, encouraging the rediscovery of the person we all had inside us who would rather run around than eat, exploring negative attitudes that affect body image and self esteem, and teaching stress management strategies to make it possible to do everything else. I believe wholeheartedly that the program works and is right for me, and in fact my whole life has changed radically since I began it, but I haven't lost any weight, per se. Not permanently, anyway.
As you can imagine, this is occasionally very frustrating.
I have a lot of baggage around deprivation and restriction, and a long history of self-comforting with food. And that's all on top of a bunch of emotional issues that were getting in my way and have now been dealt with successfully. So it isn't surprising that it's taking me a while to get to the point where I can make healthy choices with ease and lose fat. But it is, occasionally, very frustrating.
One afternoon last week I immersed myself in back issues of the Nutrition Action Health Letter, a publication of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which a paddling buddy of my wife, Carol, had sent over to me. This friend has found great relief from chronic pain by altering her diet in various ways, and when she heard that I had developed gout, she started sending home various resources for me to explore. This particular newsletter was especially interesting and informative, and had good scientific evidence to back up the claims in its articles, and a number of members of its advisory board are epidemiologists I used to work with at Harvard Medical School in my research associate days. So it was a very interesting afternoon, but by the end of it, I had worked myself into a state of considerable agitation.
The message, hammered home in article after article, is that the extra weight I carry is doing me serious harm. This isn't news, of course, but it was difficult and disturbing to read it over and over again, along with various restrictions and limitations and recommendations about what a person should eat and avoid eating in order to be healthy. I was left with a sense of urgency that was almost enough to throw me off course. Almost.
Ten years ago, it was a lot easier to be patient. I didn't have high blood pressure; I didn't have gout; I wasn't on medicine to optimize my cholesterol profile; and my orthopedic problems were much more intermittent. I was also 10 years younger and not feeling my mortality quite so much. And, quite honestly, in many ways my life wasn't nearly so interesting and satisfying as it is now -- I have so much more to lose by not being more fit.
Maybe I could "go on a diet" and lose a bunch of pounds much more quickly. I've certainly done it before. But I don't want to do it again. I especially don't want to lose pounds only to regain them. Again. I want to fix whatever is out of balance in me so that I can get out of the rut I've been in most of my life. And to do that, I have to trust that the work I am doing now will get me to where I need to be.
So I took a few deep breaths and reminded myself that I am walking the path I need to be on. I'm walking it slowly and carefully, as befits someone of my age and physical condition, and I'm taking the time to observe and appreciate everything that I pass by on my way. And I remember that I am, after all, a very patient person.
A hui hou.