One of my favorite passages in the bible is this, “for what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” Matthew 16:26. It is both an admonishment and a caution. Like when we, as parents, say, “well if Billy jumped off a building, would you do it too?” It is a rhetorical question to be sure, but one meant to inspire thought and, quite frankly, lately I’ve been thinking about it.
In particular I think about gaining a new self vs. losing my old self. Now to be clear: there are some parts of my old self that needed to die so that my present self could live. The part of me that did not value myself enough to scrutinize my food intake. That part had to die. The part of me that didn’t find myself worth the labor of exercising. She most definitely had to die. But there are a million other parts of myself in between my old self and new that seem to have gotten lost in the churning sea of post-weight loss surgery enlightenment.
I noticed this most distinctly last week at the gym (where many a great contemplation has begun for me). It had been a long day for both me and my children. We awakened early, went to our respective day functions (them school, me work) and then rushed home to scarf down a meal before trekking to the gym where the children spent an hour trying not to fight with each other while I spent an hour fighting with the elliptical machine. And all I could think of was how I wished I were at home. How much I would have loved to be in my bed with my jammies on and a pair of slippers playing “I declare war” with the kids.
But weight loss is a battlefield. And I must be a soldier.
Such hard thinking on my part was necessary in the first part of my journey. Forming habits is hard work. It takes many, many days of repetitive behavior, strictness, and a swift hand for non-compliance. It had long been my opinion that any deviation from my diligently formed habits was a recipe for failure. But on the elliptical machine that day I began to think about why I started this journey.
It was for my girls. The mother they used to have wasn’t a particularly good one. She was depressed and moody. Sullen and withdrawn. She didn’t play with them, she didn’t take particularly good care of them. She taught them bad habits in caring for themselves. So that mother made the ultimate sacrifice—she gave herself up so that her children could be in better hands. And there we stood—at a cold, impersonal gym—not talking to one another, not imparting vital knowledge, not expressing our love for one another. I was on the elliptical, my oldest was listening to her MP3 player and my youngest was coloring. And I felt bad about that, but how could I slack off on my commitment to a better life?
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?
What did it profit me to gain my health, my body, a healthy weight, but lose my children in the process? I’m not saying I should not go to the gym. And I’m not saying time for oneself is bad. What I am saying is that it has to fit together within the big picture. For me the big picture is that I am a mom. And that if my desire to be anything—fit, a writer, a lover, a fighter, a dancer, whatever—encroaches too far into my role as a mother, I need to look at that.
So what does this mean to you? Well…sometimes we let our process get in the way of the big picture. How many of you have avoided a family function because there is trigger food there? How many of us have been driven out of our homes by food demons? How many of us avoid people, places and things we associate with our former obesity? And how many of those “sacrifices” are painful to you? How many of you wish that it didn’t have to be that way? How many of you long for some sort of compromise?
For us, the problem was easily resolved. We now have set days when mom goes to the gym and we have planned “vegging days” (which are not really planned at all). I respect both kinds of days equally. I don’t sacrifice my gym days for vegging days or vice versa. It is hard sometimes because life gets in the way—I have to work late and skip the gym, or a parent teacher conference gets in the way of a vegging day—and I feel like I want to rob Peter to pay Paul. I don’t. And life continues.
So this week I empower you to examine the answers to the above questions? For those who avoid functions because of food triggers, what would your family/loved ones do if you simply talked to them and told them about your anxiety? And what would happen if you explained to your family that you need help coping with your food demons? And what would happen if you showed up in old places with a new body? Think about it. I think that these road blocks are really opportunities to learn that the world isn’t quite so scary as we have it made out to be. And perhaps we can just live in it.
Have a great week.