Winning the Battle, Losing the War

When I was in high school my older cousin was on (yet another) diet, and he said, “you know, with our genetics, I realize I will have to battle with food everyday of my life. It is just that simple.” This was 15 years ago, and he is still obese. He must not have had the fight in him. Either way, I agreed with him, and for the sake of my physical, emotional, and social well-being, I decided it was worth fighting the battle. That idea stuck with me: I would fight food, and win.

I was thinking today about a concept I came across while reading Mindful Eating. It is an idea from the Buddhist tradition that essentially says that whether you have a strong desire or strong hatred of something, you are still tethered to it. It made me realize that I have been “tethered” to food since I was 11 or 12. Whether it has been anxiously overeating or purposefully undereating, food has had a grip on me. I consume food, think about food, worry about food, but rarely, if ever, really enjoy food.

Over the years, I have won many battles, but lost many too. I have been a “yo-yo” dieter, reaching a high of 195-200 lbs in 2000, and again in 2006, to lows in the 150s-160s in 2002 and now. For the last 5 years, I have been winning the battle with food. I really have. I am the healthiest I have ever been. I am running 30 miles a week, and eating healthier than I ever have. My blood pressure is normal, my pulse is in the athletic range, and my mind is sharp.

But, I am questioning the point of battling food at all, because I know that there will be losses ahead, because there always are. The whole idea of battling food seems baffling now. Why in the world would I choose to “battle” food every day for the rest of my life? Who spends everyday battling something that he can never conquer? What has food ever done to me?  If anything, eating can be a great experience, where each bite is a unique mixture of complex tastes, smells, and textures. The total experience of food even surpasses the mere taste: food can be prepared artfully, served regally, and be an accompaniment to some of the best social interactions ever.

I have decided to enter a rapprochement with food. I am laying aside my arms. I am battle-weary, and I am going to try something I haven’t tried since I was a child (when I was thin without trying): I am going to enjoy food. I mean really enjoy it. I don’t mean rush through it in a blur, eat to the point of getting bloated, and then “wake up” from  my narrow food trance. I don’t mean gulping down dinner while surfing the net or watching TV. I am going to savor every flavor, smell, and texture, and every moment that comes with food. The irony is that as I stop worrying so much about food, and I slowly sever the tether, I will probably find that reaching my ideal weight will simply happen. Enjoying food and losing weight? Now, that’s a win-win situation!