This Is Not Punishment

A week or so ago I was walking along the sidewalk in Manhattan feeling overwhelmed by how far I have to go to reach my fitness goals. It’s going to take months and months of intense self-control, planning, and exercise. This was very scary; I could feel despair scrabbling at the door.

Then a simple thought struck me: “This is not punishment.” It marked an important change in me.

I love eating so much that, when I curtail a period of excessive consumption, it seems like cruel deprivation. I have to remember that this is not the case — not by a long shot! In fact, it’s the excess that makes for the real deprivation, because I’m denying myself clean skin, strong muscles and joints, healthy circulatory and digestive systems, proper sleep, and the ability to look at myself in the mirror without being disgusted.

Eating properly is not punishment – even the relatively rigorous period of sparse consumption that I have in store. I am simply paying for a previous period of overconsumption. There is no shame in paying a debt, nor do I have to be ashamed of what I spent my health on. I can recognize that I had a lot of fun eating and drinking during the last few years while still owning my need to get back in shape. This is not punishment. It is payment, fit and proper.

I suppose that, from the outside, these hair-splitting distinctions I make must seem like much ado about nothing. Believe me, though, from where I’m sitting they make all the difference in the world. If I can stand straight and walk a line between needless self-recrimination and unwarranted petulance, I will not fall.

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5 Responses to “This Is Not Punishment”

  1. Naomi Says:

    A excellent analogy! I’ll add it to my arsenal for the difficult week coming up.

    • theoneifeed Says:

      It means a lot to me to hear this. Thank you.

      • Naomi Says:

        End of week 1: Hey, that wasn’t so bad.
        End of week 2: Wow! 10 pounds! Why didn’t I do this months ago!
        End of week 3: Ummm…why isn’t the scale moving?
        And I’m in week 4 now, which is when I usually give up, pig out, and gain it all back plus a few extra…

        Sorry – I’m whining.

      • theoneifeed Says:

        Naomi, what kind of diet are you on? I don’t claim to be an expert, but it sounds like you’re putting yourself through an ald-school starvation diet and your metabolism is fighting back. That’s what happened to me when I starved myself: after a few weeks the weight loss stopped as my metabolism lowered to compensate.

        The focus of my diet is to do everything I can to keep my metabolism up. I eat small meals every three hours so I never feel hungry. And the only time I ever feel bloated is after my weekly eat-whatever-I-want day. And I get as much exercise as possible – whatever I can do to keep my metabolism up throughout the day.

        I certainly hit plateaus, but they’re nothing like what I experienced on conventional diets.

        One more thing: have you done a calorie analysis? When I hit a plateau back around 2003 I did one for the first time, and I was shocked by what I found. I had no idea that the “little bit” of butter and 1% milk I consumed composed a huge percentage of my daily calorie intake. I cut the butter and milk in half, cut my calorie intake by 15-20%, and got past the plateau.

        Don’t give up!

  2. Naomi Says:

    I call it the Modified Michael Pollan. His dictum is: Eat food, less of it, mostly plants, (Chocolate and nachos are both plants, right?) and on Dr’s orders I’m attempting to keep between 1400/1500 cal per day, divided evenly, proper ratio of fat/carb/protein.

    I keep a food log– somehow it keeps me more honest to have to record my indiscretions.

    Exercise is the killer. I don’t get as much as I should, so I’m trying to trick myself into incremental change– more walking, taking the stairs (and turning around and doing them again a few times), having my husband noodge me about the gym.

    Eh. It took years to form my bad habits. It may take years to reform. And living with someone who’s lost (and kept off for 8 years now) over 100 pounds is equal parts inspirational and annoying as all hell.

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