dr. laura has a parable she uses that i really like. i haven’t heard it in a while, and i’m going to botch it a bit, but here’s the main point, with a lot of my own details thrown in to close the gap.
a boy and his father are walking down the street. they pass a house that has two snarling wolves in the front yard. the wolves are fighting with each other and are locked in a rather frightening battle. the boy asks his father about what he sees, and the father explains that one wolf is good and one wolf is bad. they are fighting each other for supremacy.
the boy thinks for a minute, and asks his father, “but who will win?” and the father answers, “whichever one the homeowner feeds.”
this is a great way to understand our conflicting desires. we have powerful urges for the good, but equally powerful urges toward the bad. there is a constant dialogue in our heads about the merits of taking one action over another. which one will win at any given time? the one we feed.
i am currently trying to lose weight. yes, i know 99% of women will say this, but this is a real attempt at a lifestyle change. i spent a long time watching thin people eat, and i realized that they don’t approach food in the ravenous way that other people do. even when they are very hungry, they have a reasonable expectation of getting full at some point, so they don’t overload their plates or their mouths. they know they can have what they need, and they know that their needs are rather easy to fulfill (1 bowl of cereal instead of 3, for example), so they eat with a certain detachment that heavier people don’t have. in this regard at least, they have faith that the universe will meet their needs. so they eat with a sense of calm.
i for one, have been quite invested in my food for most of my adult life. when i was on diets, i could spend literally hours looking through cookbooks to find acceptable recipes. i would rush through each course of a meal, eager to get the next course. if i just finished a meal, i was looking forward to the next snack. when i finished a snack, i was looking forward to the next meal. i would literally stand in parking lots sometimes and just smell food. to me, McDonald’s french fries smell better than the finest perfume. because i am not naturally thin, i will probably always struggle against my desires for more food.
i am trying to eat deliberately. no shock there, since that’s in pretty much every diet book and magazine article. i am trying to taste my food instead of inhaling it. i am trying to leave some food on my plate and not feel guilty about starving children somewhere in the world (what a DUMB thing that is to tell kids!). i am trying to take only as much food as i need to feel not hungry, and not necessarily the amount it would take to make me feel full. i am trying to remember that i won’t starve if i eat less than usual. i am trying to trust myself and the universe that my food needs will be met so i don’t have to eat ravenously to store up calories.
i am trying to eat like a thin person.
at every sitting, i ask myself what i would eat if i was thin. i ask myself what would be on so-and-so’s plate, and then i take that much. i take what i really want instead of what i feel like i should have (maybe 1 side dish instead of 3- or a taste of each instead of a full serving). if i really really want something (we were at 2 different houses where the desserts were so out-of-this world delicious that i let myself taste some of each, and i don’t regret it a bit!), i take it and i try to remember that drastic change almost never happens all at once.
i am lucky that i had the stomach surgery a few months ago. it was an easy way to (involuntarily) jump start eating better. i hurt so much at first that i could only eat little bits, because if my stomach got full my stitches all pulled and it was horrible. i had to be choosy about what i ate, so that laid the foundation for making better food choices.
there will always be reasons to justify eating more. there are always special occasions or times when i waiting too long to eat and i feel starved (which i most certainly am not!). there will always be yummy things to try, and an indulgence here and an indulgence there.
but i have to feed the healthy wolf.
it’s been so long since i’ve made good food choices that sometimes i literally am baffled as to what they would be. i am so used to giving in to temptation that eating in a perfectly adequate way can feel like deprivation. but, in reality, it’s not.
in reality, it’s way past time for me to get healthy. it’s long overdue for me to take care of my physical self. it’s a gift to myself to eat better, and not a punishment (which is how i’ve seen it for way too long).
it’s a great paradigm for me to use to set the stage for making better choices in lots of areas.
short term gratification is rarely worth the long-tern suffering it causes.
so, i’m trying to ignore the greedy wolf. sometimes the growl is loud, and i know sometimes i will give in. but i’m hoping that over time i can build new patterns, and i’m hoping i can be proud of myself and look back on this as a turning point for making better decisions all around.
i’m hoping that the right wolf gets stronger and healthier and more powerful. i’m hoping that i can tune in to those urges instead of the ones that drag me down.
i might never be able to eat like a thin person without it being a struggle.
but i’m really really trying to try.