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For the new year, and just for the betterment of the rest of my life, I’ve been trying to be a bit healthier in what I eat and exercise more.  I don’t have a goal weight in mind, though fitting into my dryer-shrunken jeans and just having a nice toned look would be nice.

One easy target in the healthy crusade is Diet Coke. This has been difficult- I have a can of it at my side as I write this. I just seem to always choose it over almost any alternative beverage. Any time I drink Diet Coke, I feel shame, self gratification, and luscious guilty pleasure. I tell myself, “It’s not that bad,” even as I remind myself of its potentially carcinogenic ingredients and certainly affects one’s taste for sweets (the body craves calories in proportion to the sweet taste and you end up with the urge to eat more carbs and sweets- I have seen the difference myself when I laid off the coke). However, feeling like I’m on the verge of giving it up for real, I’ve got the last meal effect going, and I just want to enjoy it while I can. I want to feel the guilt, because I don’t want to keep doing something that’s not good for me.  But I don’t really want to give up the comforting habit, at least not yet, or I’d already have done it.

I’ve been going to yoga, which somehow seems easier to do. I feel good about doing it, and it makes me feel good. Not sure if it’s really the most “efficient” way to burn calories or gain muscle tone, but I’m feeling better in my body.  And I think I will, as time goes on, add some weights and running to my regimen.  But a little at a time is best, I think.

And as for eating, goodness, I like sweets. All too much. Sometimes I just don’t feel satisfied with something baked or candy and delicious. Not quite the same sweetness as fruit, or a flavored protein bar. I think right now my body’s just used to a certain way of doing things and it will take a while to change, but certainly I don’t think that the way things are going is best long time.  Eating, especially sweets, brings on a lot of the same feelings as diet soda.

And the thing with dieting is that I know I can’t live the rest of my life counting calories or points, or at least I don’t want to.  I do want to be conscious of what I eat, but not to the extreme. Not like when I shamed myself down to my lowest weight, getting on a scale five times a day, conscious of every morsel, and unable to enjoy my life because I was so fixated on not being fat.  I want to be able to eat when hungry, stop when full, use other things besides food to calm me down when I’m anxious, and just generally live a happy life with food as one of many moderate pleasures. I think the reason we have such a problem in America is because food is the cheapest and quickest entertainment, distraction, therapist, and even friend.  But I think we are also addicted to the shame of it, to the black and white world of dieting, of being naughty or nice, innocent or guilty. Even then there are explanations we can make to ourselves, truths that can be stretched, and confusion.  So much competing advice and theories, and overall this disatisfaction with the status quo to move forward until that bikini body is achieved, or more than likely, to lose a little and gain it all back, unable to keep up the psychic torture, especially when results from going extreme diet begin to stall as the body goes into starvation mode and the mind into obsession.

I read an article about how high school never ends today.  It offers the observation that brainy girls who are self-defined feel shame for not being popular, jocky, and princesses, but that the “princesses” remain passive waiting for someone to admire and then save them. Their self worth is dependent on others, on their looks, on circumstances beyond their control.  So for me, it feels almost like a betrayal of braininess sometimes to try to be a little prettier, a little healthier. To know there will be people who would have paid me no nevermind if I were fatter giving me the time of day.  It seems shallow to want to lose weight for cosmetic related reasons, when it isn’t posing a risk to my health and I can say with pride I am curvy but no where near obese. Much better than I was as a child, taunted for my weight. It hurt, and sometimes it feels like a betrayal of that person to want to “be my best” a little slimmer, trimmer, healthier self. To be the prettiest I can be during my prime. (Yeah, mortality is a bummer, and I’ll never be 24 again). It feels like a waste of a potential to not look my best, but it also puts so much pressure on me.

As far as braininess goes, I don’t always feel the same motivation to get great grades as I did. Sure, I try, and I’ve done quite well, but I know I could have done better if I had been willing to give up more of my down time, my reflection time, my seeing Paris time, etc. And I feel like I just don’t have space in my mind or my life to care about meeting some arbitrary standards, which may not even help me learn. I don’t have anything to prove by doing stuff I don’t even think is that important anyway. Maybe I’m just a punk kid and trying to live it up the way I think a lot of my cohort mates did when they were younger who are so serious now, but I definitely feel like the drive to be the best has led me astray sometimes.

I want to be happy, now. I don’t want to withhold happiness from myself by being miserable until I achieve some goal with little of deep meaning behind it. Getting an A, losing 5 pounds… It just doesn’t seem like those things are going to add that much to my life. I’ve also found, paradoxically, that when I’m happy that seems to add to my sparkle and get me where I’m going with less strongarm effort.

Before, I really did not only want to be my personal best, but to be the best at everything.  That was where I concentrated my identity, as somebody who did it all and did it well and nobody could do quite what I did quite like me. That I had something special that no one could outwork or outshine and put my all in. It was exhausting. I got into a great college with a scholarship, but there’s a bunch of chances I didn’t take and mistakes I didn’t make in high school. Maybe that’s why I’m all about the life experience now, and try so hard not to be worried about the scorecards of money or prestige.  Maybe I’m just not that competitive, or I’m afraid I can’t win the race. Maybe I just don’t care about what the race is about anymore, and for me the race is about finding, creating, being, loving that something greater.  No award, no grade, no amount of money can fill that hole in the universe.  Nothing but God can make you whole.

Every time I bite into a cookie when I’m not sure why, check Facebook in the middle of working on a paper, I think those small pleasures are going to make it all better somehow, and make me human. I want to be human so bad, I don’t want to be an achievement machine.  I don’t even want to aspire to that anymore, but I don’t want to stop aspiring (or achieving). I want it to come from a place of peace, not self-induced pain. I want it to be the momentum of love that carries me through, not the jaw grinding inch by inch pilgrim’s progress of a sinner in the hand of an angry god.  Maybe day to day distractions and overcoming the little temptation will always require some white knuckling from time to time, but I hope that someday it flows so naturally, not a duty, but a release like this blog. A bit of art, of pain and process and so much love, so much heart.

I know I’ll never get there, if I continue to shame on myself.  There’s a difference between guilt and shame- shame apparently is a global emotion that makes you doubt your worth and brings you down, whereas guilt, in appropriate doses, can help you do the right thing.  I know I need to let go of the sense that I’ll never get there, and the sense that I somehow don’t deserve to be there or have what it takes.  in this matter, as in every other true need for the fullest expression of the human spirit, I pray that I’ll have all I need and more.

God bless!

MJ

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