It strikes me that a blog post, like a Facebook post, like an Instagram post, can give the alluring impression that the author has a perfect life. Even their dilemmas and struggles are perfect, because they’ve triumphed over their adversity and have the luxury of writing/photo-snapping about it to share with the world. The author’s intention is well-meaning, I like to think: they are sharing to motivate and inspire others, as well as open themselves up without making a huge bloody mess while their guts are spilled all over the metaphorical table where they sup with their readers.
I have wondered whether my previous posts have conveyed an image of me having had a road to Damascus experience with regard to my diet, health, body image and well being, and emerging from it a glowing, beatific evangelist faring even better than Paul himself. If I’m honest, it has felt like it sometimes: at points in the past few weeks, it as if the road to a healthy and happy way of living has been illuminated for me, and I’ve been inspired and thought ‘this is it! My path to wellness for life!’
But it is not perfect, and it has been hard. It is hard right now. A couple of weeks ago, I thought I had taken the back-door entrance to the mount of gods where my much coveted superhuman power was handed to me: somehow, I was eating whatever I wanted and losing weight. The last time I weighed that much (or little) was while I was suffering from post-romantic trauma, and I was miserable – I remember not being able to swallow bites of bagel because they were stuck in my throat by sadness. This time, I was glowing, happy, active and alive, and I thought ‘I’ve made it’. And like one might be forgiven for doing, I relaxed: I thought I’d reached the top of the mountain and I wanted to sit down and enjoy the view.
But habits developed in the space of a few weeks may be inspiring and enlightening, but they are still embryonic compared to behaviours honed over decades. Regardless of which ones are better or worse, healthier or more destructive to your wellbeing, years of comfort eating, loving sugar and wanting to sneak it in and see how much you can get away with still lurk around while you are delighting in a new lifestyle which makes you feel so much better.
I’ve been getting lazy, and I have started to feel not so great. I am not quite the glowing evangelist right now, and I have been giving in to under-the-radar sugar cravings which sneak in under the excuse of ‘it’s only little’ – that’s familiar old behaviour for me.
Why am I sharing this? I wanted to be brutally honest about what it’s actually like to develop new habits: the initial impact of discovering a better lifestyle is hugely inspiring, and the results you start seeing are joyful, but they require continual effort to really embed them into your life and make them yours. And it’s so easy to get demoralised when you do start relaxing and it seems like everything is working in reverse. One of the many takeaways I got from course I attended recently about integrity is that it’s like a mountain whose summit you’ll never reach; all you can do in each moment is take action to keep you in integrity, like honouring your word, declaring a commitment and fulfilling on it. The lesson seems appropriate here: without continual action, I will fall backwards. There is no summit where I get to sit back and enjoy the view. I enjoy the view as I keep moving, and I keep moving because I get something joyful from it, but sometimes it just feels like hard work, and that’s OK. What really helps me here is just to be open about it: I’m having a sugar crush right now and I want to have my cake and eat it. I’ll know that there is an impact to this, but once I just accept the ‘what’s so’ – what is actually happening – then I can do something about it. Denying it just causes stress. And there’s nothing wrong! It’s just human behaviour.
I pinched my waist today – one of my comfort spots – and it wasn’t entirely comforting. And for a moment I thought: wouldn’t it be nice to stop chasing this ideal which might not even deliver all the bounty I have attached to it: universal acceptance, admiration, adoration, the man of my dreams, overall shimmering, golden-glow happiness, fierce confidence with the ability to slay the day. Underneath it all, what I really want is immunity from the harshness of the world. I know it doesn’t work like that, but to enjoy my body and health for the time that I have it, and accept it regardless of the mad reasoning that goes on in my head sometimes, whether euphoric evangelist or dejected human being, that’s a pursuit well worth undertaking.