Another pile of diet and fitness books and a dumbbell.
It doesn’t matter how much you know if you aren’t motivated to change. Probably any one of these would change my life if I implemented all the advice.
Another pile of diet and fitness books and a dumbbell.
It doesn’t matter how much you know if you aren’t motivated to change. Probably any one of these would change my life if I implemented all the advice.

The Do-Nothing Diet. Part II.

Getting motivated

Time for an update on my progress of losing weight while literally doing nothing. I should warn you this one gets a little sad, but sometimes that’s life. 

If you didn’t read Do-Nothing Diet Part I, this is my experiment to lose weight by changing how I eat, not what I eat. As I mentioned, staying healthy isn’t rocket science. We all know that we need to eat right and keep moving — diet and exercise. But, if you are like me, the grim truth is that you just don’t want to. Exercise is painful, and eating is fun. And, if you are like me, you are looking for a shortcut. So, I’m experimenting with some simple rules to become more mindful of what I eat. In other words, this isn’t a diet. I am still allowing myself to eat whatever I want, and however much I want, I just need to do it consciously and enjoy my food guilt-free. 

Sh*t happens

Calvin's final resting spot under a tree in the backyard.
Calvin was too old to chase birds and squirrels but he still loved to listen and watch from underneath this tree in the backyard. It’s now his final resting spot.

So, what has happened since last time? I actually did quite well. My biggest challenge was to remember to follow my own rules. I lost about 5 pounds, and I didn’t change my diet or exercise. Though, I do think that being hyperaware of how I was eating gave me pause to rethink whether I wanted to eat another potato chip. 

So, I was on target to get back down to my bicycling weight. (If you ever rode a bike long distances, you know how a few extra pounds can really strain the knees and also put you off balance.) Then my cat died. Even though he lived a long and great life, even though it was his time, I was not prepared for how much of a gut-wrenching hole there would be in my life. I wrote a story about this but — trust me — it’s too sad to read. 

As you can guess, I lost hope, and my health suffered. But the death of Calvin was full of life lessons. For starters, I learned that no matter how strong and healthy you start, no matter how happy you are, no matter how much you are loved, and no matter how much medical care you receive, eventually, your body will fail. It is the Buddha’s First Noble Truth: Life is filled with unavoidable suffering. 

As I contemplated and tried to accept the unavoidable suffering of life, I simultaneously watched myself knowingly sacrifice my long-term physical health for a short-term benefit to my mental health. Eating and drinking are nice distractions. And, yes, those eating binges and resultant food comas do temporarily make me feel better — temporarily being the keyword. It was strange: on the one hand, I knew better than to sacrifice my health, but on the other, I didn’t care. 

In the last article, I said: “I think the hard part will be making all this stuff a habit.” And now it seems rather prophetic because when Calvin died, my rules were not running on automatic, and I was not strong enough to implement them. But to my credit, I continued to observe my thought process. “My cat died… I deserve a pizza… I earned this beer… I should enjoy myself while I can… What difference does one more make?… I’m too tired to exercise… I’m too tired to do think… I’ll do better tomorrow… I just want to feel better now….” And mostly, I asked myself, “Was it worth it? Do I actually feel better? Is my life any better?”

This went on for over a month. Quickly, I bankrupted the small gains I had made and began to feel ashamed of myself. I was committed to being a better person, but where was the silver lining in my black cloud? I have a friend whose cat died, and they took it so poorly they vowed to never own a cat again. I didn’t want this to be my life lesson. 

One lesson was right in front of me the whole time. I learned to appreciate my life a little bit more. Too many moments slip past working on or worrying about things that just won’t matter. That sounds obvious, I know. But there is a big difference between logically knowing something and experiencing something. And now that Calvin was gone, I wished I had appreciated a few more moments. 

Another lesson I learned over my six weeks of mourning is knowing that I wanted to stay healthy and postpone my inevitable suffering and death as long as possible. I realized that I wanted to be healthy so that I could appreciate life all that much more. 

So, in honor of Calvin, I am going to transmute this grief into getting healthy.  

I feel motivated again. It makes me wonder if motivation is an emotion because logic definitely was not working. We all know, logically, that we should be healthy, yet most people aren’t. A quick search of the internet suggests that only 3-12% of Americans are metabolically healthy. That means that logic fails 88-97% of us. 

Okay, so it’s time to revise my Do-Nothing Diet and try again.  

A recap of the Do-Nothing Diet rules so far. 

Since I didn’t meet my goals, I reordered my rules. Do you notice what the first three rules have in common now? (Read Part I for an explanation of each rule.)

  1. Do NOT starve myself!
  2. Do NOT stress. 
  3. Say grace. 
  4. Chew my food.
  5. Enjoy my food.
  6. Drink a lot of ice water.
  7. Eat bad food with my left hand.

In the last couple of months, I primarily failed rule 2) Don’t stress. I let stress get the better of me and used food as a type of fattening anti-depressant. Realizing my challenge is fundamentally mental, I need to start with what happens before the food even gets in my mouth. Thus the first three rules. 

A few new rules. 

As if it wasn’t hard enough to follow these seven rules, I’m going to add some more. Maybe one of them will stick. So far, my favorite is still “Eat bad food with my left hand.” 

8) Taste with my nose first. 

In other words, smell my food. This is something I don’t do intentionally, yet flavor is inspired by smell. Maybe smelling my food will make my meals seem more satisfying. When I was in art school, we actually said that we taste with our eyes first. It’s the art of plating your food. 

9) Put down the spoon in between bites. 

This is a simple rule to help slow me down and be mindful of what I am doing. It also helps my body digest food. Different foods require your body to produce different types of digestive enzymes, which takes time. Of course, this rule applies to knives and forks. Likewise: 

10) Put the glass down between sips.

I am good at this one, but it still beers mentioning. (Haha. A little pun.)

11) Just don’t buy bad food. 

Even though this rule doesn’t align with my Do-Nothing Diet, because I am still allowing myself to eat anything, it’s still worth mentioning. This one should be simple and easy, right? When you are at the grocery store, just don’t buy beer or chips. Actually, don’t go anywhere near beer or chips. That said, temptation will always exist, and life is meant to be lived. So, that’s why I prefer to allow myself to eat anything within reason. And, I believe the Do-Nothing Diet helps to retrain myself to not even have the cravings. 

12) Eat my veggies first. 

How many times have I been to a restaurant, and before the main course arrives, I’ve already ate and drank an entire day’s worth of calories in appetizers? (In fact, I just did this yesterday.) Wouldn’t it make more sense to fill up on veggies before dessert? And, wouldn’t the veggies be more satisfying and curb my appetite? 

Summary

I have even more rules, but first, let’s see how these go. More importantly, can I make these a habit? The first step: transfer all my rules to a sticky note to read before every meal. But it seems to be motivation not logic that is my biggest hurdle to getting healthy. Will my motivation carry through the next few months? I’ll check back and let you know how it goes. 

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