Ten years ago this weekend a major relationship came to an end. It was a good thing, but a painful thing. I was desperately in love with this person, yet the relationship was awful almost from day one. Why we stayed together for almost a decade is a mystery to me. Why I continued to long for her for years afterward was the biggest emotional challenge I have ever confronted. The more I read everyone's blogs on this site, the more I see the parallels between this relationship, and the relationship many of us have with our bodies and what we consume. We all seem to be struggling in that space between faith in our ability to overcome our own self-sabatoging ways, and self-loathing and feelings of hopelessness for our self-sabotaging ways. 

As I struggled over that break-up ten years ago a friend suggested I read a book by the American Buddhist author Pema Chodron called When Things Fall Apart. As some of you might know, the Buddhist way is to live in the present moment, to work against being tangled in the web of the past, or in longing for a different future. Radical self-acceptance is what will heal the pain that plagues us. 

I have been re-reading Chodron lately, this time a short, easy book called Taking the Leap, and while what she writes can apply to really cataclysmic feelings and events, I can see now how it also applies to my eating and drinking habits. I drink and eat to distract myself from that in my life that makes me uncomfortable, uneasy, unhappy, or suffer. I numb out with wine, and "treat" my sorry self with snacks to make my life more bearable. The funny thing is, I am generally happy. I am not suffering a lot. But the more I reflect on my wine consumption, the more I think that this does apply to me. Suffering does not have to be cataclysmic, I guess, to make us want to hide from it, or blur it out.

Here is my question. All of the healthy living advice (I refuse the term "diet" since in our culture it does not mean what you eat, but a special regimen you temporarily undertake to lose weight) encourages us to create positive images of our future ideal selves, to paint an image in our minds of what we'll look like when we reach our ideal weight. Some advice even encourages us to buy a dress or outfit in the size we hope to be. It seems to me that a Buddhist approach would suggest that we need to be in this moment now, not some future moment. By living in the past, or the future, we are avoiding or ignoring the problems and issues of today, and so long as we do that, we'll continue to be plagued by the underlying sources of our pain. Perhaps this is why so many of us return to our previous ways once we acheive our "diet" goal. We have not addressed the underlying issues.

What I find useful about this is that by living for this moment, and not the moment when I have acheived my "ideal" weight, I can actually cope with the temptations and cravings I am having now. If I understand what I am reading, when confronted with unhealthy choices a Buddhist approach is not to say to yourself: "I will not give in to temptation," but rather to say: "Why do I long for that? What do I imagine it will do for me?" and to stay with that thought, and to keep returning to it every time the longing comes up. You soon realized that it's not that you really need that girlfriend/burger and cheese, it's that you believe that it's going to make you feel better. Even when you know it's not true. Even when you know it actually harms you. 

To carry this one step further, it is not about being so strong that we can easily resist [insert here your food weaknesses] but rather that we address what it is in our lives we are trying to cover up or appease by consuming it. Is your life the shits because you are poor? Have some fries. Do you experience racism and/or sexism on a daily basis? Triple size me. Are you taken for granted by your family? Does your partner ignore you? Cheesecake!

If we want lasting change, and I think we do, then we change our lifestyle with each decision we make in every moment of every day. By focussing on this moment now, and not some imagined future, making lasting changes seems more possible to me. 

What do you think?