I’ve gained 48 pounds since my dad died in October 2012. Nearly 50 pounds. Who gains that much weight in what feels like overnight? I suppose 48 pounds in 20 months isn’t overnight; it’s 2.4 pounds per month. A slow, steady, chew-and-swallow. Chew. And swallow. And let’s not forget the alcohol.
Before this morning, I hadn’t been on a scale since November. But of course I knew the pounds were piling on. I was going up in sizes, pulling my biggest jeans out of the back of the closet. Even they have become uncomfortable, and so lately I’ve taken to wearing formless dresses and stretchy skirts. And there’s my car seat. I can feel the sides of it hugging my hips and thighs. The same with my office chair. I am spreading out. And then there was the hike at Orcas Island a few weeks ago. I was huffing and puffing as we were going uphill. Huffing and puffing and sweating. It pissed me off. And I was embarrassed.
For the past several months, I’ve been trying to find a foothold. I’ve been trying to figure out how to get back to equanimity. How to find that sweet spot I was in before all the dying began. I’ve been trying, with little success, to get back to taking good care of myself. I take better care of my cats, in fact. Just this morning I steamed a lovely piece of fresh Atlantic salmon for them. I, in contrast, ate a slice of cherry pie with my coffee. Mind you, I told myself I’m working on making a shift, and so this was a last-supper slice of cherry pie. I’m terribly good at rationalization. Aren’t all addicts?
Oh, yes, this is addictive behavior. In fact, I’m seeing quite a bit of my mother in myself these days. She spent years dismayed by the alcoholism that surrounded her, never once looking at herself and seeing her own coping behavior, eating, was similarly self-destructive. I have, more than once over the past two years, felt anger with my brothers for how they killed themselves with alcohol. And I felt pity on them because they had never learned healthier ways of coping. But I, even having spent decades learning healthier ways of dealing with unpleasant events and emotions, am not coping much better than my brothers did.
It’s not like I lack self-awareness. Or desire. I’m trying. I just can’t seem to get myself going in the right direction again. I can’t get motivated to do consistent exercise. To cut back on the alcohol. And to stop eating everything I want. And I want a lot. How do I stop wanting what isn’t healthy, and start wanting what is?
I turned it into a research project. First, I set out to find the healthiest way of eating. I figured if I found it, I would be motivated to do it. I did my research and settled on the Mediterranean diet. And that might have helped, only I ate way too much of the Mediterranean diet. And I still wasn’t exercising consistently. So next I researched books on willpower. The books were not helpful. They espoused the same old advice that hadn’t been working for me. But there was one pearl of wisdom I kept bumping into: meditate.
I had a meditation practice several years back when I was heavy into yoga. But when I quit Kundalini yoga teacher training mid-course (having decided it was a cult), I threw the baby out with the bath water. No more meditation. No more yoga. Not even hatha. (I don’t do anything by halves, you see. A definite fault of mine.) So here we are, five years later, and all these books are pointing me back to meditation. Because I don’t have anything to lose, other than 50 pounds or so, I decided to give it a shot. I know my problem isn’t with eating, per se. My problem is with life. I needed something to help me cope with it. And, if I’m being ambitious, to help me find an interest in my existence here on this earth.
I’ve been doing a daily meditation practice for a little more than a month, now. At first my efforts were not consistent. But slowly I’ve begun to find some flow. As of today, I’ve got 14 consecutive days under my belt. (A belt that doesn’t fit.) I’ve found a terrific app called “Insight Timer.” You can program different timers, for varying lengths, with different chimes. You can do the offered guided meditations. (In addition to my mindfulness meditation, I’ve been doing a daily body scan.) You can join groups and connect with meditators all over the world. According to my app, there are 352 people meditating worldwide, right now. In addition to the app, I’ve started reading about mindfulness. I’m reading Jon Kabat-Zinn’s, Full Catastrophe Living. I think I’ve finally hit upon the necessary tools to undergo a tectonic shift. Meditation. Mindfulness. And yeah, pulling the yoga out of the dirty bath water, as well. (Although I still won’t go near the Kundalini.)
I’ve been living mindlessly, sleepwalking, for 20 months now. 50 pounds was the result. What will be the fruits of mindfulness?