I remember being in middle school and thinking about finally being able to drive a car. Do you know what my ambition was? Being able to go to 7-11 any time I wanted for candy or a Slurpee(tm). Aim high.
As an adult our opportunities are limitless. We can drink, drug, or debauch all we want. And we can go to the 7-11 for a Slurpee if we want. Many of them are 24/7. And what we must learn for ourselves is how to set our own boundaries. Sure, we could live in a haze, do menial work, and have fun on the weekends if we were just shooting to get by. Most of us, I hope, have slightly more lofty (not higher) ambitions. And then we have kids and we transfer a lot of our ambition into their hopes and dreams. Me becoming a rockstar is much less of a concern these days. With two kids closing out college with known interests and degrees, I’m hopeful they are wayfinding in this maze of opportunities for themselves. Of course they are, it’s called surviving.
What I understood but lacked the discipline or motivation to change for most of my 60+ years is how to regulate my weight and energy. They are highly correlated. My mom, a great Southern cook, was round and jolly. She raised her four children to be round and jolly as well. And with the exception of her firstborn, who was thin and anxious, most of us struggled as husky adults. It’s taken me this long to get clear of enough stresses in life to turn my attention to my weight. Again. I’ve been through this pattern many times.
This time, however, something is different. My overindulgence is now a choice. Yes, I can have that piece of pie today. Tomorrow the pie will be gone and I will not think about it again until next year, next Thanksgiving, and next birthday. Today I will not think about alcohol. I will approach my challenges with sober realism. I am the champion and the villain in my own health story. My mom taught me about comfort food. My awakening has come from recognizing that semi-austerity is the only way for me to achieve the ideal weight I’m aiming for.
What has changed?
- I am in charge of what I purchase at the grocery store.
- I am capable of making my own healthy meals.
- Choices at the store, at the dinner table, and during late-night inspirational sessions, are 100% up to me.
- Mood is a factor, but not a controlling system.
- I am more mindful of my needs vs. wants vs. desires.
- I can make better and better choices.
- I will keep playing as much tennis as I can, for as long as I can.
- Happiness is not ice cream.
Today is the day after my birthday. I had the last slice of pumpkin pie my sister made. I wanted more. I always want more. Craving is also an internal drive. And, as I get more clarity about my own energetic system, I am learning to feed better fuel into my body, and if I need a Frappuccino, I can only have one per year, not per week.
I wonder occasionally about my kids and what they are learning. Adderall, alcohol, pot, and a host of other delights are temptations we must learn to curb. Perhaps college is the perfect place to learn about self-regulation. Once they have launched into their professions and family plans, the patterns of habit and addiction could become infinitely more troublesome. Let’s hope my example at 60 is better than my example at 40 – 50 when I was overweight, hypertensive, and type-angry.
Finding the balance in our lives requires self-awareness and the discipline, time, and energy to carry out our creative plans.
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