The Art of Restraint
It never fails.
Whenever the topic of diet comes up and I'm allowed to share my perspective about how important it is to avoid fatty and sugary foods, there's always someone who chimes in to say something like ..."But it's important not to deprive yourself."
That sentence ususally draws a line in the middle of the conversation. Actually, it puts a boulder smack dab in the middle of it. And with all due respect, that sentence is usually tossed out by the least fit in the room who is most addicted to processed foods. Not always ... but usually.
It reminds me of a person who I used to work with. Whenever there was birthday cake in the office, she would badger me about my decision not to eat any of it. Sometimes she'd enlist others to join in to literally get in my face while accusing me of either depriving myself or somehow not allowing myself to fully enjoy life because I wasn't swallowing the fat and sugar that she was swallowing. And she'd justify this behavior by showing me her pedometer that had racked up an additional 10 steps that day from walking into an Arby's rather than driving through it.
These sorts of food bullies and conversational boulders make it difficult for dialogues to segue into the concept of discipline, and how discipline can help us develop new habits where through the practice of what I have come to view as The Art of Restraint, we no longer feel "deprived" of cake, crackers with pimento cheese sauce, sodas, or super-sized burgers and fries. Rather, through a sustained period of time where we refrain from such foods and partake in healthier and non-processed foods, it's not deprivation we feel, but a truly sensational high from eating right.
I've shared with you before on this blog about how very addicted to Diet Coke I used to be. I am now almost four years sober from what I view as a toxic drink that grips so many people in this world. In 2008, when I went cold turkey from it, I did feel very sorry for myself at first. And I did feel deprived. But I knew that if I gave in and indulged the thought of not depriving myself and just allowed myself to drink one, that that would lead to another one and then another. And I knew I'd never break the habit. It was so hard. But the way I did it was to continue to psych myself out and tell myself that if I ever wanted to change my mind, there would be gallons available for me ... anytime, anywhere. In other words, there would never be a shortage, and I could get it in a split second ... at a grocery store, a drive thru, a gas station ... really anywhere. I'd say it took a good full year to completely de-tox from it and now it's not a feeling of deprivation I feel when I see it or watch other people drink it. I really and truly have no urge to drink it and have no feeling of being deprived. (I'm actually repulsed by it.)
Because I developed new habits. Now when I'm thirsty, I crave water. I crave a fruit smoothie. But I don't crave Diet Coke.
But the new habit formed because I disciplined myself to practice restraint. It's an art, really. When you want something so bad but you power through the craving, the hunger, the desire, and sit with the longing until it passes ... until the food bullies leave you alone ... until you develop a new and healthier habit that replaces that craving ... that's The Art of Restraint.
The high that comes from practicing this art ... it's like no other high ... you feel it after a workout and you are all sweaty and stinky and you can't wait for tomorrow so you can do it again ... when you complete a day having consumed foods prepared with fresh ingredients and there is neither guilt, shame, nor bloated belly weighing you down at the end of the day ... when you put on your clothes and they look fantastic.
The Art of Restraint.
It's about looking at Desire in the eyes and choosing not to swallow the fat and sugar with our own Free Will and Self-Determination, as we wrestle that Desire until it finally subsides. It's about developing new habits that take all of us to where we all want to be ... where we look and feel so great that we almost fly.