My morning starts with a reconnaissance mission into my closet, a search and rescue for clothes that match, fit, and conceal the trouble spots while flattering my assets.
I take my findings to the General, manifested in a reflection in the mirror, and attempt to make them presentable. I use every strategy at my disposal: I mix, I match, I try on and take off, I pull and tug and suck in my breath, and inspect every possible outfit from every possible angle. Finally, one brave soldier raises from the ranks to answer the call of duty, the others retreating into crumpled piles in the corner.
I could be a lot worse off weight-wise, but then again, I could be a lot better. I’m sure there are women older and younger than I across the country who fall into the same box. Many factors that came into my life in the past six years or so have contributed to my weight gain–including, but not limited to, thyroid issues, slowing metabolism, and starting college.
Freshman 15? Try Freshman 25.
I watched the General in the mirror become doughy and misshapen, wondering all the while if my metabolism had finally broken the ranks and deserted, never to be recovered.
I set out on various missions. Some reformed my diet. Some tried to make me more active. One even cut me off from solid food for five full days. Many of the missions were abandoned before conclusion. Some were sabotaged by friendly fire, others insufficiently planned. Not even a troop surge, fueled by a gym membership and a self-help website, could save the effort to eradicate the insurgent pounds and inches.
The situation in my body had become a quagmire.
Weight loss and healthy habits require a conference of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: Mind, Body, and Spirit. During this long and controversial preoccupation, the Mind has lost more and more ground to the Body, who flip-flops on the important issues of diet and exercise, occasionally committing to one or the other but always reverting to old strategies and sending the committee back to the drawing board. The only thing they might come close to agreeing on is that there may not be a military solution to this.
Here is where the Spirit comes in to cause the turmoil that is polarizing the other two parties.
My religious beliefs don’t fall into any particular box, but I draw most of them from Buddhism. I read the books written by the Dalai Lama, for whom I have utmost respect. In reading How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life, I stumbled on a chapter in which His Holiness advises to “Examine your motivation as often as you can.”
So I set about to thinking about this. What is my motivation to lose weight? Is my weight worth struggling against? Am I just putting myself through unnecessary mental and physical suffering, month after month, in the name of an unrealistic body image? What if I take all of the energy, money, and time that I’ve invested in weight loss and instead put it into philanthropy, charity work, and volunteering? Why contribute to the media-fueled, socially-accepted expectation of what a girl my age and height should look like? Will this actually make me happier in the long run?
In the midst of contemplating these none-too-easy questions, I found myself wondering if it would be easier, or more helpful to my cause, if I had chosen a faith that supported the capitalistic “Every man for himself” attitude that is the undercurrent of the society in which I live. But changing my faith is not an option. I’ve chosen what I’ve chosen for many reasons. No one said my life philosophy had to be convenient.
Then, at night, in those last lingering moments before sleep, I found the answer: physical karma.
Karma, which literally means action, is the concept that every action has a spiritual consequence. If I give money to charity and do philanthropic work, I generate good karma and will be rewarded, in this life or the next. If I spit on the homeless man and call him a bum, I generate bad karma and will be “rewarded” (i.e. punished), in this life or the next. What goes around, comes around.
Therefore, my current state of weight, health, and wellness is the karmic result of bad actions. I neglected my body and filled it with poisons and let it sit there to rot, and what went around, came around. So, by eating healthily and exercising, I am generating good karma and undoing the effects of bad karmic decisions in my past.
The realization quickly became a life-changing revelation. It has become a lot easier to not think about a number or a pant size as my goal. My goal is to generate good physical karma, which I will see as I begin to feel healthier and drop weight. I can honestly say that I am much, much, much less concerned with the actual loss of weight than I was before. I took almost all of the anxiety out of this weight loss deal without being hypocritical at all. I found a way to mesh my spiritual beliefs and my personal goals. I now feel that it will be much easier to send myself to the gym or to bypass the foods that are karmically counterproductive.
I’m liberated. The crisis was a blessing in disguise, and through diplomacy with myself, I have found a solution.
The troops are coming home.