Last week I wrote about bidding farewell to favorite foods after finding out about a lot of allergies. I’ve since started the process of figuring out what I can eat, and along the way I came to a place of acceptance. I realized that being angry and despairing about these changes would not serve me or anyone, especially since I can still eat a lot of foods. I felt like a switch had flipped, letting me approach this new reality with a more positive attitude.
Then I remembered that I’ve been through this before, in relation to weight.
When I was an overweight teenager, I was about as far from accepting as you could get. I was determined to find some silver bullet or magic pill that would let me eat whatever I wanted without adding pounds. That mindset didn’t help in my weight loss attempts, since part of me assumed that soon I wouldn’t need to do any work, so why bother now?
Eventually I realized that the magic pill simply doesn’t exist, and that instead I needed to examine the details of my eating patterns. It was much easier once I admitted that.
My other hurdle was when I got to a point of maintaining my weight loss. I had it in my head that I should be able to eat like a “normal” person. I didn’t know exactly what that meant. I just knew that I got jealous when I watched other people eat pizza and chicken fingers and French fries and cookies, apparently without a second thought. Interestingly enough, I had this sense even though I didn’t necessarily want those foods anymore, or very often, or very much of them.
What I didn’t realize is how inherently flawed this type of comparison is. You can’t know by looking at someone if their body can handle the foods they’re ingesting, or if they might need the calories - perhaps they’ve run a marathon, or are doing lots of hiking, in which case eating high calorie foods doesn’t have the same effect and is even necessary.
Marc David writes about this as well in the book Nourishing Wisdom, in a discussion of forming new habits and behaviors: “...[This] lack of acceptance inhibits the transformation process. Acceptance is always the first step.” (p. 116)
That certainly seems to be true for me. In all the times when I’ve managed to accept where I’m at - no silver bullet, no “normal” eating, loss of some favorite and common foods - I’m much better prepared to handle making changes.
Which isn’t to say that acceptance is easy. It’s not. But it is important. After all, we can’t move forward with confidence without knowing where we’re starting.