Saturday, September 17, 2011

Hungry for Life

Cheryl decided this summer we should do the "Body for Life" program. I agreed to tag along on the meal portion of the program, but I made no promises on the exercise component. [To be fair with myself -- as if I would not be -- I was over worked with storm damage yet to be cleaned and still low on energy from my surgery.]

I said "tag along" because I made it clear I wasn't going to be legalistic about the meal plans, I would exercise my way and I wasn't going to put any effort into learning the program.

As best as I can figure it, the meal plan is simple. First, cut out or at least way down on the breads and other carbohydrates. I am not always certain what carbohydrates are, so I just assume they are the things I really like and I only eat them when Cheryl is not around.. Second, eat more protein and eat it six times a day. That translates into a protein snack mid-morning, mid-afternoon, and evenings. Third, eat much smaller portions for regular meals. Fourth, there is only one regular meal a day, lunch. She says I should think of three servings for lunch, each the size of my fist: one meat, one green vegetable, and one of whatever else she wants.

I'm not one to complain -- much -- but it does seem to my eyes she measures by the size of her fist, not mine.

Giving up cereal for breakfast has not been hard. I enjoy my egg, coffee, and half piece of toast (with homemade jelly) with her in the mornings. We are now having breakfast together most days.

Our mid-morning snack is usually half each of a protein bar. I bought them in bulk online at about half price. They remind me of a candy bar. The kind you might get in a  remote village in the so-called two-thirds world where they haven't discovered processed sugar or real chocolate. After two months of their pleasure I can honestly say they are not half bad, but Cheryl seems to get that half. Occasionally I sneak a more commercial (think they have flavor) breakfast bar.

Most evenings we have a protein smoothie. We blend a protein shake (bought in bulk online) with some yogurt and ice. They taste (chocolate or vanilla) like a a milk shake you might get in that same impoverished village. I end the day with a spoon full, as in all you can cram onto a tablespoon, of peanut butter.

This simulation of the mess hall in a POW camp has been going on for about seven weeks and I have lost fifteen pounds. It’s working and so I have given myself to some deep philosophical reflection.

I have renamed the program "Hungry for Life." This double entendre speaks to a revised relationship with the condition of physical hunger and a desire to live life to the fullest.

I have adopted the mantra "hunger is our friend." This came to me as I wrestled with that demon of culinary desire. I was over weight (235 pounds, I think my Wii said "grossly obese.") because I had developed a wrong attitude about hunger.

For most of my adult life hunger was an enemy to be conquered.  Three or four times a day I beat the stuffing out of it.  Sometimes I gave it a good wailing even before it shook off the last beating.  But it was invincible, the Rocky Balboa of appetites.  There it was every morning ready for a few more rounds, not even bruised by the pounding I had given it the day before. 

The thought came to me as I lingered over my half of a protein bar, “hunger is my friend.”  Perhaps I was in a delusional state induced by malnutrition but it seemed all so clear.

Hunger spoke to me, “You are alive; you can feel, and you are losing weight.  As long as you have that slight sensation of emptiness in your stomach you are the master of food.” 

As I struggled to affirm my sanity I did what all preachers do, I spiritualized and formed a sermon illustration.  Hunger is nothing more than a God given desire, a necessary impulse for survival.  It is only when covetous sin entwines itself with our created nature that this inner voice of life begins to lust for more than it needs.  It is not hunger that makes people obese; it is unbridled lust for pleasure.  Somebody say “Amen.”

I now confess, I am not entirely sanctified.  The old man with his longings for processed sugar and french fries is not dead.  My hunger is a tainted and fickle friend. Cheryl brought pizza before me last night and I shamelessly consumed my fill. [“Oh, the woman that Thou gavest me.”]  I conclude that I may never in this life have a body for living, but I shall always be hungry for life.

I failed to mention we get one free day a week. I think it is like "eternal weight loss, once a dieter always a dieter, you've got to eat a little bit every day." And with selective memory that day of indulgence can show up at any time.