I think I have a food addiction. The first thing that I think about when I wake up in the morning is breakfast. I can’t go more than a couple of hours without craving the stuff. I routinely snack on sunflower seeds at my desk. In the post-lunch afternoon, attempting to abstain leads to severe drowsiness. I have to further admit that it isn’t just food. Almost every day, I drink a pot of coffee in the morning and a half pot in the afternoon. If I’m in an exceptional mood (good or bad), the afternoon coffee is replaced by a massive 44 ounce Mt. Dew from the soda fountain at whichever gas station is the most convenient.
I’m a mess, and it’s a condition that I know is not sustainable. Sooner or later, it will catch up with me. I don’t want to be like the guy in my office who, every day at lunch time, pulls out his carrots and celery and yogurt. I see that, and it makes me want to cry.
It seems like it should be so easy to just tell myself to exercise some self-discipline. My dirty little secret, though, is that I have next to no self-discipline. It’s kind of like saying that the first step to being a saint is choosing not to sin. It sounds so easy, and yet I still find myself crawling back to the confessional with the same list of transgressions again and again.
So, I’m out of the closet, so to speak. Even though I can run a 5K, that 40 extra pounds that I’m carrying around makes it a lot harder than it has to be. I need to make a change.
I’m not writing solely in physical terms, here. Over the last couple of years, I’ve discerned that my body and my spirit are united through my person. I don’t mean for that to sound mystical. What I mean is that where I’ve discovered a weakness of the will affecting my physical body, there’s usually an analogous weakness of the will that affects my spiritual life. I cannot remain a self-indulgent glutton physically while expecting to make any progress toward holiness, and by holiness I mean the kind of communion with God that was intended by our Creator. Unlike an angel, the human person has both body and spirit.
Having recognized the need for change, the next question is how to go about it. Do I quit cold-turkey, or wean myself gradually? I don’t know that the absolutist, cold-turkey approach could be maintained. It might work for alcoholics, but food is kind of fundamental to life. I’m going to go for the gradual wean, with a goal of management. I suspect that will be easier on those around me. My wife was relieved, this past Lent, to learn that I wasn’t giving up coffee, and it wasn’t because she drinks the stuff. I’m not sure about the spiritual analogy, though. It just won’t do to say, “I’m not going to stop sinning, I’m just going to sin less.” Yet, I think most spiritual directors would agree that trying to erase all of one’s faults at once is a recipe for failure. Pick the most glaring, they would say, and focus on that one.
The man that I am is not the man that I want to be. That’s not meant to be a statement of self-loathing. Rather, it is a recognition that I am far from perfect, and that improvement is possible and desired. I hope that I never reach a state where I think that improvement either is not possible or is not desired. The transformation that I’m looking for won’t take place without effort, and the sooner I begin, the better off I (and hopefully, those around me) will be.