But I could not hear a word he was saying. All I could hear was the sound of my brain nagging me for like the millionth time about the Very Large Piece of Chocolate Cake I wasn't going to buy at Safeway after church. I wasn't going to buy it because I was determined not to eat any cake. Possibly never again. I was going to conquer my cake addiction and exercise my iron will and newly learned self control come Hill Or High Water and I Did Not Care What It Would Take.
And now I was sitting in church not listening to what may or may not have been an interesting and relevant sermon because I was possessed. I was not sure if I was possessed by the actual devil or just by the piece of chocolate cake, but I WAS possessed and I Would be Exorcised. Come hill or high water.
An hour later I was sitting in the car outside the Safeway. The cake container devoid of its contents, wiped clean of so much as a dribble of chocolate butter frosting.
I was guilty. I was ashamed. My will of iron had proved so weak I could not even resist a piece of chocolate cake. I had been to church and totally missed the boat on the sermon because I was so chocolate-cake obsessed that I Couldn't Even Make Out what pastor was talking about. As if the sermon had been in the original Aramaic.
I was a flop.
I was a failure.
What was I? I decided to do something I had never, ever dreamed of doing before: I asked my body.
What was I?
The answer resounded as if off the very same purple mountain's majesty freedom is supposed to ring back and forth on.
What was I?
Not, as I had told myself, bloated and fat like a whale, heavy like a rock. Sick, slow and sloppy like a banana slug.
Satisfied. So saith my body. And, it added as if that had not been enough, I do not need anything else just right now. Thanks. I'm full. And happy. And now I am going to relax with or without you.
And so my body sat back in the convertible and soaked up some warm sunlight while the rest of me babbled unhappily to itself.
I shouldn't have done that.
I have no self control.
I am just going to gain back the whole 130 pounds.
I'll be a fat ugly whale and all that hope I had built up in myself I've just totally blown. Because I cannot and do not have any faith in myself because I am a hopeless, hapless schlemiel with no self control or determination or ambition and No Hope Of Success.
I hate me. I especially hate my body. Which of course is not really me, just an appendage I wish I could cut off but am stuck with.
Maybe when I'm dead I'll have some peace from the thing.
And that was where my body drew the line. Apparently it could take being blamed and hated but death was a different story.
We've been on a diet. My body reminded me. We've been exercising. We've been wielding our self control like a medieval battle axe.
We needed a break.
We needed a piece of cake. Trust me. I know.
We're going to get fat. I told it.
That piece of cake only weighed a few ounces. It's not going to make us fat until we've had several more like it.
I couldn't argue with that. My body was right. A piece of cake was not going to make me fat. A hundred pieces of cake were not going to make me fat, not unless I ate them all at once.
Stop beating us up. My body protested. We are only human.
It was then that I saw them, stretching on behind me like a giant diet and fitness rubber band:
Diet and lose weight.
Make one false move like eating a piece of chocolate cake.
Beat myself up over the piece of chocolate cake.
Create a LOT of worry, anxiety, shame, guilt, fear, disappointment, helplessness, not to mention anger around the one, lousy, stinkin' piece of chocolate cake.
Sooth myself. With more cake.
And some ice cream.
And a soda.
Lament some more about the weight I've gained from the cake and ice cream and beer and soda and....
Eat some more.
Until I really have gained 130 pounds.
From very little more than what my body had so casually referred to as beating myself up.
In fact, if I thought about it I had just threatened my body with murder. Or maybe not murder, but I had just said I'd be better off without it. Same thing.
So I was beating myself up and my body too. I was punishing it. I was punishing myself with all the indulging, starving, splurging, over-exercising crap I was putting us through.
And all because it wanted an innocent piece of cake. Heck. I wanted a piece of cake. My poor body wasn't to blame.
And then it dawned on me: neither was I.
I had wanted cake.
I had eaten cake.
I did not do this all the time.
It was not the end of the universe.
I was not going to wake up tomorrow a size 24.
In fact I was going to wake up tomorrow and run 6 miles. Because that was on my plan. And that was what I'd been doing for weeks. Consistently. Without fail.
So I was not a flop.
Or a failure.
I was merely satisfied.
I went home.
I did not have any beer or pizza or ice cream. I just waited until I got hungry and had a reasonably sized, essentially healthy dinner.
And I did not wallow in shame or tremble with anxiety or dwell on my disappointment or feel helpless to change my behavior.
For once, instead of getting out my battle axe to beat myself up, I had dug something out of the far reaches of the dusty attic that is the "stuff I never use" section of my brain:
Common sense told me I was clearly not lacking in self control. I had just spent 18 months on a diet. That did not exactly scream reckless abandon.
I was not a glutton.
I was not weak. I had spent the better part of my life carrying 50 + pounds of extra weight around on my back. Nothing weak about that.
I was not going to gain back all the weight I'd lost because of a piece of chocolate cake.
I did not need an exorcist.
Or a lobotomy.
I had just needed a piece of chocolate cake.
And to go easy on myself.
And not have a piece of chocolate cake every day.
And everything was going to be OK.
And it was.
I am the same weight today as I was that day. Dozens of pieces of chocolate cake have crossed these lips since then.
And I have stopped getting into boxing matches with myself over them.
And my body is delighted to report I have decided to keep it.
Whole Health Renovation Specialist
"You will be quite amazed to see what you can do when you dont know you can't. You will be downright speechless at what you can do when you know you can." -Me