Philip Friedman/Studio D
Part of the reason that diets don't work is that when we are obsessively focused on how much we weigh, we are not focused on doing what we love or on loving what we love. We are thinking about what we will look like when we lose weight. We are spending our days counting calories or fat grams, as if we have forever to be alive, forever to turn to what we truly love.
When the late Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch's last lecture swept across the Internet, when he spoke about having pancreatic cancer and six months to live, he spoke as a man whose priorities were clear. He wanted to spend every second he could with his family; he wanted his kids to have a visible record of his love. "I am maintaining my clear-eyed sense of the inevitable," he said. "I'm living like I'm dying. But at the same time, I'm very much living like I'm still living."
Every one of us has a terminal illness: It's called life. Although we want to believe that death only happens to other people, it only takes a second or two to realize that the D word is going to happen to us, too. A car accident. A serious illness. An iffy mammogram. Suddenly, it's our life that is at stake. Our life whose stitches are numbered.
Ask yourself how you want to live.
Ask yourself what you would do with your time if you found out that your days were numbered. (Because they are. You just don't know what the number is.)
And, oh, ask yourself what you would eat.
While you might be tempted to say, "I'd eat pizza and cheesecake nonstop, because who cares about clogged arteries when time is limited," ask yourself if that's true. If life is so precious, why would you spend one minute of it making yourself sick?
When I was 19, my college roommate and I were traveling from Pisa to Rome in a rickety airplane. We were convinced that it was going to crash and in the last few minutes of the flight, I figured that as long as I was going to die, I might as well die eating chocolate. Despite the turbulence, I managed to polish off the entire five-pound box I'd bought for my mother. If I had died, I would have gone out burping and in a sugar coma. Not exactly a graceful exit.
Rather than focusing on dieting and depriving yourself, which we all know does not work, turn your attention to what you love. Because if you love your life, you want to take care of your body. Even if you knew you only had six months to live, you might eat differently, you might even begin exercising every day, but it wouldn't be because you were ashamed of your body. It wouldn't be because your thighs weren't thin enough or the stitches of your life weren't good enough. It would be because you didn't want to miss a minute of the time you had left.
Why wait? Why not cherish every crooked stitch of your life before another moment passes?
Geneen Roth is an international teacher, speaker, and writer of best-selling books on emotional eating. You can visit her at geneenroth.com.