A long while back, I made a post about akrasia: our tendency to do things we know are bad for us in spite of ourselves. Recently, I’ve been trying to make a fairly major dietary change in myself, based on a bunch of research and things I’ve observed to be healthier for my overall state than the Standard American Diet.
Unfortunately, though, giving up a lot of the junk – and in particular, ditching grains and sugar – tends to have a mixed effect in the first few weeks I try it. For the first week I tend to feel pretty great – energized, satiated, filled with foods that are nourishing to me. Around the end of the first week, though, I tend to get tired, even a bit depressed: sleeping too long, not feeling motivated, and at times, having brain-fog.
For these reasons, I’ve never made it past the 2-week mark on any kind of lower-carb diet. According to a lot of people who try them, though, the first two weeks are the hardest, as your body adjusts; after that, chronic pains and symptoms start to disappear, body composition changes, energy levels rise, and so on and so forth.
I’m looking forward to that bit, but it’s awfully hard to get past the initial messages of the body in the moment – especially for someone who has studied and believes in the power of the body’s truth! How can I listen to my body saying, “Gee, I’d be a lot happier if you gave me a cookie right now,” and ignore it? Or more generally: where is the line between listening to your body with the knowledge that it always tells the truth, and getting stuck in bad habits because you can’t get past the body’s usual patterns?
Depression and anxiety can both have these problems, where we get caught in loops of what we think we want versus what would be best for us. “I just want to sleep,” our depressed brain might say to us, when getting up and moving around would do us the most good. “Eat that cookie,” says some part of me, and another part – ostensibly my brain – says, “No, have this apple instead.” What do we do when our bodies – which we’ve established can only tell the truth in the present moment – are telling us to do things that don’t benefit us?
This is part of the trick of getting to know ourselves in all of our parts, as a prayer I’m fond of goes. While getting to know our bodies and listen to their messages is essential to optimum health, it’s important not to mistake “always telling the truth” for “being an unerring guide for action.” It takes our thinking, reasoning minds and our wise, compassionate spirits to translate the bare truths of our bodies into appropriate actions.
I believe that the more we listen to our bodies’ truths, the more often our thoughts, emotions and bodies come into alignment, or congruence, with one another. At times like this, though, there are old patterns to get past: things my body has been doing for so long that they seem like the only right way. If we carefully listen, and carefully honor ourselves, making life changes does get easier. But it’s never a piece of cake. Or an apple, for that matter.
2 thoughts on “Moving from habit to choice, part 2: true is not the same as right”
There’s room for negotiation between the cookie and the apple (and those two parts), though, right? What if you asked the cookie monster why it wanted the cookie, and it said that it needed more fuel? And you could keep conversing about what it would like the texture and saltiness and sugarness and other features of the fuel to be, and see if you could come to a compromise in the land of quinoa or sweet potato or almond-flour cracker or whatever happens to work with your diet change?
Oh, absolutely! A huge part of my work is listening to the voice, and then rather than shutting it down as we generally do, entering into compassionate conversation with it, which is exactly what you’re talking about, here. Talking about this in dietary terms is a useful metaphor, as it’s something that a lot of people struggle with daily, but this is a technique you can apply to all sorts of things in life.