Confession time: I was a big fan of the series of sci-fi, metaphysical/CGI acrobatics that was “The Matrix.” Much like many people, the first movie in the series blew me away.
(If you haven’t seen “The Matrix” by now, why??? But just in case, here’s a spoiler alert for you.) The scene in the movie that stuck with me the most was the part at the end where Neo has realized his power as The One. The Agents have shot at him and, in what seems to be an involuntary manner almost, he is able to stop time and contemplate the onslaught of bullets quizzically, even picking one up out of the stream of the approaching attack to examine it. Finding it not really a threat, he flicks it to the ground. In an instant, the remaining bullets in the blizzard of approaching death fall in unison, no longer a big deal at all. Looking toward those who launched the attack, he sees nothing but lights and ones and zeroes–the mysterious, skeletal framework of the Matrix that has enslaved the rest of the world. Knowing how “the world” really works, he realizes he is invincible and presses forward in a show of strength that the Agents cannot stifle.
I have been searching for a similar Matrix moment when it comes to my diet, and I feel like I am on the verge right now. Yes, I have maintained my weight loss of more than 40 lbs., but the pull and slack of pants in my current 12/14 size range is at the mercy of my emotions–stress eating, celebratory eating, social eating–you name it. I have not fully separated eating from my emotions.
But I am starting to. I am still following the Weight Watchers diet, but I have decided to also focus on the psychology behind my eating. In addition to examining myself, I observe how others interact with food, and I grill my husband about his modus operandi when it comes to food. (He is a perfect subject for study because, lucky him, he has been thin for most of his life, except for a brief chubby phase as a child.)
I have scoured the Amazon Kindle store to load my BlackBerry with books on emotional eating. I read the autobiography of a woman who lost more than 170 pounds and shares the shadow journey of self she had to embark on in tandem with her weight loss journey. (More on that insightful book in a future blog post.)
I am starting to see the artificial edges of my personal Matrix, when it comes to why I eat (and overeat). I have stopped a few bullets lately, in the form of eating a light dinner when lunch was big or late afternoon was surpassed with the help of chocolately snack foods.
Another bullet-stopping moment last night was when I ate a “sensible splurge” for dinner after an emotionally trying coda was unexpectedly tagged on to an extremely long day. Eating at Qdoba, I had a combo meal featuring a bowl of Mexican gumbo with a small side of nachos with queso sauce. I felt good about eating something fast food-y in a controlled manner because I knew I had eaten within reason for the rest of the day. Last year, not only would I have ordered something bigger and more damaging, but I probably would’ve went off the diet rails for several days or a week, as I tried to soothe myself. (As for my emotions in the situation–I discussed the situation with my husband, rather than stewing in it alone. I did roll it around in my head tonight, but I found myself more able to let it go than in the past.)
I started writing this particular post in August. At that time, I didn’t feel so sure I had found the key to keeping my eating in check. But through understanding the associations I have made with food; understanding when I’m in the throes of an emotionally-tinged situation; and last, but absolutely not least, obtaining a sense of strength and awareness of all the factors leading me to overeat through examining them in my prayer life has armed me with a Neo-style sixth sense for obvious attacks that used to blindside and derail me for extended periods of time.
Will I handle every situation perfectly? Probably not. But I have more confirmation that weight loss is a mind game. It is a mind game in the beginning, the middle, and the end of the journey to thinness. You have to want to start dieting, then you have to find ways to keep yourself dieting. You have to learn that you have the power, like Neo, to make the unending stream of emotional seductions fall to the wayside, registering in your consciousness as merely novelty, and not allow their flirtatious call to penetrate you and riddle your dieting resolve with holes. I truly believe it is possible to see through the Matrix of our emotional enslavement, whether it is enslavement to food or other addictions/crutches.
I hope to continue watching my weight number roll back like prices in those old Walmart ads. And like Neo, I hope to send you a letter from the other side in the near future.