Sustainable Weight Loss

It seems like every time I turn around I bump into a conversation about “sustainability.” Perhaps it’s just the time of year – our little neighborhood is planning its annual Earth Day Celebration. Or perhaps I’m resonating with the same issues currently facing those advocating renewable energy: in creating new, sustainable models – for business, for the environment, for weight-loss – we have to contend with the resistance of the current establishment.

Take energy, for instance. I’m sure that most everyone would agree that harnessing solar or wind power is a great idea. But it’s not quite that easy to implement. Not only does it take time and money to develop these new technologies, a good portion of our current economic infrastructure is built around gas and oil. The work it will take to switch models is considerable, but the obstacle of powerful money heavily invested in the current system is even bigger.

The weight conscious face a similar challenge. Everyone wants a sustainable approach (what good is losing weight, if you’re just going to regain it again?) But anytime the topic of weight is addressed, most people automatically think “diet and exercise.” And there is a lot of money invested in keeping that mindset in place.

Weight-loss is a 70 billion dollar industry loaded with products, programs and advertising. And the messages behind every weight-loss related advertising message are the same: “Your body’s shape and size is determined by what you eat and what you do for exercise. Getting in shape or losing weight is a lot of hard, painful work. But purchase our product or service and we’ll make that hard work easier.”

As wonderful as sustainability is, creating it requires change. And change can be painful. Whenever I find myself experiencing growing pains, this passage from Mary Wayfarer by Mary E. Mebane comes to mind. Her words bring me comfort, and so I offer them to you.

To wrench anything out of its accustomed course takes energy, effort, and pain. It does great violence to the existing pattern. Many people want change, both in the external world and in their own internal world, but they are unwilling to undergo the severe pain that must precede it. Rivers in extremely cold climates freeze over in winter. In the spring, when they thaw, the sound of ice cracking is an incredibly violent sound. The more extensive and severe the freeze, the more thunderous the thaw. Yet, at the end of the cracking, breaking, violent period, the river is open, life-giving, life-carrying. No one says, “Let’s not suffer the thaw; let’s keep the freeze; everything is quiet now.”