Zen & The Art of Weight Loss

Yes, you are correct. Both the title and this post itself were inspired by that literary classic, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. This was required reading for everyone in my college dorm – everyone, that is, except me. For some reason, my philosophy syllabus included Kierkegaard, Goethe and Nietzsche. I missed out on the Zen. So a few weeks ago, I went looking for it. Much to my dismay, the bookstore didn’t have it. Of course, they were happy to order it for me – but that wouldn’t have satisfied my need for instant gratification. So I ended up picking up a little book of Zen lectures by Alan Watts instead. And based on Watts’ lectures, one could conclude that Happy Calories is the Zen of weight loss.

In his first lecture, Watts described the Tibetan Wheel of Life to explain the nature of Buddhahood. The Tibetan Wheel can be interpreted literally or metaphorically and is divided into six realms. What is interesting from a Westerner’s perspective is that these realms include gods. The gods – as well as humans, animals, and other groups of malevolent and suffering spirits – are at the mercy of the ever-turning Wheel of Life. Sometimes they’re up – and sometimes they’re down. The miracle of the Buddha is that he lives off the Wheel altogether! That is the gift of his awakening. He is no longer under the Wheel’s influence. He has achieved something that even the gods cannot achieve. Freedom.

This freedom is one of the hallmarks of the Happy Calories Happy Exercise® approach. Many weight and body conscious women feel enslaved. Not by a Tibetan Wheel, of course – but by a teeter-totter – or a caloric balance sheet. Their burden is the cultural, conventional “Diet and Exercise” model.

This model is the underlying basis for much of our pain and dysfunction around food and exercise. This model sets up calories as a currency of exchange and teaches us that we have to pay a price to eat. The price? Exercise – or weight gain. We end up tied to the “Diet and Exercise Teeter-Totter” where we fear that if we eat too much, our weight will rise – and where we work to earn our calories through exercise so the weight will stay down.

The gift of Happy Calories is that it releases us from this teeter-totter altogether. The methodology is based on an entirely different premise. And as a result, our pain and dysfunction around food and exercise are also healed. We are free.

Another similarity between Zen and Happy Calories is the fact that it is available to anyone. Anyone can become a Buddha. Buddhahood is not limited to the wealthy, the social elite, or to the monks in the mountains. Anyone can become enlightened. And – anyone can be free of diet and exercise drama. Anyone can learn to create a body and a life they love.

For another example, I’d like to reference one of my favorite Buddhist quotes: Before enlightenment, chop wood carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood carry water.

Becoming a Buddha – and living off the Wheel, or embracing Happy Calories – and living off the Diet and Exercise Teeter-Totter, does not mean that we disengage from the world. There are still practical things that need to be addressed. From a weight loss and wellness perspective, food and exercise choices still need to be made. This is the “chop wood carry water” bit. But these decisions and choices are now made through a different lens. They are made from an enlightened perspective. They are made with freedom. They are made with congruency of self.

Finally, because Zen Buddhism and the Happy Calories approach to weight loss both utilize “skillful means” to create peace, happiness and freedom – while continuing to engage with Life – they cannot be reduced to a simple science. They are truly are an art form. And with that, I’ll begin my journey with Zen and those motorcycles.