“To be honest with you, I still eat whatever I want. It’s all about portion control. I still love pizza, but instead of eating half, I eat a slice.” ~Bill Engvall
I am a believer in the same portion-control principle as Bill. I hate dieting! I can only maintain a “healthy” diet for so long and then my hankering for something juicy and fatty (like a cheeseburger and fries) begins to stalk me. My tastebuds awaken and my mind and body signal to me that it’s time to indulge in something delicious and satisfying. “Diet” food has never satisfied me over the long term; I just can’t take the drudgery, the lack of variety, and the lack of fat and flavor for more than a few weeks. It’s mental and physical torture to me.
To me, being on a diet feels like I’m enslaved to the food and to the terms of the diet. Whenever I eat “good” foods, I feel confident and happy, but when I eat “bad” foods, I feel bad about myself. Similar to the odds always being in favor of the house in a gambling casino, the diet always holds the better odds of success over me as the dieter. I am never able to fully remain inside the parameters of the diet at all times, and certainly not for the rest of my life. It’s an improbability if not an outright impossibility.
My penchant for flavorful and fattening food has it’s drawbacks, weight being the primary issue. I tried many different diets when I was younger – Weight Watchers, low fat, low carb, liquids, supplements and excessive exercise – as a way to shed my extra weight. Nothing worked for any significant length of time. The weight (if I lost any) came back, always.
I remained overweight until I stumbled onto a couple of different and life-changing programs. The first one was a food program that was based on portion control, the mind-body connection, and God. I met weekly with a few other ladies for a video and prayer. After the video, I spent the week in study of the Bible and in the provided workbook. I can’t emphasize enough how much this program changed my feelings and attitudes toward food!
The second piece of the puzzle was getting involved in martial arts. Through my practice, training and diligence to the requirements of the belt program, I was able to move beyond exercise as a form of weight loss to exercise that happens to accompany a challenging, athletic endeavor that pushed me in all facets of my life. During this time, Taekwondo became an obsession as much as pleasing God. The two programs together knit my mind, body and soul into a learning machine that was based solely on becoming a warrior for God.
The combined results were that I lost weight slowly and became more fit and toned up, almost as if my outside was an external representation of the changes happening inside. I have never been more focused or dedicated in my life.
Somehow, when I applied a passion for God with a passion for climbing through the martial arts ranks until I achieved the coveted title of “Black Belt,” big magic happened. I no longer struggled with my weight; instead my weight settled into a reasonable and healthy range where I felt good and looked good. My moods also leveled out and happiness, real happiness, arrived and decided to stay.
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t happy as a clam everyday, and I still had other problems going on during this timeframe. I was working a job that was mentally and physically exhausting, and I incurred a rotator cuff injury due to the physical labor. I also suffered from lack of sleep due to the long hours in the dojo and on the job. The point is that throughout all of the challenges, I still managed to grow as a person, lose the weight, become much more spiritually connected and attain a happiness in my spirit that was much deeper than anything else going on around me.
Even today, exercise is a huge part of my life and has been since I stepped tentatively inside the dojo for the first time, wearing my stark, white uniform with matching belt. Through the years the type of exercise that I do has varied but still includes holistic practices. Instead of martial arts and running, I now practice yoga and kettlebell. I also walk or hike as often as I can with the occasional bouts of running thrown into the mix.
The point is that my life is now built around physical activity; I exercise because I’ve found the type and quantity that I can embrace regularly. I also know that what I eat is entirely separate from my activity so I don’t have to worry about the “biggest calorie burn.” I can instead focus on strength and flexibility, which are my driving factors these days. I also know that anything I put in my mouth needs to be considered within the bounds of true hunger and fullness in order to maintain or lose weight.
Bill Engvall and I are not alone in this way of thinking. Summer Sanders, former US Olympian says, “Quite simply, my diet has and always will be everything in moderation. People look at Olympic athletes and think they must cut all those things everyone else indulges in, and speaking for myself, I never did.”
Of course, this way of life isn’t for everyone, but for me, it’s the only way that works.