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Monday, 04 January 2021 11:11

Defining the Main Meal

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In the next few blogs, I want to spend a little time exploring what the “Main Meal’ really is for each of us, what we do with our ideas about it, and how we live it out. Back in 1997 when I first had the thought, “If you think it’s about the food, you missed the main meal,” I had some specific thoughts around what that meant for me. In the course of writing the book, “The Main Meal: The New Perspective on Weight Loss,” and in the years since I founded the Main Meal Weight Management Support Group, those meanings have expanded quite a bit. The people who take part in support group meetings and who come to me for Mindful Weight Coaching, each have their own idea of what the Main Meal is for them. So, I thought it might be good to explore some of those meanings at the beginning of this year.

What I realized in the late 1990s was the fact that up to that point in my life, most of my thoughts, actions, worries, and fears were centered around my weight and around food. I had been dieting off and on since 1969, nearly 30 years! I felt like I was trapped in an endless cycle of what to eat, how much to eat, whether I was being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ based on what I was eating. My thoughts were full of disgust at the image I saw in the mirror, or joy mixed with fear, when I liked what I saw. I couldn’t remember a time when the primary focus of my thoughts and my life were truly centered around anything other than my diet and my body size.

Back then, the Main Meal, in its simplest form, was every other aspect of my life: friends, family, work, recreation, education, service. I wanted to have the luxury of enjoying my life, my whole life, without the overriding guilt, depression, and fear associated with how much I weighed. I wanted to have room in my thoughts for joy, for love, for laughter, and for peace.

Things didn’t change for me overnight. Little by little, I began to allow myself to enjoy dinner at home, lunch with friends, picnics with family. As I let go of my obsession with my weight, I began to have more interesting conversations, to deepen my relationships with friends, and to strengthen family ties. The more I let go of those food thoughts, the more I realized that none of my friends or family felt about me the way I felt about myself. They loved me. They accepted me. They only cared about my weight because I cared. Their only reason for caring about my struggle with weight was to help me stop feeling miserable!

That’s when the meaning of the Main Meal started expanding inward for me. If my family and friends could accept me at any size or weight, why couldn’t I do the same for myself? If there was room in my external world to enjoy life, to have fun, to be at peace in social settings, why couldn’t I make room in my thoughts, in my self-talk for acceptance, joy, and most of all peace? Turning my inner dialog around didn’t happen overnight, either. It took awareness and practice, a lot of practice. To this day, I hear myself calling myself an idiot and I have to practice turning that thought around to be more accepting of who I am, right now, just as I am. It’s still worth the effort, though, and it’s easier to do now that I’ve been practicing. I don’t believe those negative thoughts like I used to, either. As soon as I hear something like, “that wasn’t your brightest moment,” I immediately think, “that’s not true.” I recognize an old pattern is still in place, but I know a different truth about myself now.

And speaking of old patterns, as much as I believe, and preach, and teach, that there are no good foods and no bad foods, that weight loss is about so much more than food, when I think about losing weight, my first thoughts are about food preparation and what ‘good’ foods I’m going to buy from the store! These are lifelong habits of thought. They have been deeply ingrained in me across 30 years of following diet plans, listening to experts, watching TV and videos, and having conversations with nearly everyone I know. The Main Meal includes recognizing those habits and recognizing that this outlook of mine is very different from the ‘common wisdom’ of our world today. It includes being gentle with myself for not being perfect. If I’m going to create room for joy in my life, I have to create room for learning and growing. I have to accept that even if it’s my own idea, it’s going to take some time and some work to achieve the peace I’m seeking in my mind.

In the past week, I found another dimension to the Main Meal. All my life I’ve had a resistance to exercising. If I wasn’t playing a sport (and I haven’t played a sport in nearly 50 years now), I couldn’t see the point of exercising. To me it was wasting time, boring, it made me sweat, and usually it hurt. I can now see and understand the benefit of exercise and I have more of a desire to do it, but I have this lifelong habit of staying as far away from it as possible. My primary forms of exercise in the past 10 years have been walking and swimming. I love to swim and I don’t hurt afterward, but right now the pools are off limits during the pandemic. I don’t feel safe going to the pools that are open. So that leaves walking. I have associated walking with exercise for so long that I lost the joy in just going for a walk. The other day, I put my shoes on, picked up my walking stick, and went outside for the pure joy of being outside. I didn’t worry about how far I was going to walk. I didn’t think about whether I was overdoing it and potentially limiting my ability to walk the next day. I didn’t try to keep up a certain pace. I just walked because it felt good.

And isn’t that the essence of the Main Meal? Every activity, every thought, every conversation, every moment of our lives, we live consciously. We treasure the moment no matter what we’re doing. We fill our minds with loving, kind, accepting, and encouraging thoughts. We do things for the pure joy of doing them, rather than for the outcome we might get from doing them.

This is the Main Meal for me. This is how I make room in my life for joy, for love, for laughter, and for peace. You may have your own description for the Main Meal for your life. You may go about it in different ways from mine. It’s okay. We each have our own blinders where certain things are concerned. We each have those one or two things we can’t seem to quit worrying over. We each also have different ways to change the focus from worry to peace, from depression to joy, and from guilt to acceptance.

How would you describe your Main Meal? What steps do you take, baby steps or giant steps, to create that Main Meal for yourself? Coming up in the next few blogs, I’ll describe some ways of setting the table, designing the menu, and inviting the guests. You’re invited!

Read 514 times Last modified on Tuesday, 02 March 2021 16:16
Betty Brink

Betty Brink is an expert on the mental and emotional aspects of dieting and body image. She is the author of "The Main Meal: The New Perspective on Weight Loss." In seminars, speeches, and consultations, she demonstrates practical methods to quiet the diet chatter, and to empower yourself to make conscious choices in diet, in life, and in relationships.

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