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Editor’s note: This is Article 14 in the Meridian series, “The Half-Diet” wherein Richard Eyre lays out the basics of the most simple and logical method of losing weight and keeping it off. New installments in the series run every Wednesday. Most of the concepts are taken from Richard’s latest book THE HALF DIET DIET. Meridian readers who comment on all articles in this series will be put into a drawing for free copies of the book when the series concludes. Readers may still comment on articles 1 through 13.
As mentioned last week, the Half Diet Diet has a mental and a spiritual component as well as a physical one. It is not only a diet for losing physical weight, but one for losing the bad mental and spiritual habits we have as well. Today’s column applies the same diet principles covered during the past 13 articles with regard to the physical diet to a similar form of mental discipline.
As you read today, compare the “physical diet” articles you have already read with this “mental adaptation” and note that they take the same sequence and apply the same principles. If you wish, go back periodically as you read, to the corresponding the earlier articles and you will see that the physical appetite and diet become metaphors to better understand the mental-diet article today and the concluding spiritual-diet next week.
But as you transfer your thought to mental and spiritual discipline, KEEP WORKING ON AND BEING COMMITTED TO THE PHYSICAL DIET!
Work on it and try to get better and better at it because it is not only to help you lose weight and become physically stronger. It will also be the key by which you understand the deeper elements of fulfilling the measure of your creation by mastering and controlling the instincts and inclinations of your body, mind, and spirit (your whole soul!).
I was climbing in the desert of Southern Utah when I wrote today’s article, and I found myself at the mouth of a mysterious cave on the face of a red cliff. The cave was beautiful, with three huge white calla lilies blooming at its mouth and a high chimney at the back that revealed the bright blue sky through the opening far above. A cooing dove lived somewhere up in that rock chimney (you should have heard the echo of her call), and flew straight down to check on me every once in a while and then flew straight back up again to her nest. I found the place so appealing that I sat, cross-legged and guru-like on a rock shelf at the opening of the cave and began to write. I must have looked the part, because a few minutes later a couple of other hikers even stopped to ask me the meaning of life—and I referred them to this book.
The desert is a lot like the Half Diet. It is sparse. It is spare. It is beautiful, but not in an overly abundant or gluttonous way. At the time of year I was there, it was in bloom, with yellow flowers on the cacti, and small, isolated blooms here and there in the sand. Because they are few and far between, you notice each blossom, each cactus, each individual flower separately, appreciating its unique, singular beauty, much like you enjoy food when you eat it one small, slow bite at a time. There is no junk here in the desert, no excess of vegetation, no stuff competing with other stuff.
What power there is in simplification, in getting rid of excess, in focusing on one fine and worthwhile thing at a time! What a good mental diet it is to consume about half–to avoid all the excess that life puts in front of you, to keep your focus on the relatively few things that really matter, and to try to get rid of all the stuff that doesn’t.
Shut off your devices periodically. In fact, shut them off often. In fact, don’t even turn them on until you are ready to work, or to answer texts or emails or social media. Put yourself in charge of when you turn on, link in, and go on line, and don’t do it any oftener than you really choose to. Remember how easily technology and social media can fit the definition of appetite—first it appeals, then it begins to control us, then it becomes an obsession, and finally an addiction. Stop it while it is still in stage one!
And if you are already in stage two, three, or four, back it out, because there is no better way to simplify!
The demands of children can also be simplified! A woman I know was going nuts with the busyness and stress of her life. Her three boys had endless lessons or games or practices after school, sometimes two or three a night. She finally sat them down and said “Boys, this is just too much. We never eat together, we have no time to just relax and talk; something has to go. I have decided we will not do soccer next year.” Instead of the cries of disappointment she had expected, the oldest boy smiled sheepishly and said “Good, Mommy, because we really don’t like soccer.”
How many things in life are we doing just because everyone else is, or because we think we should, or because we want to keep up with the Joneses? Why do we let our lives become so overwhelming and so busy that we drive ourselves crazy doing things that may not really matter? As e.e.cummings said, “More, more, more, what are we trying to become, morticians?”
The mental Half Diet is about simplifying and cutting out the excess busyness of our lives. It is about losing the “weight” of stress and fatigue.
A good way to start is by writing a personal mission statement that defines what is really important to you, then cut out of your life the things that have nothing to do with your mission.
Another good way is to make a list of stewardship priorities each day:
- One special, need-based thing you will do for someone in your family
- One thing you will do for someone at work or for a friend or acquaintance
- One meaningful, need-based thing you will do for yourself
These are the things that matter, and this is the mental diet that will help you lose the “pounds” of life’s trivia and busyness that you don’t want.
As you get more selective with your small screens, watch fewer big screens as well. Pick one or two TV shows that you really love, and limit yourself to them. Use that excess TV time for a walk or to read a book or have a good conversation with someone you love.
Allow yourself a little solitude each day. Take a longer shower if that is the only place you are alone with your thoughts. Or go out in the garden and get your hands in the dirt. Or sit in a favorite chair and watch the sky.
Like the food Half Diet, the mental Half Diet is not about trying to “eat” or juggle more things, but about being more selective and enjoying and taking time for the things that are truly good and that really matter. It’s about grabbing hold of your life and making thoughtful decisions about what you do, and about not just “eating” whatever is placed in front of you.
The Addictions of Personal Technology
Play a guessing game with me. What am I thinking of that tastes good; that is “more-ish”; that is comfortable to do, especially when other things aren’t going so well; that can be good and hearty, but is often damaging and unhealthy; that can be used as a pleasurable and sustaining asset but that can also take over your life?
It could be food, right? That is the obvious answer, since the food appetite is the “type” for all other appetites. It could be a lot of things that appeal to our appetites. One thing it could be, and that it is for a lot of us: Technology! The personal and potentially addictive technologies of Internet, ipod, e mail, video games, smart phones, digital cameras, downloads, voice mail, and all kinds of social media are equally habit forming.
Think about the people you know (are any of them you?) who can’t sit through lunch without checking their texts or e mail a couple of times, or their voice mail, or their facebook page, who only take their headphones off when they have to, who spend more time in virtual reality than in real reality, who sit down at the Internet and don’t get up for hours, who talk on the cell phone while driving, shopping, eating, walking, working, who spend more time entering their to-do list than working on it, who feel anxiety attacks when they are out of wireless range or, heaven forbid, cell phone coverage.
For many, it is hard to imagine what they did with their time 15 or 20 years ago before personal electronic devices existed. More than half of their time is spent on them now, so what did they do with that half of their time back then? Maybe they read books, or did sports, or walked, or went out in nature, or attended the theater, or visited, in person, with other human beings. Imagine that!
The questions we should ask ourselves are so similar to the questions an overeating person has to ask himself. What could you do if you weren’t eating (Googling or game playing) all the time? What would you feel like if you were not carrying all that extra weight (extra useless information)? What is all that food (data) doing to you, to your outlook, your brain, your body? Why is the bad food (bad sites, games, etc) the most addictive of all?
The cures would be similar too: Take smaller portions, eat only at certain times of the day, turn off the technology and ignore it at other times, maybe cut your time-use of it in half, and see if your brain starts wanting better stuff from technology when you only consume half as much. See if you start wanting more quality as you restrict your quantity.
Is technology bad? Do our personal electronic devices have to take over our lives? Of course not–just as food is not bad, and eating does not have to take over our lives. But as with any appetite, there can be a dangerous, even insidious progression from appetite to obsession to addiction.
It is so important to think of technology as a tool, as the means to other desired ends, and not as an end in itself. Just as with food, if we limit our intake by confining our use to certain restricted times of the day it will become necessary to use that limited time more effectively. We will go only to the sites that really help us, make only the calls we need to make, and listen only to the music that really uplifts.
A good way to check yourself (and to check your appetite for technology) is to simply ask yourself, fairly often the old question of Chapter 3, “Who’s winning?” “Who is in charge here–me or the technology?” If your cell phone is always on and you feel you have to answer it, or at least see who it is, or check the message or your social media immediately, then your cell phone is winning. If you can’t walk past your computer without checking e mail or looking at a couple of your favorite sites, then your computer is in charge. If those white ipod earphone lines are always connected to your ears, you are obsessed. If you spend more time on video games than on exercising, or on personal planning, or on reading scriptures or attending church, you might be more addicted than you think.
Learn to USE the marvels of technology to help you reach conscious goals. Think of electronic devices as TOOLS that can help you to be what you want to be and accomplish what you want to do. But be in charge. Think it through. Use technology according to your rules and priorities, and don’t let it pull you into someone else’s idea of what is interesting or important.
Tune in next week for our concluding article in this series which will focus on applying the “half” principles and habits to our spiritual discipline.
And if you want to go beyond these articles and get the full detail of the half diet, just get the book at by clicking here.
Also, if you have commented on all of the articles, you will go into a drawing for free copies of the book. You can comment retroactively on any of the articles by clicking here.