If you ask most people what a good diet it is, they will usually respond by saying (in so many words) a good diet is one where all the “fun” foods have been removed. You are just eating for health and not for joy. The problem with this is most people are joy-driven. In other words, all things being equal most people will gravitate to the choice that will bring them the most pleasure. This is one of the things that cause most diets to fail, we just don’t enjoy “diet food”.
The real problem for us is that sugar activates the reward center of the brain so every time we eat a little sugar-filled treat, we get a little hit of dopamine. Some people can get that little rush of joy from, say, a cookie and really savor it and move on. However, people like me (and I would guess that most people who have struggled with their weight fall in this category) just can’t stop at one cookie. If we eat one snack, we will tell you to leave the whole package or risk getting hurt. Even now, 4 years in to this journey and 200 lbs down, I still can’t enjoy sugar in small amounts. When left to my own devices, if I eat one, I will be compelled to eat all. It’s like a little sugar totally destroys all willpower.
In thinking about what I can do mentally to overcome this daunting obstacle, I was reminded of a quote from one of my favorite authors, C. S. Lewis.
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
― C.S. Lewis,
I still remember reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe to my kids many years ago and while this particular quote didn’t come from that book, it has always stuck with me. The idea here is we keep trading the infinite joy that God offers for the small pleasures of this world. That God does not ask us to forsake joy for the bland life of service to Him, but bids us to drink from the deep well of His Joy that will never run dry or fail to satisfy.
This idea came to mind recently when I was at work and someone brought in a dozen donuts. Not only were they donuts but 3 of them were the kind I really like. There is a white cream that is basically a thick whipped cream that some donuts are filled with that I find irresistible and here were 3 sitting on the table for the taking. I knew that there was no possible way I could eat one, that if I gave in a little, I was going to eat those 3 and probably a few more until I got sick. That is unfortunately just how I’m wired.
So I left the room and got a little space between me and the temptation and began to think about what was going to happen next. Part of me wanted to throw all the donuts in the trash and the other part of me knew that if I did that, one was going to end up in my mouth on the way to the trashcan. That was when the C. S. Lewis quote popped in my head and I realized the true choice that was in front of me. I could be “too easily pleased” by the momentary pleasure of a donut that would make me feel good for a minute and terrible for hours, or I could hold out for the greater joy of a body free from the diseases of obesity.
This idea, that by overcoming a momentary temptation to reach a greater joy, helped me see this situation in a new light. No longer was I trading happiness for the bland monotony of a sugar-less world but trading a lesser joy for a greater. I was willingly giving up something I didn’t really want for something I desperately craved, a body without the extra weight, a normal blood pressure, knees that didn’t ache, enough energy to throw my grandkids in the air, and the ability to grow old with my wife.
In a sense, I became a hedonist, a Keto Hedonist. I am forsaking the tiny pleasures and small hits of dopamine that come with the foods I used to eat in very large amounts for the long-term joy and sustaining power of serotonin that comes from making decisions that will bring me the most joy for the longest period of time available to me, the rest of my life. Now these decisions don’t feel like sacrifices but the obvious consequence of a man driven by pursuing the greater joy.
Can you do this? Can you seek the long-term joy over the momentary happiness? Can you join me as a Keto Hedonist? Tell me your story in the comments below!