There is no secret that I could loose some weight. I’ll admit it. Getting back into my ideal measurements is as much of a challenge for me as for anyone despite the claims of the insatiable industry that has developed behind this apparently simple goal. From the classical low calorie diet to the latest fashion in Hollywood dieting‚ we are sold out of the box‚ unfailing solutions that will miraculously make us loose those unsolicited extra pounds. But they all fail in most people with‚ of course‚ some notable exceptions.
I always wandered why this is and couldn’t find a satisfying answer until a few days ago when I stumbled over a book written by a “diet survivor” that was able not only to shake off 267 pounds but he also managed to keep them off. I knew that any decent diet has its share of “tall” stories‚ but this one however was different. Dr. Nick Yphantides‚ a huge baseball fan‚ drove a Chevy van for eight months across the United States‚ visiting every Major League baseball park while living off protein shakes and diet drinks. That’s how he lost 267 pounds. Wow!
I would not personally recommend this exact solution as a template for dieting but there is a remarkable morale here that the author himself draws: “Dieting alone will never keep the weight off. It’s an entire mindset—a way of life—that must be put into practice permanently.”
This was my answer: you have to change more than the food to remain healthy for the rest of your life. This is not about what you eat but how you relate to food. Before his journey‚ for Nick food was a top priority but‚ during his ”pilgrimage” as he calls it‚ he concentrated more on his passion for baseball and food became something secondary. This is the key‚ to find that passion that will take you away from what drags you down and will allow you to develop into something else: slimmer‚ healthier‚ better. It is a change of mindset‚ it is a re-evaluation of priorities and in the end it is a re-birth.
We can also apply this to our life in Christ. The various spiritual exercises recommended by our Holy Tradition like fasting‚ prayers‚ attending long services‚ prostrations‚ all night vigils and so on are perceived by some today like a hard and unnecessary diet. Many would rather enjoy the easy to grab junk culture served in a shiny package by the secular world.
This phenomenon is what happens in failed dieting. We give too much attention to the sweet things that will make us heavy and will deem us more material than spiritual because it is hard‚ if not impossible‚ to give up things that you like for things that you don’t.
The only solution is to completely change our lives‚ to shake it from the ground and rebuild a new system of values. We have to develop a taste for our spiritual life so that the means to achieve it‚ the spiritual “askesis”‚ will cease to be considered harsh and unnecessary but on the contrary‚ helpful and enjoyable. An elder said once that a true spiritual man not only follows the commandments but is even willing to try any good advice that could bring him closer to God. If one can reach such a stage then the long services will not be boring anymore‚ but they will be opportunities to enjoy the presence of God‚ the long prayers will not be a burden but an extraordinary chance to develop a relationship with God‚ fasting will cease to be diet but a liberation from the material that opens countless spiritual gateways.
We have to give our lives such a purpose that will deem all the trivial things that were important for us today secondary in our new life tomorrow. This is what the repenting thief on the cross has done‚ and St. Mary Magdalene‚ and the Holy Apostle Peter after he denied Christ three times. This is what God wants from all of us “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways‚ and live?” (Eze 18:2’)
This turning around of our priorities‚ this re-evaluation of our entire worldview needs to happen in order for someone to be changed. This is what the church calls repentance. But repentance should not be considered a unique moment of conscience‚ but a life long process. A singular thought of remorse will not be enough; it has to be followed by a consistent effort of moving away from sin and stepping into virtue. One has to loose the world in order to gain his soul.
This is not easy to achieve. As in the case of dieting‚ living a life centered on Christ May seem hard and demanding to the casual observer that only likes the idea but contend himself with a bystander role. But for those that have chosen to be engaged in the process of their salvation‚ for those that have abandoned the world‚ as they knew it and stepped into the kingdom it is freedom‚ joy and life everlasting.