January 4, 2010
Last night was a mega-challenge for my new diet adventure, and a perfect test for my theory. Jill, my wife invited about 20 of my friends over to celebrate my 50th birthday. By January 2nd everyone is usually partied out and ready to move on with normal life – including the diets we’ve sworn to begin with the New Year – but last night blew all those intentions to kingdom come!
The challenge: I was encircled by a epic feast lovingly prepared by my incredibly gracious and talented wife. Four different cakes – one made by my friend Miles was a chocolate dandy doused in caramel and brandy and trough of whipped cream – a blazing broiled brie cheese, wonderful toasted breads, fruit, an avocado dip with fruit salsa, and pot of meatballs descended from the heavens… and far more! Self control got booted out the back door into Minnesota’s bitter -20 degree temperatures. As Jesus put it, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Indeed.
Some recent research explains why we often fail to stick with our diets in the presence of temptation. Will power, it turns out is biologically, un-unnervingly anemic. In one study, hungry people were put in a room with a plate of chocolate chip cookies and a plate of radishes. Half were told to eat only radishes. The others were allowed to eat either. Then all were given a series of problem solving responsibilities that required significant concentration. Those who could eat only radishes were significantly less effective on this test. Translation: the energy the disciplined group expended resisting exhausted them mentally and emotionally. Saying “no” is taxing. Several other studies have demonstrated the same phenomena. Will power requires a lot of energy and in the end there is always one more temptation than there is strength to resist it. When the cake is there in front of me, it’s next to impossible to say, “no” over the long haul.
So… What to do with the leftovers from last night? My “Eucharist Diet” strategy has to take this reality into account. According to the research, I need to either remove myself from the temptation and head to my office, or remove the temptations from me and dump the rest of Mile’s cake in the trash. The latter won’t happen: We don’t waste food around here. Perhaps I’ll just have to get out of the house a bit more this week.
But I can also do more than just say “no!” God knows I didn’t say much of that last night! Instead, I can say “yes” to another kind of food. I can “nibble” on the truths of God and tangibly focus on Jesus’ presence, on “eating” his life and letting him do the work I can’t. In the end really have no willpower aside from the “self control” God through his Spirit gives me, so any other diet device is bound to fail.
Thus, the premise of this diet adventure: I did not (last night) and will not (from here forward) worry so much about saying “no” to food. Instead I’m going to include Jesus in my meals, asking for his blessing, asking him to “fill me up” with his own goodness and I’ll do this by taking communion every day. I’m banking that if I eat the body and blood of Christ, HE will be enough for me.
That’s the theory at least… Tomorrow I’ll tell you how today fares… Right now, it’s time for breakfast… Oatmeal…