Little by little my weight has been increasing so that I have gained back almost 6 kilos of the 14 I lost three years ago. The problem is not so much the weight, as the where. My face, for example, has not gained back anything, which is unfortunate as it fell in unattractive folds with the previous weight loss. On the other hand, the ‘tires’ I’ve developed around the middle have increased and keep increasing, it seems, by the minute. Every time I have gone on a trip, I naturally put on weight (around the middle) because I go with the thought that I am travelling so I get to eat special things and more than usual; every time I try to take that weight off after the trip, I lose most of it from my face (which results in the characteristic ‘turkey-neck’ my grandmother so bitterly complained about). It has been a losing uphill (up-weight) battle the whole way, so on Wednesday of this week I made a decision.
Considering that what is difficult for me is to eat little which would ensure a smaller stomach and, therefore, a loss of weight, I asked myself if it would be possible to eat nothing. I remembered reading in Byron Katie’s book that she had gone 28 days without food so I found it worth a try. Of course, this is fasting and I have done it before but never accompanied by The Work.
On Wednesday morning I had no breakfast (which I falsely believed wouldn’t be very hard because my breakfast usually consists of an apple –one that gets bigger every day-, about 10 or 12 almonds and a heaping teaspoonful of goji berries); I drank a cup of green tea and lots of water. It wasn’t long before I began to feel what I normally would have called ‘hunger’ in my abdomen. I concentrated on the sensation and asked: “This is hunger, is it true?” I waited not losing touch with the sensation. The answer was I could not know it was hunger if I did not call it “hunger”. In other words, it only seemed like hunger because in that instant I believed the thought that hunger is a real thing and that that sensation pertained to a state of hunger. My answer had to be “no”; I could not know that that specific sensation was “hunger”. So I went to question 3.
How do I react when I believe the thought that this feeling is hunger? Again, I closed my eyes. Immediately my mind began parading in front of me juicy red apples, round full almonds, a plate of granola topped with milk and bananas; the food, its shapes, its smells, its colors, even its flavors (sweet, salty, bitter) paraded across my mind. My salivary glands began to react (just like Pavlov’s dog when he heard the bell); I even believed that I could taste each dish thanks only to a movie in my head. I understood in that moment that, if I weren’t doing The Work, I would run to the kitchen for something to eat to satisfy what I by then called this “gnawing hunger” in my stomach. Then I moved to question 4.
Who would I be, right in this moment, without the thought that this feeling is hunger? Again I closed my eyes and concentrated on the sensation in my stomach. I saw it for what it was: a very slight sensation of… I could have called it anything: hunger, satiety, nervousness, pressure, a little tightness… any name would have done. The sensation wasn’t even unpleasant and if I turned my attention to something else (the gorgeous, sunny day outside my window, for example) it completely disappeared from my conscious registry. Did it even exist if I were not concentrating on it which means ‘believing’ it? The answer was “no” again. So to answer the question: I would be someone ready to get to work on my computer.
The turnarounds were easy: “This is not hunger.” More true; it doesn’t have a name it is a sensation in the body, not even a very strong one. If I didn’t know the word ‘hunger’ I wouldn’t have the vaguest idea what the sensation was, if I even felt it. “My thinking is hunger.” More true: it is my thoughts that are producing and needing food, not my body.
I continued working with my thoughts all during that first day and sipping water whenever I got the sensation in my gut that I had called hunger, noticing that sips of plain water seemed to be more than enough for my body. When the thought arose “I want to eat something”, I questioned it and was surprised by my reaction to the turnaround: “I don’t want to eat something”. Apart from the fact that I found it ever so more true, when I realized how true it was, a feeling of elation filled my body. I was so happy (and that would be just another name for a different physical sensation, but this one causes no side effects, like having to eat something, for example).
Then there is always the problem of what to do with all the time I usually dedicate to food: thinking about what I am going to eat, going to the store to buy something for a last minute whim, preparing and then actually consuming the meal requires an enormous amount of time that I had not been conscious of until I stopped doing it. I decided to keep myself busy so as not to be continually returning to the sensation in my stomach. I set about writing a couple of things –some only ideas, others completed- for my new blog in Spanish. Then I wrote some letters I owed, then I cleaned out my e-mail, then I played solitaire, then I took my dog for a long walk (Salomé kept nudging me with her nose, to tell me that it was time to go for lunch because she always gets tidbits; she still was believing the thought “I’m hungry” even though she had just finished her meal). When I came back I wrote some more; then I watched a film and discovered at the end that I had already watched it. It was a good movie so I didn’t mind the time spent, plus I seemed to have a surplus of it to use at my pleasure since I wasn’t spending so much of it putting things in my mouth.
In the evening, I prepared myself a very light supper: a small piece of chicken and some veggies and half an apple for desert. I ate it very slowly, enjoying each mouthful and was surprised to find, when I finished, that it had actually been enough. That night I slept beautifully, but that is nothing new: I usually sleep well.
The following day, Thursday, I did exactly the same and began noticing how much more I was getting done, how my concentration had improved (I wasn’t jumping up every few minutes for a snack) and even my energy level seemed to have risen. I didn’t feel at all weak or woozy or even hungry (as far as I could tell) and every time the sensation in my stomach came about, I would dedicate a few moments of concentration seeing if it was hunger. It never was. What did become obvious were the many times my mind would come up with, say, “almonds” or “apple” or “cheese and crackers” and expect me to interrupt my work and run to the kitchen. Each time I would simply notice the thought, ask if it was true that I wanted that in that moment and find that it was not. This allowed me to continue with my work and to feel very satisfied at the end of the day. Again, I ate a light supper.
Then last night I had a dream. It should have been a dream of loss and frustration, even anguish. My car slipped into the ocean and disappeared; my ex-husband told me I had never been the wife he had wanted and disappeared (just when I needed him to help recover my car) and the officer who I finally found to ask for aid, said it was not a good time for him to do anything. Surprisingly enough, the dream-me took everything in her stride without feeling loss or frustration or anguish. Strange as the dream was, what I found strangest was that I didn’t awake having to pull myself out of a series of tormented emotions. It would seem that even my dream-character had smoothed out with the practice of not eating.
Today I have eased up on the fasting and eaten a small apple and 7 almonds for breakfast and then not eaten again until 3:30 when I had a glass of ‘gazpacho’ -a cold Andalusian tomato soup- and again a light supper. I notice once more how full and absolutely satisfied I feel with supper, and how my mind keeps suggesting something more: a cracker, some cheese, an apple, some almonds… It never stops: image after image enters and leaves my mind and my salivary glands salivate, as I notice happily the feeling of fullness in my stomach… and yes, “fullness” it is just a thought too, but a thought that gives nothing but pleasure and doesn’t require me to do anything else but enjoy it.
And, by the way, my ‘tires’ are still here (of course) but this now has become something other than a way to lose weight; it has become an exercise in consciousness: much more fun!