Today is the last part in my “Lesson’s Learned” through my month experimenting in Vegetarianism. A shorter post today, but I want to share this last aspect that was surprising.
First, some history.
Trying to lose 30 pounds this year is not the first time that I have tried to lose weight. One time, back in (about) 2005, I did the “Atkins” thing. It was the flavor of the month, and even then, I was desperate for some “easy fix”, some simple way to let weight just fall off. Well, it worked. During that stint, I probably lost 10 pounds (which I gained back later on). That however, is not the point. For anyone that knows anything, this diet is all about the elimination (at least in the beginning) of carbohydrates in an effort to entice your body to burn fat reserves for energy. What did that mean for me?
I wanted potatoes.
I didn’t really care what kind. Baked. Mashed. Fried. Whatever.
There was nothing I wanted more.
My body was used to consuming mass volumes of carbs. I wanted carbs. My body had become used to obtaining them. I wanted them.
I craved them.
Fast forward to the month of September, 2011. Thomas goes meatless. In the beginning, things were the same. I wanted meat. I wanted it bad. The only things that really could sate that hunger were the protein staples I had come to depend on: yogurts, eggs, cheeses, and other dairies (with some legumes). Then the end of the month came. What came with it? Well, oddly enough, not a craving for meat. Did I eat some? Sure. Could I have survived without it? I think so.
Now that this month is over, what can I say that my eating habits are like? Well, I am eating less meat. Meat isn’t nearly as appetizing for me as it once was. A week and a half past the end of September, and I haven’t even had a steak (to put that last one into perspective … I had almost 20 oz. of ribeye steak at my “Farewell to Meat Extravaganza”. To usher in meat again? Not so much.) It goes back to my watching of Forks Over Knives, helping me to realize that animal protein isn’t the end all and be all of effective eating strategies.
Here is my point:
Our bodies, our minds, and our spirits adapt to what we do to them. This, in part is a good thing. This is what helps casual runners to become marathoners. It’s what helps good high school students become MD’s. It’s what helps those that change their eating and activity habits to lose weight and increase their overall health. When we put pressure on our body systems, they are forced to change to accommodate the stresses. They get used to the way things are, they learn to want more of those things.
We learn to crave in relationships. It’s what makes me stay up too late and fall asleep with the television on when Summer (My wife) is away – even for a day. Think of those relationships that you know of, have heard about … or maybe ones in your own past (or present). What happens when you invest in that person, get to know them, learn how they tick, what they love and what they hate? You often can’t get enough of them. You crave them. You have trouble getting along without them.
This truth can also be a bad thing. Addiction to drugs, alcohol, or nicotine are examples of biological cravings. In that same thread, when we have habits that lend themselves to sloth and laziness, we let that be our natural state of being. (Even heard or read of those people that seem to get a “high” from being busy or accomplishing tasks/projects? – these are the people that crave those things.) When we are sad all the time, we think that is the natural way of things.
So, in part, cravings are natural. But in my limited experience (and to be honest, an interesting topic for future literary review / scientific study) we can create our own cravings based on what we do to ourselves. We build capacities and potentiality … but we also erect fences, and set boundaries. The danger is in thinking we have nothing to do with this, that these capacities and boundaries are a simple product of our biology and heredity, instead of a manifestation of our choices and our habits.
Do that which will make you better, and more whole. Do that, even when it feels uncomfortable … and soon, you will begin to crave it.