Inching Toward Simplicity: Pragmatics and Prose

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cutting the Fat

Connecticut readers: On DECEMBER 1, at 7:30pm, SIMPLE LIVING AMERICA will host a special Q&A with the director of What Would Jesus Buy, Rob VanAlkemade, following a screening of his movie. As a contributing author of Get Satisfied, I will also be part of the Q & A.

Please come!

86 Temple St., New Haven
Call (203) 498-2500 for info.

Tomorrow is weigh-in day. Yes, I’m in the company of countless middle-agers who have joined Weight Watchers, and so far (it’s only been 2 weeks), so good.

It feels good to regain control, to stop and think about balance, and my attraction to this approach has got me thinking beyond my waistline. If only I could “track points” in every area, look thoughtfully at my consumption at the end of every day, and regroup. How great it would be to have this feeling of mastery over the money in my wallet, over my energy use, over the ebb and flow of my relationships. How useful it would be to have it all mapped out on a spreadsheet for my perusal, to be able to say “today I excelled”, or “this morning I overdid it.”

But the real world isn’t like that. And if I managed to design a “system” for everything, I’m sure it would become tedious very quickly. Getting back to the Weight Watchers model, you’ve got to leave room for a splurge, allow a reward for a week of wise eating. Feeling starved will only lead to a food fest. But after the splurge you might want to conserve a while, to avoid tipping the scale.

Splurge, to me, has a happy, bubbly sound, while binge takes on an ominous tone. I am thinking of these words, specifically, in relation to Christmas. It is so easy to leap from splurge (one delightfully indulgent item) to binge (can’t stop shopping even though I hate the mall) in a matter of minutes.

Does consumer binging arise from feeling starved? When we binge with our wallets, are we hungry for renewal, craving approval, starving for a deeper satisfaction? After the binge do we feel any better, or just drained? Best to back off the retail buffet if your consuming starts to make you feel consumed.

Extremism doesn’t work for most of us, not for diets, not for shopping, not for simplifying our lifestyle, and almost never in the long run. But an attitude of thoughtfulness can really effect some change. In my new weight loss effort, it occurred to me that I don’t need to eat right after awakening. I am a very early riser, and come to think of it not really hungry as I march first thing to the pantry. A simple rule of sticking to just coffee until at least 7 has defeated my Hobbit-like craving for “second breakfast” every morning.

In the Christmas shopping swirl that starts to deepen into a vortex, similarly small changes have kept things more sane this year. Mom is leading the charge to each buy 1 gift per person, and the in-laws suggested no gifts for the grownups (what a relief!). Tom and I are getting a coffeemaker and exchanging pajamas. Mom’s effort is founded on simplicity, the in-laws’ on their practicality, and Tom and I share the love for all things warm at the holiday. Simple, practical, and warm sounds quite inviting to me. And it feels like quite enough.

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At 11/29/2007 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back again. Great post. As a weight watcher myself I can relate to the accountability thing. If only it were so easy.
Splurge is a much more fun sounding word than binge. Binge sounds punishable while splurge sounds more like childlike fun.
Over the past several years we have moved more and more toward alternative gifts and tried to encourage our grown family members to follow suit. It's a win win proposition, as long as you don't really need some new socks or a coffeemaker. Actually, we do both. Our kids get lots of stuff they both need and want and we can never resist exchanging a few small gifts. But we're trying to move away from the material part of the holiday as best we can.

At 11/29/2007 1:50 PM, Blogger Katherine H said...

I really appreciate the comments, Sara. It's nice to hear I have company in my "inching".



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