I have begun this journey before. That may seem discouraging, and it may be reassuring. I believe in cycles. I look at Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year in the fall, as an opportunity to begin anew, and I have often felt that the principles underlying that new beginning are applicable to every day. No less so to the days of springtime that also signal new beginnings. The Passover holiday, coming midway between one Rosh Hashanah and the next, a retelling of the birth of our people, is the ideal time to set forth on a new venture, and even a restart.
Five years ago at this time of the year I entered a medically supervised weight loss program. I spoke about how I wanted it to be a spiritual journey as much as a physical one. I managed to lose a lot of pounds, reaching the milestone of a "normal" BMI for about 20 minutes (literally). I felt I had arrived at the Promised Land, but that was an illusion. (I've come to consider the whole notion of arrival as an illusion—an important lesson going forward.) Even though I was part of a program that spoke a great deal about maintenance, their approach to it did not connect with me in a way that worked. I have managed a semblance of spiritual growth in these years, but my slow steady weight gain suggests that has not carried over into the physical plane.
So, how to begin again? That's not really the first question. The first question is whether to begin again. The answer to that comes to me when I step on the scale or try to wear some of the "skinny clothes" that I bought four and a half years ago. (There are of course the obvious health concerns that are, arguably, more critical than a particular number goal or a fashion statement). While some might look at the evidence and throw their hands up in despair recognizing the possible futility of it all, my response is, “Yes! Let’s try something else. Let’s do something different and expect different results. Let’s keep searching for that illusive and sustaining link between spirit and body.”
When I took my physical/spiritual journey, and when it seemed that I had actually accomplished my goal, I started writing a physical/spiritual self-help book. At the time, the metaphor of the Exodus seemed apt. We are all slaves to something. We may hesitate to lead ourselves to freedom, as did Moses. But with determination and divine help we can cross that Red Sea and sing a song of salvation. We can even take further steps to arrive at a Sinai moment when the revelation of how we want to live on this planet comes to us — creating, perhaps, our own Ten Commandments; building our own sanctuary in which to feel the divine presence; feeding on God-given sustenance (manna), taking not too much nor too little. The metaphors are all there, so maybe I’ve just been going through “forty years” of wandering. Like the Hebrews of old, I seem drawn back to my former life as a slave rather than to the arduous but promising journey that may lie ahead. For the Hebrews, and for myself in this time, this may be due to having an unrealistic notion that freedom was a “one and done” experience, or that it would be without its hardships. Freedom is not easy! It's just different. It takes continued vigilance, and in some ways is more challenging than mindless servitude. In the Torah an entire generation had to die before the nation could experience genuine transformation from slavery to freedom.
What must die in me to give birth to such change?
One answer to that question is to reset my relationship with food and my body. That brings us back to the earlier question--how to begin again. One suggestion I received comes in the form of a popular program called The Whole30. Popular programs in themselves seem problematic. While I haven’t fallen for every fad diet that has come along over the years, I have done enough of them to know better—especially the ones that say “this is not a diet, but a change in lifestyle.” So why try another? Am I Charlie Brown hoping Lucie will not pull the football away yet again? Perhaps. But it seems worth examining this systematic approach to discovering the effects that specific foods have on my body and my feeling of wellbeing.
I continue to look for the spiritual connection. The one I have chosen is to count the 30 days of this plan while simultaneously, according to tradition, counting the Omer, the 49 days between Passover and Shavuot, starting tomorrow on the second night of Passover. I have never successfully counted every one of these days. Is there a reason to assume that I will be able to do it now? Just add that imponderable to the mix. Will connecting these spiritual and physical journeys create a synergy that sustains them in a way that neither alone might accomplish? We’ll see. Certainly, declaring this, as I am doing now, raises the stakes. That self-imposed pressure may or may not be helpful. What may indeed be helpful is if you support me perhaps with some encouragement and especially by refraining from putting off-plan temptations or other stumbling blocks before me.
After the 30 days of refraining from sugar, alcohol, grains, legumes, and dairy there are additional days in which to undergo a methodical process of reintroducing these foods to discover how my body reacts to them. Wouldn’t it be something if I concluded that process at the end of the 49 days, just as we arrive at Shavuot, and that and it results in my having a “Sinai moment” and a revelation of a new set of commandments by which I choose to live? That would really be something!