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We can only be half-content?

October 16, 2009

When I was in the church, I didn’t have problems with those “visible” sins. No Word of Wisdom violations for me. No Law of Chastity violations either (and no desire to get any). If we are talking in terms of the Seven Deadly Sins, I was doing very well against most of them: lust, wrath, gluttony, especially. Perhaps pride or sloth were my downfalls? But definitely, I saw that the visible sins of my peers were not my own.

I say this to note that I cannot speak ultimately about the topic if weight management. I am very fortunate to have a natural twig form, naturally low appetite for food (although some people say I should get this checked out), things others would die to have. (And I see a trend…Word of Wisdom and Law of Chastity violations are usually for excesses…but I don’t because I don’t suffer from excesses in these or other areas, I “seem” virtuous…even though if virtue is a mean, then I am still viceful because I am deficient.)

Regardless of lack of qualifications, today, I’d like to talk about this blog post I read, “Hungry.” I heard about it based on a blog post from SimplySarah, but I had a bit of a different reaction.

In blog post, Sarah (not Simplysarah, the Sarah from this other blog…) writes at how as a result of getting an email from her father, she decided to go on a diet and exercise plan to show that  she “wanted to marry enough to become very trim.”

Now, there are all kinds of things I could go on about now. The father is positioning his “advice” in terms of personal revelation from prayer that he’s considered for a while…so this isn’t just the father speaking…this is the heavens. What a guilt trip!

But that’s not the angle I’m approaching.

Neither is the fact that, for whatever reason, Sarah didn’t keep up with her exercise plan. Because I could perhaps talk about how, theoretically, she need not starve herself if she would exercise. But I’m not going to focus on this because I am not qualified to speak about her situation or whatever issues are at play.

But really, what I lament is the fact that Sarah feels hungry…and she feels she needs to be hungry to reach her goals.

You might say—as have others I’ve talked to—that this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. That we can eat to be full if we eat the right things. We can feel satisfied AND reach our weight loss goals. And maybe you are right. But that has not been my experience. When I try to eat to be full, everything gets out of whack. I am constantly chasing a moving target. I am using a guide to my eating—a sense of satisfaction—that has, clearly, spent years becoming misguided/misguiding.

Perhaps I just don’t know. Maybe her “guide” has become “misguided and misguiding,” so she simply must ignore it…but I’ve been reading the comments on her site…all of which seem to think her father’s advice was marvelous and commendable…and I get to one that bothers me

I’ve come to believe that the most we can hope for is to be slightly more than half content with our lives, at any given moment. This isn’t nearly as pessimistic as it sounds. Here’s what I mean:

We can[‘t] have ALL of what we want, ALL of the time. At least I can’t. Some desires/needs/things-for-which-to-yearn, regardless of their inherent value, are by their very nature exclusive of one another.

Indulging in your favorite eats and losing weight. Reading a magnificent book into the wee hours of the morning and feeling sufficiently rested the next day. Learning Klingon and having a girlfriend. These are the sorts of things I’m talking about.

Now, I understand the basic gist of this message (even if I disagree with some of his applications). I understand that we can’t be happy-go-lucky. There’s something to that “opposition in all things” concept, even if it should be retooled slightly. And if we want something in the short run that truly is dangerous for us in the long run, but we also want what’s best for us in the long-run, then we *cannot* reconcile these two. We can’t have them both at the same time.

So indeed, we have to learn what is truly good for us in the long-run, and then seek for that.

But will this lead to us being “half-content,” always miserable that we had to sacrifice one for the other?

As I have said, food hasn’t been my problem. So I didn’t see the ramifications of “half-contentedness” until I divorced the arguments from temporal matters.

What is this argument actually saying that I’ve heard before?

If we want joy and exaltation in the eternities, then we may not be able to have joy in mortality.

That’s what I realized. A life in the church was a life of accepting spiritual hunger…of accepting that my internal guide had simply “spent years becoming misguided/misguiding.” But shouldn’t I have been contented by the prospect of the long-term gain? Shouldn’t Sarah be content of the prospect of attracting her dream man if she reaches her weight goals?

Several commenters, however, astutely noted: it’s not as if this is guarantee of marriagiability and marriage, or that staying the same is a guarantee of spinsterdom. In fact, it could be that “what’s for ya won’t go by ya.” What if we’ve spent all these years hungry and it was all for naught? And let’s say we meet God. Might he ask us, “Why didn’t you sustain yourself?”

I don’t know. Perhaps this post misses the point and is inadequate. Perhaps I should be congratulating Sarah for starving herself and (more importantly) for doubting herself, because she really has her eye on the true prize of faith.


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  1. na'me phromimos permalink

    There’s a big divide between physical hunger and physical fitness versus spiritual hunger and spiritual fitness that is not easy to compare.

    What is the spiritual analogy to the physical condition of obesity? In mormon language, we tend to speak of being “spiritually starved” versus “spiritually fed.” Haven’t heard the term “spiritually obese” and I’m not quite sure how I’d interpret it if I did.

    The adverse health effects of obesity have been clinically proven. Exercise alone is not always sufficient to shed excess pounds. This has been clinically proven as well. If someone is truly moving from a high daily calorie intake to a recommended daily calorie intake, they are bound to feel hungry while their body adjusts. Particularly if the ‘bad’ eating habits have been indulged since childhood. (Not speaking of Sarah, just in general).

    In terms of joy in the eternities vs. joy in this life here, I think living a healthy lifestyle is absolutely fundamental to joy in this life. There is a mindset in the Church (and within other religions as well) that likes to emphasize that beauty is only skin deep. The outside world (aka hollywood) does focus too much on the opposite message. I think a pragmatic approach to healthy living is just the thing. Especially (as the atheist would say) if we’ve only got one life to live. Especially (as the mormon would say) if we are stewards over our bodies, which were a gift from God.

    To your point about only living life half-content: I agree with your rejection of that idea. I think it is possible to achieve a balance of body, mind, and soul that would lead to a life of simple joy, rather than a life of roller-coaster-style ups and downs.

  2. na’me:

    That’s interesting, because I had read an article a few days about how hunger and thirst for righteousness *might* lead to spiritual gluttony:

    quite simply, you shouldn’t be starving yourself. A diet — spiritual or physical — is not about starving yourself. Rather, it’s about addressing exercise needs on top of caloric intake.

    Everyone has been focusing on overweightness and obesity…and to be sure, these have dangers, but the true dangers are inactivity. An overweight person who is active *is* healthier than the inactive underweight person.

    The problem I’m addressing is that Sarah in this article seems to address only the food part. She said she *started* with an exercise plan, but she didn’t stick to it. So now she thinks she must be truly hungry to reach her goals. That is not the case. Maybe if she discovers that there is no way to reliably expend the calories she is intaking and so she needs to reduce calorie intake, that would be something else…but first, she has to commit to exercise first.

    And exercise isn’t a miserable thing. whereas hunger is

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