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Many of us choose this time of year to begin new diet and exercise regimes to lose weight, usually because during the holiday season we are either celebrating with family and friends to excess or we are in mourning because we have no one with whom to celebrate and “stuff” our deep grief with food. The abundance of successful diet programs advertised at this time of year prove that we’re fairly good at losing weight. The trouble comes with keeping excess weight off and developing and maintaining healthy food and exercises choices even when challenged by old habits of thought and action. I was reminded of the importance of what happens after we lose weight when I watched Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, 2, Joe Cross’s follow up film on the beneficial effects of “rebooting” our well being by juicing; in this film sequel, the warm and compassionate Joe Cross emphasizes the importance of community in maintaining healthy food and lifestyle choices. He also reintroduces the remarkable Phil Staples, not as the poster child for weight loss this time, but as the guy who falls off the wagon because of lack of community.
Every change we make requires conscious aftercare because habits are central to the human experience. Initial learning requires overt concentration, but once we’ve established our neural pathways and muscle memories through repetition, we’re good to go – for example, effortlessly driving without consciously overseeing every subtle movement involved in accelerating, steering, braking, and parking. Too frequently we take for granted the positive habits of mind and body we develop as youngsters; too seldom are we conscious of the negative habits of mind and body we learn as children that sabotage our well being.
I value Joe Cross’s wisdom and compassion when talking about how we become unhealthy and how we become healthy. He uses himself as an example, is entirely accepting of others, and so is able to build communities of support everywhere he goes. Jon Gabriel of The Gabriel Method does something similar, as do Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and other commercial diet programs. There is no lack of information about how to eat healthfully, how to build muscle with food and exercise, how to improve heart health, or how to lose weight. There is, however, a lack of information about personal aftercare when we are alone, without our communities, and food is within ready reach.
Aftercare is a useful term to describe specific things to do after a variety of experiences, from medical treatments, to accidents, to crime, to vigorous gym workouts. When we use the term aftercare in relation to weight loss experiences, it deepens our understanding of the significance of the weight-loss journey. Weight loss experts talk about kitchen stocking the best weight maintenance foods and embracing the best fitness regimes, and these reminders are very valuable. What few people speak of is the other kind of aftercare, the aftercare we use to address what goes on in our hearts and minds after we lose weight.
Adjusting to being a different person after weight loss – a fit person, a vibrant person, a present person, a resourceful person, a successful person – is the hardest challenge to overcome because it involves changing countless unconscious habits, not simply the habits of over eating, eating processed foods, and sitting on the couch. While our eating and moving habits are largely physical and intellectual, they are also emotional and spiritual because they reflect the degree of value we place on ourselves, others, and our planet. In Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, 2, Joe Cross talks about breaking his bond with Mother Nature for the twenty years he made himself sick by living on mostly processed foods. He also talks about only recently recognizing the roots of his food choices and over-eating habits in childhood bullying and loneliness experiences. He makes his discoveries after a period of soul searching and reflection, a process that takes him to a deeper understanding of who he is and why and how he became sick in the first place. In his personal process of reflection on the origin of his habits of thought and feeling, he discovered his current purpose: to help others use juicing – the Joe Cross “reboot” method – to rediscover the joys of being healthy.
Joe Cross’s discovery of personal purpose points to the heart of emotional and spiritual aftercare. Once we change, we each need a reason – a purpose – for maintaining this change. Joe Cross’s purpose is to inspire others to discover how they can lose weight and regain health by drinking the powerful micro-nutrients Nature provides in plants, especially green plants, and fruit. When he is tempted to visit what he calls “the fun part of town,” that place where pizza and burgers are found in great abundance, he remembers his purpose and limits these unhealthy food choices. And when he falls off the wagon and spends a little too much time with his previous comfort foods, he reboots with juice to reclaim his feelings of joyful well being. It is no exaggeration to say that Joe Cross maintains his health for himself and also for his viewers. A significant part of his spiritual aftercare involves remembering his connections to struggling people who want to find a lasting way to regain health.
Establishing optimal emotional and spiritual aftercare habits is an inside job, one everyone has to find in those moments when a plate of fries, a big soda, and a bag of cookies whisper or shout our name. To neutralize the whispers and shouts of my personal unhealthy habits, I count on regular meditation, energy tools including tapping, out-of-doors experiences, conscious food choices, exercise, and journal writing. All of these healthy habits remind me of my personal purpose – to be an inspirational writer, teacher, and life coach for as long as I live. I can’t help others learn to develop their creativity and resourcefulness if I’m not developing my own creativity and resourcefulness . . . , and . . . , I can’t help others work through traumatic events, past or present, if I traumatize myself by continually making poor life choices. My simple daily aftercare habits remind me that I am in the world with others, that there is beauty as well as horror in this world, and that I can make useful contributions to many communities if I live consciously – and creatively – each day. Some days, it’s true, it all seems too much, but, as Joe Cross reminds me, the possibility of the reboot – whatever form it might take – is always available.
The truth is, we matter to ourselves, to one another, and to our planet. If we keep this in mind, if the idea of our importance becomes a habit of thought we can eventually take for granted, then our lives will be a source of joy and insight that fuels positive, life affirming actions. We all belong here, and we all have purpose. Treating ourselves well is the very first step to finding what that purpose is. If you doubt this truism, Just spend some time with Joe Cross, and when you have become your own version of joy and compassion, share your vitality, inspiration, and compassion with others. After weight loss, set the task of discovering your ideal form of emotional and spiritual aftercare, because no matter who you are, after your return to health it is your purpose to make the world a better place by developing and sharing your unique combination of gifts with the world.
Until next week
Jane Buchan, MA, AAMET Advanced Practitioner, email@example.com, 802-533-9277