Healthy Living: A Meditation on Self-Control


Ian Tramm, 131 YinD

So. Food. It’s the best. Obviously. Everyone loves a good meal. You know what’s not nearly as good as food though? Discipline. Self-control. Saying no to dessert. Much less immediately enjoyable. Whoever said “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” is a fucking liar. 

Right. So, let’s posit that sentiment as the thesis of your undergrad years and sprinkle in a lack of sleep, a lack of exercise, one or two too many beers, and some late-night munchies. Before you can say dude you’re looking a bit, uh, tired you find yourself, someone who once identified as an athlete, now well beyond your healthy weight range and being told in no uncertain terms that if you wanna be medically cleared for Peace Corps service then you’re gonna need to go on a pretty drastic no cholesterol diet. Not a particularly pleasant place to be. 

So now let’s jump ahead about a year and a half: you’re in arguably the best shape you’ve ever been in, you’re running and lifting regularly, your diet is substantially healthier, you feel better physically than you have in years, and you’ve lost just shy of 75 pounds. Awesome. But how did you get here? Did you buckle down and make some tough choices? Cut out things that you loved in service of a healthier lifestyle? Put in time and hard work and now you’re seeing the results of those active, conscious decisions? Well, kind of. 

You definitely wish you could say that you did all those things purely as a result of your own willing volition, and maybe now today that’s closer to the truth, but you know in the beginning that really wasn’t what happened. The reality is that a lifestyle change was mandated by the job you chose, so at the very least the initial steps towards the positive/healthy choices you’ve now begun to make can only truly be half-credited to you. Admittedly you did understand the requirements of the job when you chose it, but it’s easier to go out and ride 30 km on a bike every day because you have to get to work rather than just doing it for the sake of doing it. It’s also easier to reduce the amount you eat or choose the healthier option when your diet is largely being dictated to you by a host family of healthcare professionals.  

All that being said, you can still take credit for the extra things. You don’t have to bike into town every weekend just for the sake of biking, and you don’t have to go for a run every day after work. You don’t have to work out in the the fitness room at your office three days a week, and you certainly don’t have to limit the times of day in which you allow yourself to eat. But you do. And that’s the key to all of this, Peace Corps’ favorite word: sustainability. Ultimately what concerns you the most is that when you move on to whatever comes next after this grand adventure and you don’t have to do all these things anymore, you won’t. That when all the easy, convenient things become easy and convenient again, you’ll fall back onto that path of least resistance at the end of which surely waits that unmotivated, unkempt, unhealthy person that once was with a 12 pack and a pizza. 

So so so. What’s the point in reflecting on all of this? Well in your mind at least, it’s gotta be in recognizing that now’s the time to choose to do those extra things, those things that you don’t have to. You’ve no doubt made progress in the year you’ve served thus far, and now’s not the time to coast back into neutral. It’s time to go that extra kilometer even when it’s hard, even when you’re sore, and especially when you’re hungry. Now’s the time to fall in love with doing the hard things so that later, when you don’t have to do any of it, you’ll still want to do all of it.

Read more of   Ian’s previous articles and contributions.        

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