David comments on “Vegetables are Literally a Scam:”
“This post is particularly relevant to me, as I am about to embark, once again, on a road to eating healthier. I’ve been both ways – vegetarian to carnivore. I know the risks and benefits to both, but my failure lies with weakness when it comes to food. I’ve been on and off the wagon (whatever it was) so many times, and I’ve even destroyed old wagons and rebuilt from scratch and this is where I am now.”
A few years ago, I ran a small chat group called “Get Fit Fast!” in which I encouraged all the participants to follow some simple low-carb diet recommendations for a year.
Only one person stuck with it for the entire year. Everyone else flaked out over the course of a few weeks or months, at the most.
The woman who stuck with it lost 90lbs and looked better than she had in high school!
I’ve met morbidly obese or even just moderately fat individuals and wished I could help them, but I’ve realized that the answer has to come from inside of that person, not from the outside. All the good advice and encouragement in the world cannot overcome a lack of self-control.
People hate self-control. We live in a culture that is a slave to the senses, from smart phones to TikTok, junk food to lust-inducing billboards, alcohol, cannabis, sugar… we are inundated with temptations and invitations to indulge the flesh.
Yet we can use our wills to deny the cravings of the flesh.
Giving in repeatedly to the flesh weakens our wills. Denying the flesh strengthens the will.
As an example, getting up at a specific time or deliberate fasting both deny the flesh and bring it into subjection.
Hardening your will and saying “no, I will not do ______”, and then maintaining that resolve makes you stronger for future battles.
If you say “no” to a piece of cake because you have pledged yourself to a fitness goal, it works the muscles of the will and makes you a little bit stronger and less likely to say “yes” to something that might be more destructive than cake.
We can make choices – we are not just animals completely led by our senses.
As St. Thomas Aquinas wrote:
In two ways the irascible and concupiscible powers obey the higher part, in which are the intellect or reason, and the will; first, as to reason, secondly as to the will. They obey the reason in their own acts, because in other animals the sensitive appetite is naturally moved by the estimative power; for instance, a sheep, esteeming the wolf as an enemy, is afraid. In man the estimative power, as we have said above, is replaced by the cogitative power, which is called by some ‘the particular reason,’ because it compares individual intentions. Wherefore in man the sensitive appetite is naturally moved by this particular reason. But this same particular reason is naturally guided and moved according to the universal reason: wherefore in syllogistic matters particular conclusions are drawn from universal propositions. Therefore it is clear that the universal reason directs the sensitive appetite, which is divided into concupiscible and irascible; and this appetite obeys it. But because to draw particular conclusions from universal principles is not the work of the intellect, as such, but of the reason: hence it is that the irascible and concupiscible are said to obey the reason rather than to obey the intellect. Anyone can experience this in himself: for by applying certain universal considerations, anger or fear or the like may be modified or excited.
To the will also is the sensitive appetite subject in execution, which is accomplished by the motive power. For in other animals movement follows at once the concupiscible and irascible appetites: for instance, the sheep, fearing the wolf, flees at once, because it has no superior counteracting appetite. On the contrary, man is not moved at once, according to the irascible and concupiscible appetites: but he awaits the command of the will, which is the superior appetite. For wherever there is order among a number of motive powers, the second only moves by virtue of the first: wherefore the lower appetite is not sufficient to cause movement, unless the higher appetite consents. And this is what the Philosopher says, that “the higher appetite moves the lower appetite, as the higher sphere moves the lower.” In this way, therefore, the irascible and concupiscible are subject to reason.
It doesn’t matter if it’s an inability to get to work on time, or drinking too much, or failing to write that book you keep planning to write, or binging on TV until the wee hours – it all stems from allowing the flesh to rule over the will, rather than vice-versa.
It is good to go without sometimes. It trains the flesh to behave.
David has correctly identified the problem with himself and most yo-yo dieters when he writes “my failure lies with weakness when it comes to food.”
Strength comes from denial of the flesh. Repeatedly. Painfully. We all struggle with it in different areas.
This is why Lent can be so powerful. It is a season of saying NO, and focusing ourselves on something higher. Christ allowed Himself to be brutally murdered when He could have simply called down legions of angels and stopped the torment. He had a higher goal than serving the flesh.
Compared to Christ’s Passion, our temptations are weak sauce.
We fail because we haven’t trained the muscles of the will. It takes lots of reps to change much, but each rep makes you slightly stronger.
On a practical level, I find it’s easier to go full carnivore or close to zero-carb than it is to try and balance calories and carbs. Just eat steak, fish, eggs, cheese, butter, and maybe some broccoli or other low-carb vegetables if you want them, along with other close-to-zero-carb foods and you don’t have to bother with portions.
Your body naturally drops weight when you do not trigger the insulin response which keeps you storing fat. This is why Atkins works so well – and it’s also how the one dedicated dieter in my group managed to lose 90lbs.
At this point I should probably say “I’m not a doctor and this isn’t health advice” or something like that. It’s just my two cents. (And the doctors are bought and paid for by Big Pharma.)
Learn to deny the flesh, and you can accomplish much more than you think. Your will is a powerful thing, if exercised.
Eating healthy is hard because it goes against what the flesh wants. The flesh wants to eat a half-gallon of ice cream while watching X-Files on the sofa. I used to watch movies and eat cheese dip and chips almost every night with a cocktail. After a while, it took its toll on me.
In my 30s, my will clawed its way to the top through discipline and I’m much healthier now. Say no to one thing and it will be easier to say “no” to the next thing.
Start exercising the power of “no.” And don’t visit places that tempt you, or keep things that tempt you, or hang out with people that encourage you into temptation. And don’t blame things on others. You still have a will. We’re great at lying to ourselves. Throw it all out and pledge yourself to being a better person.
Lent might be a good start.