Sunday, April 21, 2013

Obsession -- A Good Thing?


I’ve started counting calories. The last time I took this ugly route was somewhere in the 90s when you had to look up spaghetti and almonds in those little books by the cash register, a far cry from the nifty smartphone app I have now.

The venture is still too new to tell how it will turn out, but I will say that it’s got me thinking much harder and more often about what’s on my plate than I’ve ever cared to before. Calorie counting has never been a viable option for me for one main reason – I staunchly opposed being so fanatical about food that I’m analyzing every tablespoon of coffee creamer or ¼ slice of Muenster. It required too much energy, energy that would be better served elsewhere.

 So, I’ve opted for lifestyle choices. Stay away from white bread, sugar, potatoes, and rice. Limit fried foods and sweets. Don’t drink soda or juice.

Then one day, I asked myself a magical question: How’s that been working for you?

The glaring, unwelcome answer was of course – it hasn’t. At least not to the extent that I wanted it to.

I thought smugly about that thing I don’t do, calorie counting…so overbearing, so tiresome, so anxiety-ridden. But maybe the very thing I’d been running from, was what was missing all along – a healthy dose of obsession.

Perhaps I was being too casual about something I – this girl here – can’t be casual about.  

In school, give me a book to read, a paper to write, I’m good. But math? Community tutors, after school with the teacher, burn the midnight oil.

Similarly, I’m not naturally organized, nor do I possess a spry and vigorous memory. But for the work I do and the life I live, I have to maintain a decent level of organization. So, everything gets written down. Sometimes more than once. On paper, digitally, or oftentimes  – on my hand – or else, it’s in the wind. I know this. I own this.

These are just two areas in my life where I have long accepted that I have to overcompensate. I have to put more effort into these areas than the next person. It just is what it is.

It reminds me of a family that Oprah caught up with recently from a “fix my finances” episode of the Oprah Show a few years back. I actually remembered the episode: The wife had never used a shopping cart at the grocery store because there was never that much food bought at one time; the family (of four?)  ate out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They might’ve had like five cars and several thousands of dollars of credit card debt.

And where are they now? Well, some five years later, they’re doing great. When asked how they’ve maintained their healthy finances, the husband said his wife – the one who probably couldn’t locate the nearest grocery store a few years ago – was now monitoring all of their accounts, several times a day.

They had to keep their minds on their money and their money on their minds. Constantly. Obsessively. Does everyone have to go to that extent to achieve financial security? No. But everybody can’t take everything casually.

As much as it stinks, to achieve my goals physically, perhaps I can’t be all laissez faire with it. Perhaps my body type, my metabolism, my genes require a much more domineering approach. Good news is, I’m no longer running from the idea. And with time (and results!), maybe I’ll even learn to embrace it.

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