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I think of a man my friend Catherine knows who was just diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS). Soon, his hands and arms and legs will no longer work. But he keeps telling Catherine that the anticipation of the loss has heightened his awareness of all he has. He says, "If I didn't know I was losing my ability to move, I would never have found an appreciation of the simplest things." Every time he lifts one of his children, he is aware that his arms are still working, that he can smell their hair, kiss their cheeks. And when he makes sandwiches, he says, he is amazed at the wonder of each micro-movement: taking the lettuce out of the refrigerator, spreading the mayonnaise, slicing the chicken, cutting the bread. "I've made a million sandwiches in my life, but I don't think I noticed making any one of them."
Obviously, given the choice to have Lou Gehrig's disease or be healthy, he would still choose being well, but since he doesn't have that choice, he is finding the blessing forged by the pain. The truth is that we can never know the greatness that will come from any loss until the loss is upon us. It's the loss itself that brings the good things we have into sharp relief.
For those who are struggling with obesity, there seem to be no kindnesses or blessings in the midst of the battle. It's not because they aren't there; rather, it's because we don't look for them. We expect all good things to start when we finally lose all the weight we want.
Let me say this right now: There are blessings in the middle of your frustration over food and weight; there are victories that live at the center of every defeat. Look for them now. If you don't, losing weight will not make them any clearer to you.
One after another, my students have told me about the times in their lives they've lost weight, hoping that their new, thinner body would make everything they wanted possible. In fact, almost all of them wanted to lose weight because they were convinced it would change something fundamental in their lives: their feelings of self-regard, their willingness to be kind to themselves.
Then they discovered that when the weight changes, feelings don't.
Why it's important to count your blessings now