I read the following story recently as part of an online course I’m taking through Insight Meditation Center.
A Cherokee Legend
A grandfather is talking to his young grandson about life. He tells the boy, “I have two wolves inside of me, struggling with each other. The first is the wolf of peace, love and kindness. The other wolf is fear, greed and hatred.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win, grandfather?”
The grandfather replied, “Whichever one I feed.”
If I look at these wolves through the lens of weight loss and weight maintenance, I see how I feed them both.
The first wolf is at peace with my body, and loves and is kind to my body. The second wolf fears weight gain and doesn’t trust that I know how to stay thin; it is jealous and compares my body with other people’s bodies, and hates its shortcomings – its skin and stretch marks and other vestiges of morbid obesity’s abuse.
In a recent talk on the Buddhist view of sense of self, IMC teacher Gil Fronsdal encouraged participants to spend some quiet time alone reflecting on what their deepest intention is. When I examined this question in terms of weight, I thought about those wolves living inside me, and I realized I’ve been guided through my weight journey by one deep intention. I just hadn’t appreciated it in those terms before.
Often we’re motivated to lose weight on the spur of the moment. We see a get-thin-quick diet in a magazine or just get fed up one morning when our jeans are zipping tight. Maybe the thought of losing weight buzzes in the back of your mind and you dabble for a day or two in reducing calories or you go for a few walks, but you haven’t given real thought as to why. In a week or even a few days, you’re back to the buzzing.
Been there, done that, and have the receipts for the dozens of sacks of fat and thin clothes donated to Goodwill.
I’ve lost weight hundreds of times in the past, always with the “intention” of being good enough for other people. Four years ago, when I started losing weight the final time, I’d spent the good part of the year before wondering whether to lose weight or accept myself the way I was. It was a series of sh*t or get off the pot conversations I had with myself. I’d reached a point where I couldn’t vacillate between the two sides anymore.
Ultimately I decided to lose weight, mostly because my health was sinking fast. I had near diabetic sugar levels and my blood work indicated I was a walking heart attack. I had to decide if I wanted to eat my way to an early death or live the healthiest life I could for as long as I could. That decision became my deepest intention.
Did I falter once in awhile? Yes. But ultimately, I always went back to the intention.
That intention continues to guide me in maintenance. Without it, I’d behave the same way I always did when I got to some weight goal: by not paying attention to my food intake and slacking off on exercise. After all, my “intention” was merely to be good enough in someone else’s eyes. Once that was accomplished, I could go back to “normal.”
With my deepest intention being to be the healthiest person I can be physically and emotionally, I’m better able to pay attention to what my body and mind need and to work with them as a unit and not separately.
When I forget my deepest intention, I feed the second wolf – the wolf of fear, greed and hate. When I am focused on my intention, I feed the first wolf – the wolf of peace, love and kindness.
Which wolf do you feed? Which wolf do you want to win? What’s your deepest intention? I’m not asking so that you’ll tell me. You owe me or anyone else none of your thoughts. But they are good questions to ponder before or during a weight-loss or maintenance journey. As Gil said in his talk, it can help clarify how you find your way.