In preparation for our upcoming summer vacation, Tyler and I are no longer eating after dinner. Nights are sad now. No evening bowl of popcorn to look forward to. My hopes of indulging in a bowl of ice cream after putting the kids to bed have been dashed. No more rummaging through the pantry to savor some late-night chocolate chips. (It’s clear why I needed to stop eating after dinner, right?)
They say it takes 21 days to form a habit. I’ll let ya know.
Of course this “no eating after dinner” rule was conceived in the morning. Sunday morning, to be precise. On the way to church and still full from the night before, I recommitted myself to “getting serious” and making an effort to “eat better” before our trip. But I knew I needed a hard and fast rule, because I am weak– and everything just tastes so.much.better. after the kids go to sleep. I also knew that if I didn’t name it, say it out loud, and have Tyler to keep me accountable, I’d inevitably be in search of another bowl of popcorn after putting the kids to bed that very night.
So I said it.
No more eating after dinner. Deal? Deal.
Ask me how it’s going on any given day around noon, I’ll say it’s been great. But after putting the kids to bed, I’m still negotiating with myself about just how necessary this rule is.
This is so stupid. There’s nothing to do!!
I go to bed early, sad and defeated, dreaming of breakfast.
The truth is that there would be nothing wrong with having a healthy snack after putting the kids to bed. But if I were skipping downstairs every night for a few sticks of celery and a tablespoon of peanut butter, I wouldn’t have needed to implement this rule for myself in the first place.
Sometimes you just need those extreme guard rails to get yourself back on track. Right now, I need a bright neon sign for my kitchen that flashes “CLOSED” after a certain hour (not literally, but man, wouldn’t that be cool..)
I don’t think God cares how much I weigh, what I look like on the beach, or whether I indulge in the occasional late night dessert. And I don’t mean to over-spiritualize my summer diet/fitness plan, but it’s hard not to notice a few correlations between making healthy lifestyle changes and combatting spiritual sloth.
I remember the first time I was given the advice to look for little acts of mortification as a way to practice “saying no” to myself. Skip salt on your food. Pick your second-choice at meals. Little acts. Nothing as drastic as “Stop eating at 7pm!”, just little ways to practice denying myself insignificant physical pleasures, so that when BIG things that I actually needed to say no to would come along, it wouldn’t be such a foreign decision.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with adding a little seasoning to your food. And if you are offered your very favorite breakfast in the world, there’s no sin in choosing to eat it. It’s just that if all we ever do is indulge our desires, it becomes so.difficult. to do anything else. Before you know it, you’re eating chocolate chips in the pantry in the dark.
We all need a little practice saying no to ourselves from time to time.
Still, denying myself is not the goal. It’s a means. Right now I need those big neon signs in the kitchen that say “closed,” after I clear the dinner table. But not forever.
In a few weeks, we’ll go on vacation and I’ll hopefully feel healthier and happier than I would have if I didn’t set down some rules for healthy living. But eventually, I’m going to eat a bowl ice cream again after the kids go to bed. If one bowl turns into a nightly ritual of “What kind of junk am I going to eat tonight?” then I’ll need to reevaluate and maybe break out the metaphorical neon signs again.
So learn from the lesson that I keep having to re-learn myself! Practice self-control in your daily life. Offer up that last bite of food. Skip dessert. Resist turning the AC to full-blast as the temperature rises.
Get a little uncomfortable every now and again. It’s good for you!