Heavy Weight of Dieting

By Paulo Coelho
For The Bali Times

One of Brazil’s great philosophers, Tim Maia, once said: “I decided to go on a strict diet. I cut out alcohol, all fats and sugar. In two weeks I lost 14 days.”

For 28 years I have been living with a marvelous woman who now and again loses her temper and her usual good humor because she feels that she has put on a couple of kilos. I wonder if maybe we are exaggerating a little. One thing is obesity; another is trying to stop the time and normal evolution of our organism.

The worst of it all is that at each and every moment there appears a new way to lose weight: eating calories, then not eating calories, compulsively consuming fats, then avoiding fats at any price. We step inside a pharmacy and are visually assaulted by all sorts of miraculous products that promise to do away with our desire to eat, with our fat tissue, with our belly, and so on.

We have survived all these millennia because we could eat. And nowadays this seems to have turned into a curse. Why is that? What makes us try at the age of 40 to keep the same body we had when we were young? Will it ever be at all possible to stop this dimension of time?

Of course not. And so why do we need to be slim?

We don’t. We buy books, go to the gym, devote a great deal of our concentration trying to stop time, when we ought to be celebrating the miracle of living in this world. Instead of wondering how to live better, we are obsessed with how much we weigh.

Let’s forget all that. You can read all the books you want, do all the exercise you want, suffer all the punishment you decide to inflict on yourself and you will have only two choices – you either stop living, or else you will get fat.

It is obvious that you have to eat moderately, but above all you have to take pleasure in eating. Jesus Christ said that: “evil is not what goes into man’s mouth, but rather what comes out of it.”

The other day I was in a Lebanese restaurant with an Irish friend, and we were talking about salads. With all due respect to vegetarians and the fundamentalists of food, for me, salad is just something to decorate a dish. We cannot live without it, but on the other hand we cannot consider it as the center of our gastronomic attention. Every day the newspapers publish stories of young people looking for fame on the catwalk who end up dying because of this obsession with weight.

Remember that for thousands of years we fought to avoid being hungry. Who invented this story that we have to spend our whole life being slim?

Let me give you the answer: the vampires of the soul, who think that it is possible to stop the wheel of time. It is not possible. Use the energy and the effort of a diet to feed yourself with the bread of the spirit, and go on enjoying (moderately, let me repeat) the pleasures of good eating. Last year I wrote a series of columns on the capital sins, and greed was one of them. But what exactly is greed? An obsession.

The same goes for diets. And this is where the two extremes meet and become harmful to our health. While millions of people the world over are hungry, we see people provoking this other obsession because at some moment or other somebody decides that being slim is the only option for regaining youth and beauty.

Instead of artificially burning those calories, we should try to turn them into the energy we need to fight for our dreams; no-one has ever stayed slim for long just by following a diet.

© Translated by James Mulholland


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