Posted by: cmittermeier | April 27, 2016

The Dark Nights of Weight Loss: plateaus

There are plateaus, and then their are plateaus. For many of us, a plateau means it’s time to up our game: add some exercise, tweak the food, revise the when of eating, or the how of preparation.  But, there are also the times when deep down you know it is none of those things, where it is simply something you must muster through.  Keep doing the hard work, but get no benefit from it.  The later is what I wish to write on in this post.  All quotes are taken from  and discerning unless otherwise specified.

Spiritually, we call it desolation when you in the dark, or in Ignatius’ words:

Spiritual desolation, in contrast, is an experience of the soul in heavy darkness or turmoil. We are assaulted by all sorts of doubts, bombarded by temptations, and mired in self-preoccupations. We are excessively restless and anxious and feel cut off from others. Such feelings, in Ignatius’s words, “move one toward lack of faith and leave one without hope and without love.” 

Sound familiar to the weight loss journey?  Thinking you’re never going to reach the goal? Tempted to just give it up? Everything else is getting in the way?  You just can’t focus, and your support network seems missing in action?  I love it when life gives you a free theology lesson.  So, if weight loss is a lesson in theology, can it go the other way and tell us why we get stuck in it?  Of course! referring back to St. Ignatius, there are several reasons God would allow this.  

The ninth: There are three principal reasons why we find ourselves desolate.

The first is, because of our being tepid, lazy or negligent in our spiritual exercises; and so through our faults, spiritual consolation withdraws from us. The second, to try us and see how much we are and how much we let ourselves out in His service and praise without such great pay of consolation and great graces. The third, to give us true acquaintance and knowledge, that we may interiorly feel that it is not ours to get or keep great devotion, intense love, tears, or any other spiritual consolation, but that all is the gift and grace of God our Lord, and that we may not build a nest in a thing not ours, raising our intellect into some pride or vainglory, attributing to us devotion or the other things of the spiritual consolation.

The first is what most people post on plateaus – what still needs to be tweaked.  I want to talk about the other two, because there are times when it isn’t a matter of tweaking the program but staying firm to the course and understand there may be a “why” often makes the road easier. 

The second is a bit of a test and training all in one: how firm will you remain without all the rewards.  If we are every to maintain a healthy weight, boy do we need to be able to do this.  The scale will not “go down” at that point, the neighbours won’t see any “changes” to comment on.  What a dead zone… If you’re going to stay the course then, it can’t be because of the reward.  I am not surprised in the least that my loving God is going to give me practice before I reach that place.

The third is all about humility.  If you are reading this blog, chances are you have already recognized in yourself a need, a hole that can only be filled by God himself. My bookshelf has many sucess stories of weight loss credited to God; people who handed over their problem, listened for the solution, and actually did what he told them.  They are everyday saints, people who exemplify walking in the will of God.  Their humility is inspiring! I am not yet one of them, every so often I do get too big for my britches and I need these moments to see that I am not the author of the universe. Yup, being faced with the reality that there will always be some other facet to digestion and health that cannot be mastered by me alone… Majorly humbling.  And I am thankful for those reminders of just how Great our God is.  It’s the difference between a picture of the Grand Canyon and actually being there.  Quite simply, when one has seen how vast the unknown is within our own bodies, we really get just how different we really are from God. The intellect to design such a system! Unfathomable.

Most of us, somewhere along the weight loss journey will travel through a plateau.  Obviously this post isn’t about how to escape one, but about looking at it differently.  I hope it gets you looking deeper at God, at your relationship with him, and what He is trying to tell you through the plateau.  Faith and everyday life, it’s not meant to be separated. 

I want to leave off with one other note about desolation, because I know how scary it can be.  You are not alone in it (again, another one of Ignatius’ rules from the first week – boldness mine).

The seventh: Let him who is in desolation consider how the Lord has left him in trial in his natural powers, in order to resist the different agitations and temptations of the enemy; since he can with the Divine help, which always remains to him, though he does not clearly perceive it: because the Lord has taken from him his great fervor, great love and intense grace, leaving him, however, grace enough for eternal salvation.

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