When people make dietary changes and see results, they are apt to continue with them. But when progress is not immediately apparent, the question arises “why bother”. The question is a fair one. There are 3 primary reasons why people make dietary changes. The first is for health reasons – we want to get rid of disease, feel better, and live longer. The second is for some tangible goal – weight loss, sports performance, etc. The third is for some idealogical consideration or practice – philosophical, ethical, religious, spiritual, political, etc. All of these are valid reasons for making dietary changes, and each carries with it a form of expectation.
Along the path of food, all of these reasons and expectations drive our choices and are therefore extremely useful and important. But the day comes when we need to shed them both, and this is a tricky subject. The expectations we load onto our choices often carry a great deal of fear and anxiety with them. We expect and feel we deserve a directed outcome, and we are not happy when we do not get it. In Zen, it is said that you sweep the floor to sweep the floor, not because it is dirty or to make it clean. This reflects perfect alignment and response to the moment and to what is needed. I am not sure we like this idea as humans, because it makes us feel out of control to believe that we should not be directing our own actions. This is particularly true in the West, where we have such a pervasive sense of self-loathing, and we spend such a great deal of energy trying to build ourselves up and take control of our lives. And yet, the burden of this belief is often unhappiness, because things rarely go how we believe they should. We therefore experience frustration, and eventually proclaim “why bother”.
Regarding food, the act of eating and receiving nourishment becomes loaded with every possible issue you can think of. Fear, anxiety, guilt, deprivation, worthlessness, compromise – all of these get dumped onto food. What if we just ate? A healthy relationship with food, and with oneself, implies the doing without all the angst over it. I am not advocating mindlessness and apathy regarding change. I am suggesting full attention and the action which arises spontaneously from it. This is infinitely more powerful than banging our heads against the wall and constantly worrying about it.
So why bother? It is possible to come to a place where you eat what you eat because it is what you eat. There isn’t any other choice, because it is genuine and arises from who you are. It may change as you change, and sometimes this may require some effort, but ultimately it is not goal driven. Only at this moment can food be fully enjoyed, just as only in the moment can life be truly experienced.