In August, I went on a 30 day "Paleo" challenge in order for me to trim down, lose weight, and help my physical performance at the gym. Eating "Paleo" is basically eating the way our caveman ancestors ate before the agricultural age. I cut out all grains and bread, dairy and legumes. Basically, I ate "lean meat, vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch, no sugars and kept intake to levels that support exercise but not body fat." I did pretty well. I ate Paleo 90% of the time and 93% of my meals were healthy with only 5% of them being "cheat meals." I lost 10.5 pounds, 2.1% body fat and improved my performance a little.
One thing that struck me while going through this 30 day challenge was how "dieting" and avoiding sin have a lot in common.
1) Sin and junk food is attractive. By junk food--I'm referring not just to sweets, cakes and fast food. I'm referring to all of the foods I cut out--breads, dairies and legumes as well as sugars. When you are so used to eating those foods, your body craves them and the mind has to be stronger just as the soul has to be stronger than the body to avoid sin. Your body will try to convince you that having those cheese sticks or those donuts won't hurt you that much just like it will tell the soul that sinful things such as gossip or skipping mass aren't so bad. It takes a strong will to over come that thought and push it aside.
2) In order to succeed, you have to avoid temptation--You have to avoid those places where you may fail on your meal plan in order to succeed. For instance--I can't expect to eat clean and to go an Italian or Mexican restaurant. There is just no way I am going to avoid breads or dairy there. Sonic or Steak n Shake?? Forget about it! In the same way, we may need to avoid going to the bars with the boys or staying away from those people who like to gossip and tear other people down. All of those places may be fun but they don't help you succeed.
3) We have to prepare---The only way I could have succeeded with Paleo is by preparing. Several days a week, I'd prepare meals and put them in Tupperware to tide me over for a few days. That way, when I left for work, it only took me a few minutes to prepare my lunch. Likewise, in the spiritual life--we have to prepare and be on the defense so we don't sin. We do this through prayer--by cultivating a relationship with God and by frequenting the sacraments such as the Eucharist and confession.
4) It's never too late to start over--There are times we will fail. There are times we may succumb to that Cold Stone Creamery and be a total glutton (which is a sin in itself) But just because we've failed once doesn't mean we have to continue to fail. Eating clean is just a meal away just as being sin free is as easy as going to the confessional.
5) Both are life changing events--Earlier, I called eating Paleo as a diet. It's not. It is a life style change. Sure, I did a 30 day challenge to see if I could do it---but to continue to enjoy those successes, I have to continue and make it a part of my life. Like wise---avoiding sin is a life style. It's something we have to do daily because being in a state of mortal sin is just a sin away.
One difference between nutrition and sin is that with nutrition an occasional "cheat meal" is okay. In many circles, it is even encouraged When it comes to sin, "cheating" is never acceptable. When you sin, you are causing a break in your relationship with God and that is never okay. A double cheeseburger with mustard, ketchup, pickles, mayo, fries and a great big double chocoate fudge shake from Steak and Shake---ohhhhh, that's delicious!