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Editor’s note: This is Article 11 in the Meridian series, “The Half-Diet” wherein Richard Eyre lays out the basics of the most simple and logical method of losing weight and keeping it off. New installments in the series run every Wednesday. Most of the concepts are taken from Richard’s latest book THE HALF DIET DIET. Meridian readers who comment on all articles in this series will be put into a drawing for free copies of the book when the series concludes. Readers may still comment on articles 1 through 10.
Where are we going with this one? Poetry as part of a diet? Yes! And it’s not as weird as you think. Here’s the concept: This diet is all about awareness and sensitivity . . . Being aware of the quality and amount of what you eat . . . Appreciating it . . . Tasting it . . . Sipping and savoring. To improve and perfect our ability to do this, we have to work on improving and perfecting our ability to be aware and sensitive in the broader and more general sense. Awareness and sensitivity are qualities that can be developed, skills that can be learned and practiced.
There is no better way to do that than to attempt some poetry! Have no fear; this is private poetry that no one will critique or judge. In fact, no one will even see it unless you happen to write one you think is so good that you just have to show it to somebody.
Think about the process of writing a poem; if you’ve never tried it, imagine what you think that process might be. First, you have to really notice something—become acutely aware of how it looks or sounds or feels or smells or tastes, and how it makes you feel. Second, you have to hold that image in your mind, to visualize it. Third, you have to discipline yourself to actually sit down and try to describe it, to write about it.
The awareness and visualization and discipline of the Half Diet are so similar. And the skills and perspectives you develop by trying to write poetry will help you become good at the diet.
Poetry can be about anything you notice and appreciate. Try to write some of your poems about your own body, about your appreciation for some of its particular functions or form, about your visualization of how you want it to become, about the miraculous nature of its ability to assimilate high quality foods and turn them into energy and muscle.
Use visualization to heal and improve your body. Write poems about health and vigor. “See” yourself the way you want to be. Imagine, in vivid detail your arteries carrying blood or your lungs assimilating oxygen or your antibodies warding off infection. Use poetry as a way of capturing these positive images.
The type of thinking required to support and enhance the Half Diet is both analytic and artistic, part science and part creativity. And poetry (even bad attempts at poetry) provides the best way to mentally summon that combination!
Here’s the challenge: Get a notebook or diary or some kind of little blank book that you can keep track of, and write something in it every day. It might just be one line of a poem, or a description of something you noticed that you can incorporate into a poem later. Some days you will be inspired and write a complete poem; other days you may just jot down a couple of lines, but the commitment to write something every day will cause you to be aware and to be looking and noticing more than usual.
Try thinking about where you are, what you can see or hear, what you are feeling, what your body is doing while you are eating. While you are sipping, savoring and smelling your half-portion of food, use the slowness of those moments to reflect a little, to let thoughts come into your mind, to try to be in the moment as you taste and appreciate your food. Open your book and write what you feel. If a day slips by and you have not written a line, try naming the day. Think back to something you noticed or enjoyed, to something you felt, and come up with a poetic name for that moment.
Poetry doesn’t have to rhyme or follow some particular meter or structure. Just use the most graphic and clear words you can think of to describe what you are seeing or feeling. Use as few words as you can. Choose the words in the same way you are learning to choose your food, with quality being more important than quantity.
Here, as examples, are four little poem-attempts from the time I was first implementing the Half Diet. None of them will win a prize or be published, but writing them was helpful in noticing, helpful in slowing down, helpful in being in the present, and thus helpful in dieting. You can do just as well!
The clear glass fills with clear water,
Bubbling up cold from tap to rim, catching light.
Then to my lips, a sip, a swallow, then a pulsing river flowing down,
Cooling and cleansing, pooling in the center of me,
Then trickling out through my tributaries to legs and arms
Some percolates back up, through another part of my neck
To cool and clear my brain.
Aerobics, First Day
A strange mood prompts me to see
If I can survive an hour.
By happenstance I get in an advanced class.
The instructor is a girl shaped like a
Insufficient flesh to have curves
And wearing shiny grey tights.
Even her hoarse voice is metallic,
Is she bionic?
Because she never stops,
Never tires or frowns or moans,
Never even sweats.
I do all of those things she doesn’t do
And maybe each provides a modicum of relief.
The music pulses loud against
The glitter and glass.
It’s a disco really; strobe lights
Would look right in place,
Glistening bodies and leg warmers.
A new phenomenon combining
Narcissism and vanity
But a more obtainable pride
And not all bad
(But don’t ask my body!).
A Sky Like That
Leaving the office one routine day
The glory bursts of heaven’s sun
Behind the gray receding storm clouds.
Late March after a day-long snow.
Now, air winter crisp,
Sky’s pure, pale delicate blue (since it’s so new)
And the still gray retreating clouds
With edges dazzling white,
Giving away the presence of the sun, which
They still try to hide.
Had I been all day in a great museum
Unseen — studying works of masters
My reaction would have been the same
“This is beauty”
And all works of man
Fail to compare.
looked out this morning early
long before usual
white round snow, white round moon, dark blue sky, gold only along east rim
stretched, even light,
with no dominating source
part moon, part dawn, part snow-earth reflection
comes from everywhere
bathes all the air with just enough illumination
by its beauty.
So just do it—try your hand at a poem or two—it is part of the Half Diet! And you can do it!
The perspective that you gain by attempting a poem is often a lot like hitting the reset button, and life looks a little fresher, a little clearer, and you re-commit to slow, and to half.