The Literary Diet

By Leslie J Hall 

Any one out there wish they could lose a few pounds? You’re not alone. Newspapers are filled with articles on our Nation’s obesity problem. Over ___ Americans are currently on a diet. At the same time, there are numerous studies that prove diets don’t work. What does work is making long-term life-style eating changes and creating new exercise habits.

Dieting sounds a lot like writing. It’s takes commitment and discipline, but even more so, it’s about creating new habits. Like writing, when it’s going well, dieting is joyful and strengthens your self-esteem. But when you’ve plateaued and you’re stuck, it can be agonizing.

I’ve read all the diet books. One message is clear--to be thin, you must see yourself as a thin person and think like a thin person. This is effective in writing too. Tell yourself and the world that you are a writer. Treat yourself like a writer. Stand up for what you’ve written. In addition, visualize yourself completing a novel, publishing articles, accepting awards—whatever success is for you. See yourself doing what you dream and believe it can be a reality.

When setting a goal for weight loss. We usually know what we’d like to weight. We might add five pounds as a cushion but we have a goal weight. As a writer, do you know what your goal is? Do you have a plan and a way to get there? A standard time management rule is to take big, often seemingly insurmountable, projects and break them down into small pieces.

Taking small, baby steps toward a goal helps in dieting and in writing. Don’t focus on losing 50 pounds, just the first five. Don’t focus on writing a 350-page novel, only the first scene.

A diet counselor will often ask a patient what they gain from being fat. They probe to see if there is some benefit to a person holding onto their weight. What benefit do you receive by not writing? Do you save yourself from fear? Protect yourself from rejection? Guard yourself from the changes success might bring? Fear of success is often hard to admit but recognition might actually propel you to new levels of success.

Losing weight, like being a writer, isn’t about teamwork. Weight-Loss support groups are helpful and inspiring, and they are often the key to dieting success. But the group itself doesn’t take the weight off. It’s something you must do alone. Going to classes and writers conferences doesn’t make you a writer. Getting energized and going home to write afterward does.

No one said being a writer was easy. But with a positive attitude you can be successful. In dieting, quick fixes, fasting, diet pills and other ‘miracle cures’ don’t work. Making decisions and over-all changes to live a healthier life does. Any writer with good habits, commitment, and a whole lot of patience can achieve more than they ever dreamed.

© Leslie J. Hall 2004