Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Minimalist's Diet

Minimalism has elements in common with dieting, such as the giving up of something that may seem important to you, in order to gain something else. However, it is radically different from dieting, in that, if properly structured, it is something that you do not consider to be a loss or forfeiture in the long term. It is harder to return to materialism than it is to remain in minimalist mode, unlike dieting which requires constant vigilance to “keep the weight off.”
It is also substantially different from dieting, in that it can be done in degrees. Try dieting by first reducing calorie intake by 1,000 calories per day, when you are overeating by 2,000 calories per day. The weight will still pile on. “Going minimal” allows you to reduce some of your excess, and still be on track to becoming more economical. This advantage gives you the psychological impetus to continue on your path to reduction, while eating 1,000 excess calories each day still is the wrong direction towards weight loss!
Because of the flexibility in approach to the new program, it is easier for a new convert to “test the waters,” and, at the same time, indoctrinate family, friends and associates into your new view of the world.
Unless the decision is made through necessity, it is unwise to become totally minimalist. For most of us, intrinsic feelings of value and self-significance often are measured by the degree of comfort that we have acquired. To deny ourselves of every physical pleasure creates an emotional void. At its worst, it can be unhealthy. For example, to deny oneself the enjoyment of a comfortable bed means that we also deny ourselves the value of a good night’s sleep. To insist on eating only the minimum of quality food, or to substitute nutritious food for poor quality food will impact severely on our health. We should not aspire to be material anorexics.
On the other hand, overindulgence brings equally undesirable results. An excess of food leads to unhealthy bodies, while an excess of material goods leads to a narcissistic view of life and our role in it.
Whether you opt for either an extreme approach, or a more reasonable, middle-of-the-road tact, it is the rejection of acquisition and consumption of goods that is at the heart of minimalism. Minimalism should never be used as the rationale or excuse for becoming slothful, and aiming low in the input that you provide to the world around you. I know of several people who have chosen to work minimally, and contribute to the world around them in the least possible way, and use their “goal” of being less focused on materialism as an excuse for their indolence.
Minimalism should focus on using your gifts and abilities for the greatest benefit, while seeking ways to be less of a draw on the resources around us. Even that definition, though, fails to recognize that, as you do so, you will gain immensely from the enjoyment of the moment, with a reduced dependence on material goods to generate that enjoyment.
Planning for the conversion to minimalism will be of benefit if you look not only at what you want to eliminate from your life, but what you want to gain. What are your goals and objectives? Do you plan on using the “free money” to retire on a tropical island? Do you want to devote more effort to community service? Is it your plan to spend your free money and time on inventing the next greatest invention? Is minimalism a route to something else, such as saving for that ultimate purchase of a yacht in order to sail around the world? Are you hoping to be able to secrete a nest-egg to leave for your children and grandchildren when you die? Having a focus, as to what you want to do or acquire, as well as what you want to give up provides a more solid base on which to build your efforts at changing your way of living.
Few people diet with the sole purpose of losing weight. They lose weight to feel more energetic, or to improve their health, or to become more attractive. They have a focus, a goal. Similarly, approach minimalism with the same focus, and your journey will become that much easier.