As many others have over the course of the pandemic, I gained weight in 2020 and in 2021. Since everyone I knew was gaining weight thanks to lower levels of activity, I wasn’t initially concerned. My doctor was. The lab results showed that I am borderline diabetic, and I have been suffering hypothyroidism, which comes with increased weight gain and high blood pressure. Two separate medications are handling the thyroid and the blood pressure, but at 32, I am too young to be taking blood pressure medication. I would also like to delay my development of diabetes (It’s in my family history on both sides, so it’s inevitable.), so a lifestyle change is in order.
Here’s the problem: I’m a Satanist, and hedonism is a big part of that. Hedonism has a bit of a bad reputation. It’s the philosophical theory that life is driven by the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. This is a somewhat misleading definition, and many moralists assume this means only physical pleasure; that’s far from the truth. As a Satanist, I find pleasure in achieving my goals, spending time with friends, reading, and a plethora of other nonphysical enjoyments. One of those physical pleasures I enjoy is food – specifically foods high in fat, sugar and sodium. These are all foods which make my medical issues worse.
Here’s my quandary: I want to lose the weight I gained during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and ease my medical conditions of high blood pressure caused by hypothyroidism and prediabetes (avoidance of pain), but the foods I enjoy (pursuit of pleasure) are compounding my problems, and I associate exercise with pain and humiliation thanks to bad experiences growing up (avoidance of pain). What do I do?
This is why I say the given definition of hedonism is misleading. My pursuit of pleasure in food is in competition with my avoidance of pain of medical conditions and of exercise. You might think a hedonist short-sighted, who would continue bad habits in that pursuit of pleasure of sweets and fat. Not so. The solution is to find pleasures to replace the ones causing me pain and discomfort. Instead of stuffing myself with foods which bring comfort in the present but discomfort in the future like pizza, cheeseburgers, and fries, I’m exploring new recipes; I’m discovering that I don’t just like the eating, I also take pleasure in the making. Exercises I’m finding I enjoy are yoga and belly dancing – as a matter of fact, I hope to get good enough to choreograph my own fusion belly dance.
Hedonism isn’t about pigging out on physical pleasures. It’s about enjoying everything you do, even if it’s the things you don’t have much of a choice in. I don’t have much of a choice in changing my lifestyle – I either do it, or at the very least live the rest of my life on medication and insulin, if not shorten my life significantly. I have to do it, so I may as well enjoy it.