Everyday Joy Can Often Be Found in the Most Unexpected Places

By breaking free from the cycle of equating our only joy with food, we free ourselves -- not only to meet our weight loss or other health-related goals, but also to really appreciate everything around us.
09/07/2012 12:35 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The other evening, I was quickly walking through my home office when I was suddenly startled by a loud squeak. I looked down to see that I'd just stepped on a dinosaur -- just one of what seems like hundreds of toys that are strewn throughout my home. I try to keep these toys picked up so they remain contained in one of two toy baskets, but most are constantly in use and, therefore, often waiting to surprise me with a squeak attack when I'm hurrying from one room to another.


Looking at the toys, you might conclude that I had a toddler (or two). I do have a wee one that plays with all the toys. And he is 3 years old. But he's covered in fur, weighs just over six pounds and is named Latte -- an adorable little Morkie (Maltese/Yorkie mix). And he is truly one of the biggest joys of my life.

To say Latte is spoiled rotten would be an understatement, although he really is one of the sweetest, happiest little guys you could ever hope to meet. And boy, does he love to play with toys. So despite my mimicking the evil Berger-Meister-Meister-Berger and often proclaiming "There will be no more toys!" there inevitably are more toys -- whether received as gifts or bought by this "daddy" who can't resist his "kid." Thus, there are toys all over my home -- usually in various states of play.

So the other evening, when I stepped on a toy and realized I was standing in a virtual minefield of toys, I didn't get irritated. Instead, I realized that all of these toys that were seemingly making my otherwise well-organized home look messy were symbols of joy for me. Representing joy embodied in a six-pound pooch full of unconditional love... Joy embodied in toys that the said pooch plays joyfully with... Joy embodied in a squeaky toy reminding me to slow down for a second and smell the roses -- or count the toys, in any case.

Here's where I must confess that I didn't always find joy in everyday objects. Back in the day, when I weighed in excess of 450 pounds, I was constantly looking to food to provide my joy in life. And at the time, I was sure that food was providing just that -- joy.

Looking back, I can now see that the massive amount of unhealthy food I was eating was actually doing just the opposite of providing joy. I'd be so miserable after a binge and in such mental and physical pain that as soon as I had room in my stomach, I would once again seek comfort from food.

This "Food for Joy Syndrome" continued for years and years -- until I finally broke the cycle by realizing I had to find other sources of joy to use in place of the food. Imagine my surprise when I realized that food had never really been providing comfort or joy in the first place, but instead had been keeping me from it.

Living in California, I'm surrounded by self-help gurus who constantly remind us that there is joy in every moment. I used to guffaw at such "nutty-crunchy" optimism. But these days, surrounded by toys and other "small" blessings, I realize that there really is joy to be found in whichever direction I look -- as long as I'm not looking in the direction of the refrigerator.

I'm not saying food can't bring us joy on occasion. But food really is more delicious (and potentially more full of joy) when eaten in balance, in moderation and in the right portion sizes. Otherwise, the food isn't providing joy as much as it's providing a numbing effect. And that can cut us off from many of life's other -- and very real -- joys (including smaller-sized clothes, a healthier heart, more self-confidence and a less stressful social life).

By breaking free from the cycle of equating our only joy with food, we free ourselves -- not only to meet our weight loss or other health-related goals, but also to really appreciate everything around us. Whether it's a lick on the face from a puppy, a favorite TV show, a call from an old friend or a beautiful sunrise, there can be joy in every moment if we set out to acknowledge said joys.

And in times that we're rushing around, too busy to count our blessings, we can hope for a squeaking dinosaur or some kind of other reminder to bring us back into the moment and help us realign ourselves with what really has potential to bring sunshine (literal and otherwise) into our lives.


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