You can never be too rich or to thin.

We’ve all heard that old saying before. Of course, it’s a ridiculous thing to say. There’s nothing good in being emaciated. People who retire early with a big fat portfolio and a big fat belly often have the big fat heart attack soon after that substantially abbreviates their retirement plans. Too much of anything is not good, because too much means out of balance. If the martial arts teach anything, they teach balance.

Balance in eating and diet is one of the hardest things for any of us to achieve in these modern times. It’s not just an American problem, although like everything we take it to the max here in the United States. For the first time in history, in the past hundred years millions of human beings have figured out how to produce more food than they need. They haven’t figured out how to not eat it, though. That’s the problem. Hunger that is too much satisfied, too often leads to all kinds of conditions that distress the body. Diabetes, heart attacks and death. There is a price to pay for being out of balance. It’s the law of nature.

In the past, I flouted that law of nature for far too long. Before taking up martial arts, I had stressful jobs and a bad marriage. I left all the weight lifting and running that I used to do behind. I felt sad. So I ate. And ate. And ate my way from two hundred pounds to over two hundred and sixty pounds. That doesn’t work on a five-foot, ten-inch frame like mine, I’m here to tell you. The Michelin Man had nothing on me. It was a disaster.

So, when I speak about being back under two hundred pounds, I speak from the point of view of a former transgressor. I transgressed against myself, and against nature. I went very far out of balance. That’s why I can’t help but have sympathy for anyone who is in the same situation now. I clearly remember how my willpower felt utterly crushed by my excess weight. I felt hopeless. I thought that I would never go back to being the skinny guy I was before, that it was just a product of aging or a changing metabolism. That’s hogwash, of course. These are the lies that we tell ourselves as an alternative to cultivating discipline. But I didn’t know that was what I was doing. Being out of balance and being in a state of ignorance often go together. At least they did for me.

Before I started training in martial arts almost a year ago, I had lost about fifty pounds already. But there remained more work to do. With some fits and starts on the dieting front, all through a consistent training regimen, I finally seem to have the firm command of my food intake that always eluded me before. The results are there for anyone to see. However, the question that follows me around in my mind and won’t let me go is, “why now?” Answers are elusive. But they are there.

The body needs certain minerals, vitamins and nutrients. It’s not hard to figure out what they are. It’s also not hard to exceed what we need, in the Western society we live in. Excess is everywhere. It’s not just approved, but lauded. People go to excess in all kinds of categories, thinking that more is always better, imagining a more satisfying happiness just around the corner with that next promotion or a more expensive car. Many of us do the same thing with food, trying to fill an empty void with happiness. I know that I did so. But this is a game no one can win. You can’t fill a void in your happiness with any of these things. When you figure out that excess doesn’t create contentment, you are on a steeper path but a better one. You have the chance to improve, to live consistent with nature, to be who you should be. It’s a chance that you have to take advantage of, in this life that is all too brief. That’s not simply because a brief life is made briefer still by misbehavior at the dinner table or, especially in my case, midnight snacking. It’s about much more than that.

Making allowance for the rare unfortunate soul who has a serious metabolic disorder, which must be horrible since even great discipline may not equate to great results, most of us become fat because of an internal condition in the mind, an internal weakness. I know this was true of me. Now my mind is stronger, and that makes the difference. When you decide – and I mean really decide – to run your life the way that you want to, to exist in harmony with the house that is your body, everything can start to go right. It all happens on the inside. We focus too much on the outside. We live in a culture that focuses on the outside, so it’s a trap to which we are all vulnerable. But we have to step around that trap if we are going to realize our best selves. That’s why when people lose weight, they also start making other choices better. Happiness and good energy are in the driver’s seat. You don’t need to apply food as a salve or balm to the miseries of life. In place of that compensatory mechanism you become determined not to have miseries in the first place, to improve, to always go up. It’s a seismic shift for the better.

Simply stated, unless you have a special medical condition you can be sure that if your body is fat, it’s because your mind is fat. Simple as that. Make a stronger, slimmer mind and you make a stronger, slimmer you.

Simply stated, unless you have a special medical condition you can be sure that if your body is fat, it’s because your mind is fat. Simple as that. Make a stronger, slimmer mind and you make a stronger, slimmer you. A healthier, happier you. And you can have no greater ally in this endeavor than martial arts. Diet products don’t work. Ninety-seven percent of diets fail. Discipline works. There’s no substitute for it. Discipline is the coin of the realm for personal excellence. It will enable you to love being in your own skin, to take joy in the everyday. You won’t need anything special to fuel your happiness from the outside, because you’re already happy inside. Not “too rich” or “too thin.” Disciplined, balanced, trim and happy. A martial artist.