How I Lost 580 Pounds This Summer

I love this post on Simplicity from Robynn! Enjoy and be challenged!

I’m always intrigued by the glossy magazine covers that claim with great enthusiasm that I can lose 25 pounds in 5 weeks. Even more perplexing are the ones that insist I can do that while eating cake and ice cream. I have struggled with my weight since I left Pakistan, 25 years ago arrived in Canada’s cafeteria and discovered that at least the food was comforting. During my first two years of reentry into my passport country I gained 60 pounds.

But this summer I finally discovered how to lose weight! And I’ve lost over 580 pounds!

This summer I rediscovered the joys of the spiritual habit of simplicity and I’ve gotten rid of over 580 pounds of stuff. I feel lighter, and freer. I’m experiencing more joy, less stress. I’m less weighed down. Less encumbered.


It’s hard to describe how this works but somehow our souls are often tied to our stuff. Stuff bogs us down and trips us up. Our clutter, knick-knacks, tchotchkes, Precious Moment’s figurines have a way of moving off the shelves, off the end tables, off the desk and into our spirits. It takes over. Stuff, like a first-born, has power and takes charge. She starts dictating how I spend my day. She breaks and demands attention. She whines and I take notice. I find myself coddling her, moving her around, moving her over to make room for more.

And all the while my soul is deadened and darkened and dulled.

For me sin in spiraling circles hides in the shadows of stuff. I want more. I get greedy. I need a bigger house. I feel sorry for myself. I only have a few. I judge those with more. I deserve a bigger collection. I am jealous of those who have more. I feel angry at God for holding out on me. I regret not having more money to buy what I need to make my collection complete. I wish I had more money to buy the house to house what I have and what I still need to get. I demand. I plead. I whine. Lust for stuff steals my limited joy. My satisfaction is eroded. Suddenly I’m absorbed in me.

Stopping it is so sweetly simple and yet is met with unimaginable resistance. Just stop. Purge. Give away. Less really is more and you’ll know it right away. Stuff sets traps. Lightening our load sidesteps those same traps.

We begin to live with No Thanks, and I’m Fine Thank You and I Don’t Need It. Contentment and satisfaction move in swiftly.

And that’s how I lost so much weight. We got rid of some bunk beds, a dresser, a desk, stacks of books, piles of clothes. Two garbage bags of stuffed animals joined the exodus. A coffee pot I no longer use, a stack of plates, some glasses, a couple of tea cups all went down to the Goodwill. The kids have joined the fun. They’ve gone through their drawers too. They have eliminated things they no longer love, clothes they no longer wear!

This is a weight loss program that really works…!

I have less baggage. And as a pilgrim just passing through that feels simply divine!


Rewards Programs

The school year is coming to an end here in Kansas. We are attending recitals, concerts, assemblies and awards programs. Our children are being promoted to the next grade level, high school seniors are graduating, teachers are retiring. There’s a lot to commend, a lot to celebrate.

But I’m not talking about Awards Programs.

I’m talking about Rewards Programs.

On Wednesday I had a long list of errands to run. One of those included stopping off at the bank and depositing cheques. Lowell and I had a couple to deposit. Connor had another two, plus his shared tips from the restaurant and Adelaide, our newest bank account holder, also had one. As I was concluding my deposit stack the bank clerk so sweetly asked me, “Ms Bliss are you signed up for our rewards program?” I looked her in the face. I made eye contact. And in that moment I had a wave of bravery come over me. I was honest and I replied, “I am…but I have no idea what I’m saving points for. I can’t figure out how to access them nor do I know what good they do me!”

She pulled out a little brochure (which I already have, but I didn’t tell her that) and she began her speal. “All you do is go to this website and register your blah blah blah”…. I tuned her out. I’ve heard it all before but it just sounds like too much work. I don’t really understand it and the effort involved makes me tired.

walgreens-balance-rewardsAnd the bank isn’t the only Rewards Program I’m signed up for. Attached to my key chain are the grocery store Plus points cards (I understand and appreciate that one….it brings down the price of our gas!), a Walgreen’s Balance Rewards card (the checkout clerk who signed me up was fuzzy on what this did for me. Savings? Discounts? He couldn’t tell me. Perhaps he got Rewards for signing people up for the Rewards card?), a self-evident Staples Ink and Toner Savings Pass, a Borders rewards card (are they still in business?), a My Panera member card (I think this one accumulates free treats but it hasn’t worked yet), a Hastings Entertainment Passport (Passport?? Sure you can call it that as long as you understand that when you go through “immigration” it costs you!), a Dick’s Sporting Goods Scorecard rewards card (I think we bought something there once…) and a Shop Your Way Rewards card.

What exactly are they rewarding me for? As far as I can figure, and I could be way off on this, they are rewarding me for shopping, for spending, for the frenzy, for buying!


Several years ago we were in a very fancy mall in Dubai. It was early January. Christmas was over but there were lingering decorations and pretties in the shops. I saw a sign on one store window that surprised me. In beautiful calligraphy, as only the Middle East cultures can do, in a large font was scrolled the words, “The Spirit of….” I expected it to finish up with the word, “Christmas”. That would have been surprising enough in Dubai, a city and culture that doesn’t typically celebrate the birth of the Christ-child. But what I read shocked me even more. The sign read, “The Spirit of…..Shopping!”

That is wrong on so many levels.

We have an economy based on need and greed, supply and demand. We are being rewarded for participating in the system. Whether we need it or not, whether we already have it or not, whether we have too much of it or not…..Buy! Shop! Spend!

The ancient spiritual discipline of simplicity isn’t available in aisle 7 in your department store. You can’t purchase it anywhere. It’s found in giving away, in self-control, in generosity. It’s likely found outside, in the woods, at the park, on the front porch. It’s probably found in solitude or with friends around a meal. There’s less rush and frenzy in simplicity. There’s more freedom and simple joys.

Simplicity gives you the space to breathe, to connect with God, with friends, with your children. Simplicity sees through the deception and discerns, “I don’t really need that! It’s not going to make me happy”. Simplicity breeds contentment and gratitude.

I recently spoke on five different spiritual habits or practices at a retreat in Alberta. One of the practices I taught on was Simplicity. This week I got a letter in the mail from my friend who invited me to speak in the first place. She wrote, “Oh, and I have to tell you the ‘simplicity’ talk obviously really hit home–(the Thrift Store where she volunteers) is overrun and people are trying to give away all kinds of stuff at church. Love it! Made me smile all week!”

And there are no points to be earned in that.You don’t have to register online. You don’t have to sign up for the Rewards Program, “It’ll only take a minute…!” It’s true, nothing is captured on a card,and yet–obviously– the rewards are numerous.

What about you? How do you find simplicity in our ever more complicated world? Would love to hear from you through the comments.