One of my favorite movies of all time is the 1954 version of The Magnificent Obsession starring Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman. It’s the story of a spoiled, rich playboy named Robert Merrick who was the heir of a wealthy manufacturer. He had plenty of money and no motive to do anything constructive with himself. He lived a reckless, useless, and empty life.
One day, while showing off at the lake, he crashed his power boat and was thrown unconscious into the water. His life was saved by an oxygen resuscitator borrowed from the nearby summer cottage of Dr. Wayne Hudson, a world-famous brain surgeon.
After Merrick regained consciousness, he learned that the famous brain surgeon himself had drowned because his equipment was being used to save Merrick’s life. Merrick fully realized the tremendous loss he had unintentionally caused. He could not escape the disturbing thought that, at least unintentionally, he’d been responsible for the loss of one of the world’s greatest men.
For weeks he brooded over the tragedy, but that did not bring Dr. Hudson back. Even all Merrick’s wealth could never replace Dr. Hudson’s skills. Finally, in desperation, he hit upon the idea that he would personally replace the lost ability by making himself equally capable as a brain surgeon. His resolution grew rapidly until it became an obsession. It drove him day and night.
In studying Dr. Hudson’s life, he found that replacing this great man was a far more difficult job than he had originally anticipated. Dr. Hudson was far more than just a brain surgeon; he had made an even greater contribution in the field of service and human uplift. He had helped hundreds of people. Educations had been financed, homes saved, and care provided to those who could not afford medical treatment.
Merrick’s obsession hounded him by day and haunted him by night. It worked him like a slave. Due to his obsession, he quickly rose to the top of his medical school class. It commandeered the time and attention he had formerly lavished on himself. He was left no alternative except to become the best doctor in the land. At first he merely had the idea, but now the idea had him. In the years that followed, Dr. Robert Merrick became all that his magnificent obsession had hoped for.
I love that story. I think everybody needs a magnificent obsession. Everybody needs a preoccupation, fixation, or craze that is glorious or wonderful. But what happens when good intentions go bad, and an obsession isn’t so magnificent? Could an obsession for healthy eating actually cross the line and become an eating disorder?
- Negative effects on relationships and normal activities.
- Pre-occupation negates other important activities. Constantly thinking about food.
- Creates significant anxiety, stress, and even panic.
- Results in serious negative impacts on health and life.
- Causes severe dietary restriction with an inflexible compulsion to eat perfectly.
My personal experience says that fixation with inflexibility rarely leads to long-term success. So a common scenario may go something like this. You decide to start eating healthy. With some success you get more and more passionate, start to study all available recommendations, watch late night infomercials, google the latest nutritional fads, and start cutting out obvious junk foods. However, at some point nutritional balance and flexibility are jettisoned as you become more obsessive and rigid. Remember the real measure of a sensible diet is that it should give you increased energy, strength, immunity, and an over-all sense of well-being.
So may all your obsessions truly be magnificent and your life balanced and stress free.
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