Never in a million years did I think a sign in a storefront would serve as a gauge of how far I’ve come, but lo and behold, that’s what hit me the other day as I strolled down the main drag near my home. You see, Ben and Jerry are moving into my neighborhood. Five years ago, the idea of Coffee Heath Bar Crunch being within steps of my home (we’re talking less than a block here) would have sent me into a panic. I would have taken it personally that somehow the universe had conspired to lure me into late-night binges, keep me overweight, in essence, render me powerless over the sugary concoction we call ice cream.

Well, I still love it. And occasionally I still eat it. But I’m happy to report it has lost its power over me. On most days I can walk past Krispy Kremes without looking back, flip past the pasta section on menus, tell the waiter to skip the bread basket at the beginning of the meal. Please don’t mistake this for yet another treatise on dieting. It’s just the opposite. I’ve lost 22 pounds in 15 months – a snail’s pace by most standards — by not focusing on food.

“If you want to shrink something, you must first allow it to expand,” writes Lao Tzu. Think about that. It takes a certain kind of mindset, an enduring inner strength, to release the need to be 20 pounds thinner in a month or two months. By expanding the timeframe, I shrunk the mania. One day, something akin to flipping a switch happened in my mind. I decided there would be healthier living, period. That’s reasonable exercise and eating what I like in moderation.

Make no mistake, emotional maturity is also a significant part of this. If you’re eating instead of crying or eating because you’re lonely, dieting is not going to help in the long run. Learn to cry, seek out stimulating relationships, nourish your soul. Then you can have a piece of cheesecake and truly enjoy it without dwelling on the consequences because there won’t be any.

Now, honestly, doesn’t that sound like the way to go? You can apply this principle to so many other areas of your life – career, relationships, creative pursuits. Challenge yourself to release the need for instant gratification and choose the more enduring route. It’s infinitely more gratifying.