Here’s my new excitement: to get real and truthful and edgy about the gigantic subject of weight loss. Let’s all see if we can put our collective mojo together and spark something new in the weight loss conversation. Let’s invent some useful insights that have a chance to further the action and help us discover who we are and why, as a world, we keep growing more and more plump. So, in the spirit of pioneering a new trail in the still uncharted territory of weight, allow me to offer something that might sound a bit confusing, but I think is helpful:
If you’re trying to lose weight simply because you want to lose a bunch of weight, then it’s going to be extremely difficult to lose weight.
Here’s what I mean: most people who have extra pounds attack their body fat as if it was some foreign and hostile invader. We honestly believe that this excess weight is “not me.” So, we do our best get rid of this unwanted yuk that seems to be ruining our ability to have a good time. And it all makes sense. But here’s the rub – weight loss strategies don’t work. This isn’t headline news. Any study that has any scientific morals and scruples bears this out in the long term. If there was a weight loss diet or pill or program or gizmo that truly worked, we’d all know about it and guys like me would’ve been thankfully out of a job long ago.
What I’m saying is that if there was one single reason why we don’t lose weight – it’s because our reason for wanting to do so is all off, which leads us to invent or undertake weight loss methods that fail us. Again, most people want to lose weight simply to get the weight off.
The problem is, the weight is there for a reason and it has a message. It has a deeper purpose. It’s talking to us. The wisdom of life, of the cosmos, of the grand design of all that is – speaks through the human body in the form of symptoms. We are fashioned with a brilliant operating system that has our biology taking direct orders from divine intelligence. Excess weight is a messenger from a higher source. If you kill the messenger – that is, if you actually do lose the weight but don’t get the wisdom it’s trying to impart – the messenger returns. 99% of people who lose weight on a weight loss diet gain it back. There’s no moral failure here. It’s not about eating less calories or switching to skim instead of half and half. We just didn’t listen deeply enough.
Trying to get rid of weight by “losing it” is like trying to get rid of paying a bill by ripping it up and throwing it out. It seems like such a great idea. Just get rid of the bill. The problem is though, when you throw out the bill, another one comes in the mail, and this time with a late fee. Throw that one away and the consequences grow steeper.
The bills and the extra weight have something very simple and profound in common – neither has any real value in and of itself. Yet they both point to something. The bill points to the fact that you purchased your house with a loan from the bank, and you owe the bank gobs of money. Ripping it up then, is a silly and nonsensical act. Likewise, excess weight points to something else. To simply get rid of it for the sake of getting rid of it goes against universal law.
The billion-dollar question then, is “What does excess weight point to?” The answer, in my experience, is that there are an infinite variety of possibilities. Here are just a few common and compelling ones. Excess weight can point to:
- Our poor food choices
- Emotional hunger
- Unmet needs
- Repressed feelings
- Confusion around self identity
- A call for love and help
- Self hatred
- Our disconnection from the body
- Past history of sexual abuse
- Being wounded by love
- Financial worries
- Repressed creativity
- Being someone we are not
- The need to forgive and move on
- The need to earn how to truly nourish and care for oneself
- Fear of sensuality
- Too much stress
- Separation from one’s spiritual source
- Too many foreign chemicals and toxins in our world that directly or indirectly lead to weight gain – fluoride, mercury, bovine growth hormones, xeno-estrogens, and many more
- The sickness in our manufacturing world that would have us invent and sell junk foods in the first place
- A nation that values excess and over-consumption
- A culture that values speed, disembodiment, and lack of awareness
- A world that is filled with fear, anxiety, and mistrust
- Someone else’s belief that we need to lose weight
- An obsessive need to lose weight where no weight actually needs to be lost
Each one of these is literally like a bill to pay. We can’t just avoid these life lessons, rip them up, or exercise and diet them off. We’ve got to question, self examine, look, listen, feel, get real, be truthful, and grow into a more mature way of listening to the body and honoring it’s wisdom, even when the body isn’t conforming to our humble demands that it be beautiful and hot and skinny. Of course, this isn’t easy. The process of self-examination is predictably a bitch. For this reason, far too many of us look for the quick fix. We don’t want to be uncomfortable as we face the tougher questions, so we’re easily seduced by the next diet gimmick that never works.
Just as it’s time to pay the bills, it’s time to pay homage to weight. It’s time to own that our challenges with weight require a whole new approach. No more quick fix. It’s time for the slow fix. Can we be brave enough to listen? Can we be courageous enough to be patient?
What important message and life lesson is your body trying to bring your awareness to?
Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating