In Part 1 I reviewed the research on the ineffectiveness of diet programs (only about 10 percent of people sustain any weight loss and most gain more weight than they lose over time) and discussed two reasons that people fail to meet and sustain their weight loss goals. Here are five more reasons along with alternatives to that will increase the chance for dieting success.
1. People who are "bigger" or more powerful than they think resist programs designed to make them "smaller."
Many people, especially woman, live within a box that is too small for their intelligence, creativity, feelings and spirit. However, while they may be successful at suppressing themselves, their bodies often find a way of manifesting the "bigness" that they suppress. The result: when they diet to make their bodies smaller, their psyches experience this as an attempt to shrink it and find ways to resist and derail their efforts. The big blue Genie in Disney's Aladdin, describing his incredible power and confinement living in a lamp, said it this way, "Phenomenal cosmic power! Itty bitty living space!"
Consider Sally, who was called "stocky," "hefty" and a "big girl" since she was young. She spent much of her life trying to lose weight so that she could shed those statements and look more like her sister and other girls. She experienced further criticism in the military, being told that her thighs were too big, even though she could meet all the strength, agility and speed tests. She even spread Preparation H on her thighs at night and wrapped them in Saran Wrap to shrink them! Years later, she wanted to become an emergency medical technician and asked if I thought she should not push herself so hard. She was still trying to make herself smaller -- she was big woman with big power and big ambitions. She soon achieved this goal and was happy doing so.
What to do instead of diet? Get to know how you are more powerful, beautiful, intelligent and incredible than people -- including yourself -- think you are. Name your qualities and identify the boxes you live in that are too small.
2. It takes power and courage to NOT stick with a diet program when the program is not right for you.
People use massive amounts of resources -- financial, emotional, intellectual and psychic -- to lose weight. However, the question they rarely ask themselves is this. "What part of me doesn't go along with this agenda?" That part, the part that resists, stands up against a massive assault of effort and criticism and still prevails, by not sticking with the program! The problem is this: most people have no relationship with this part of themselves other than treating it as the enemy. When people integrate that power, they can move mountains. When they fight it, they usually lose.
What to do instead of diet? Instead of thinking and feeling like a failure, imagine what it would take to stand up to all the efforts you make to lose weight, including all the negative opinions you and others have about your current weight. Who do you know that has enough power to resist those efforts and opinions? What does it take for them to do so -- self-love, courage, power, belief, faith, good friends, family support? Imagine you are a person who has that kind of power. Where do you most need it? What else would you resist in your life -- other people, rules about how to behave, etc.?
3. Eating preferences and patterns are subtle yet profound indications about our beliefs and life paths.
Counselors, diet program developers and the rest of us need to get this through our heads -- people are not stupid, lazy, ugly, ignorant, undisciplined or otherwise pathological. People act in certain ways -- including in their eating patterns and preferences -- for reasons that are meaningful and worthy of our deepest compassion and understanding. If eating, dieting and body image are the issues you wrestle with, then the details of what and how you eat are the best place to find the source of your and authentic nature.
I am reminded of a woman who loved rum-raisin ice cream. She was a spiritual seeker and diligent meditator. To find out what motivated her to eat the ice cream, I said "Listen deeply to yourself as you imagine tasting the ice cream." She heard an "om" in her heart that helped her connect with her most profound spiritual experiences. In fact, in many ways her "ice cream" experience was closer to what she sought than the experiences she achieved in her meditation. She learned that her meditation needed to feel more like rum-raisin ice cream and less like harsh discipline she was accustomed to.
What to do instead of diet? Think of one of your favorite foods. Carefully and mindfully become aware of what it's like when you enjoy it. Do not criticize yourself. Simply pay full attention to your experience by noting your feelings (euphoric, relaxed, dreamy, excited, etc.), looking for inner images (children, elders, clouds, birds, gorillas, etc.), and listening for tunes and songs. Focus on those feelings, images and tunes. Express your feelings by making a dance. Express the images by drawing them and playfully exaggerating aspects of them that attract you. Express the tunes by humming and singing them. Let yourself imagine that this is a way of living. How is that different than the way you live?
4. When people become more attuned to their authentic selves, changing their eating preferences and patterns is easier and more sustainable.
Despite the fact that weight loss agendas usual focus on food and exercise, the psychological truth is this -- there is no substitute for living fuller and authentic lives in winning the weight-loss battle. While many argue that we need a weight-loss plan, the truth is that we need a life plan. Instead of asking what you want to eat, ask yourself what you want for life. I have spoken to so many people who "mysteriously" lost weight when they changed relationships or careers, became more creative, or addressed social biases that hurt them. None of these have to do with food or exercise!
What to do instead of diet? Ask yourself, "What do I want for life?" What changes would you make to your life if you were entirely free? Would you go back to school, look for a new job, ask your boss for a promotion, plant a garden, paint a room a new color, read more books? Take stock of the fantasies that come up in your mind and consider seriously how you might begin to initiate these changes in your life.
5. When people change the way they perceive their bodies, their relationships with people are likely to change as well.
Our bodies are intelligent. While we spend much of our time trying to get our bodies to conform to our desires, we actually need to spend more time having our desires conform to the wisdom of our bodies. Listening to our body's wisdom means considering that our body's desires (in terms of food) as well as our body size and shape contain seeds of intelligence. For example, many folks I have worked with found that building a loving relationship with their bodies led to breaking out of forms of relationship that just no longer fit.
For example, I recall one woman who believed that her husband was an ally in her weight-loss efforts. He reminded her of her goals and praised her successes. However, upon developing a more loving relationship with her body she began to see that he was also critical of the way she looked. She had grown so accustomed to no liking her body that she didn't notice the offense she took when he "agreed" with her dislike. Further, she noticed that her husband was not only critical of her body, but other aspects of her as well.
What to do instead of diet? Consider the possibility that you feel put down, disrespected, misunderstood or not listened to in one or more of your relationships. For a moment, fully trust your feelings (don't analyze them or try to determine if they are "right" or "appropriate"). Now imagine you were your own best friend, one that would fully advocate for your feelings. What would that friend say to the person who offends you?
Good luck with your efforts! Feel free to share your thoughts, feelings, and experiences below.
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