At this time of year, many of us are contemplating New Year's resolutions for the year to come. According to the Journal of Clinical Psychology, the No. 1 New Year's resolution for 2012 was to lose weight. How did our country get to a place where this is our biggest concern? Many people will tell you that they are consumed with the thoughts of diets, food, weight, or body image. People with eating disorders may spend 90-100 percent of every waking moment with these thoughts.
The United States government listed to "lose weight" as one of the most popular New Year's resolutions. But when they explain how to do this, the answer again is to diet and exercise. This has been the answer for the last 50 years, as our nation has become more and more obese. Clearly, this has not worked in the past, nor will it work in the future. Enough said about the logic of this directive.
The way we have been taught to lose weight does not work. In fact, many of these behaviors can become the catalyst for eating disorders.
• Count calories -- When people start obsessing on the calories in different foods, they think of themselves as good or bad because of their number for that day.
• Watch your weight -- Some people weigh themselves every day or multiple times a day, letting the scale determine how they will feel for the day or what they will eat.
• Exercise -- Although this is an important step, some use exercise as a way of purging calories, a form of exercise bulimia.
• Diet -- When people follow and obsess on the newest diet, they may disregard their appetite and internal cues. In fact, the more they ignore their hunger, the better they are at it.
• Take appetite suppressants and diet aids -- This does nothing to get you in touch with your appetite or what is causing your destructive relationship with food.
• Eat only diet foods -- Most diet foods contain more sugar and chemicals than healthy foods.
• Have your food delivered -- Then you don't even have to make a choice about what to eat or not eat.
• Get gastro bypass surgery -- Unless the underlying core issues have been dealt with, this procedure is often doomed to failure.
None of these options can be sustained for a lifetime, in my opinion. But most importantly these are someone else's external controls to follow. External controls never work long term. Eventually, we get fed up and rebel. Only an internal change can become a way of life. So how do we achieve an internal shift that will help us obtain and maintain our ideal weight?
First, we need to look at why we have gained weight in the first place. Some of us are using food to avoid our feelings or stressful situations that need to be dealt with. We use food, weight, diet, and body image as a way of pushing down these feelings from our conscious mind. Many of us do not even know what these feelings are, because the minute the feeling tries to surface, we push it down with the food. It is recommended to seek professional help to become aware and deal with this obstacle.
Second, we need to see if we are having an addictive relationship with some food, drink, or substance that may be exacerbating our food cravings. In this case, a food journal can provide answers, especially if we note how we feel after ingesting certain foods. Giving into cravings that are influenced by the reward system in the brain is too hard to break without help.
Third, we need to look at our motivation for losing weight. What do we think will happen when we lose that weight? Our expectations set us up to fail in many cases. We think when we reach our ideal weight, then we will be happy. Happiness is a byproduct, not a goal in itself.
We think that when we lose the weight we will find true love. We may look for love from someone else because of an intense void inside. Some try to use food to fill this void. If we are disconnected from ourself, thoughts, feelings, and appetite we don't know what we truly need. We will always be searching for something outside of ourself to make us feel better, but we first need to find the love within. Does our self-talk, actions, and food choices reflect the love we have for ourself? Even if we do find someone to love, what are we going to give him or her? It's true that you can only give what you have. It is a worthwhile endeavor to get professional help to remove the barriers to finding love, especially if this is a symptom of disordered eating.
Expectations can have a lot to do with how your life unfolds. Some of us expect too much from ourselves. This sets us up for a life of unrequited failures and disappointments. Usually, when you expect too much from yourself, you also expect too much from others. Others expect too little and live a life of complacent, unproductive, unfulfilled existence and poverty... an unfulfilled life never knowing their potential. Lack breeds jealousy and hate. Gratefulness breeds happiness and prosperity.
What we focus on grows, and we have the ability to choose what we want to focus on. Be a master of the second thought. We can't always choose what comes into your mind, but we can choose what we do with that thought. Do we let it take over and become our focus, or do we choose to challenge that thought to have a better life? We have more than 70,000 thoughts a day. How many of those thoughts help us to create the life we want?
You live with you. No one else has the power to change your life but you. It is up to you to make your life what you want. Here are some ideas to ponder when you are thinking about making the year ahead a better year.
1. Get in touch with your own appetite so you can know when you are truly hungry and full.
2. Get help with eating problems when needed, but remember, ultimately others cannot do it for you, and you cannot do it for others.
3. Being a master of the second thought can change your world.
4. Fear can keep you from living a life full of potential and possibilities.
5. Happiness is a byproduct of a life well-lived. What can I give, instead of what can I get?
6. Develop your inner resource of love; jealousy and resentments rob your inner peace.
Current statistics says only 8 percent of people are successful in achieving any of their New Year's resolutions. This year is not only the start of a new year, but a whole new age. We have left the age of pisces and have entered into the age of aquarius. Change is all around us, but for a positive change to be sustained, it must start within us. We are all responsible. It begins with you taking action to remove your own blocks to love, acceptance, and understanding. I wish you much success!
For more by Rebecca Cooper, MA, MFT, CCH, CEDS, click here.
For more on diet and nutrition, click here.
If you a friend or loved one that needs treatment for an eating disorder, go to rebeccashouse.org or call 1.866.931.1666.