Why dieting isn’t the answer to our weight problems

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Why dieting isn’t the answer to our weight problems

At the movies recently, a young lady settled into a love seat – two seats without an armrest in-between them – eating popcorn with one hand and an ice-cream with the other, followed by chips, biscuits and a box of chocolates. At her 200kg+ it would be easy to think that a change in diet would solve such an extreme weight issue, but as many experts are now attesting,[i] the truth is dieting isn’t the answer to our weight problems.

It can be all too easy to look and judge what appears to be an issue with food and diet; however, the facts show us that we have been looking at this in the wrong way all along.

Even with our accessibility to dieticians, information, products, bestselling diets, guides, studies, statistics, how to’s and all the support offered by a diet and weight loss industry worth over 60 billion dollars in the US alone,[ii] the world’s first-ever global obesity epidemic is escalating.[iii] Despite all the money and logic behind it, dieting hasn’t been the answer to our worldwide weight problems that we thought it would be.

We’ve focussed on calories – that is our physical energy input – and overlooked the emotional energy input that precedes them. When eating is not about hunger but a reaction to life and all it unceasingly dishes up, we self-medicate with food to treat a dis-ease that is emotional first and physical second.

Even with the research on the addictive nature of junk foods and the influence of bad gut bacteria on cravings, our relationship with ourselves is what has the greatest influence on our relationship with food.

While we are busy eating to the point of an obesity epidemic, our emptiness epidemic (caused by our not having a relationship with our true self) continues to grow. An indicator of this can be seen in the World Health Organization prediction that by 2030 depression will be the leading cause in the global burden of disease[iv] – the emptiness whereby we give up and eat up (or drink up, drug up or thrill up) just to get through life. There is a link between obesity and depression, in that we often eat because we are feeling depressed or down.[v]

Weight gain isn’t the problem – weight gain en-houses it.

While our bodies constantly bear the consequences of our behaviours, they offer us the most honest feedback about how we are travelling in life. If I am feeling great and everything is going well, how come I’m overweight, tired, sick, lethargic, craving coffee or some other pick-me-up to get through the day?

The head can tell a million lies and believe them all, but the body is a stalwart friend that consistently feeds back the reality of our lives and the joy, anxiety or exhaustion we are experiencing.

Learning to relate to our body, to read what it unbiasedly tells us about the way we are living and how we are really going, is the beginning of a life-long romance with a true friend. Our head can lie, but our body cannot. Our body responds to love very differently than it does to abuse: when we abuse ourselves to fit into an ideal or fashionable size – that is when we use force, the determination to be better, self-loathing, pressure or fear, or anything other than self-cherishing and tender support for ourselves and an openness to respectfully explore and be curious about our inner challenges – our body shows it in the way we move and hold ourselves.

That young lady at the movies, like all of us, is much more than the sum of calories in minus calories out (physical output). Let’s go deeper and recognise that dieting and counting calories isn’t the answer because what we thought was going on is not the real problem – when we look deeper we find that there is an uncomfortable feeling we avoid which brings tension, which we try to cover up or get rid of with food, distractions, solutions and fixes until we stop and return to loving ourselves. Letting ourselves explore that tension and discomfort can be the beginning of a journey to understanding who we are and a re-discovery of the enormous capacity we hold for understanding and healing ourselves.

The answers are not found in food or dieting, they are found within us.

Watch this video about the reasons for obesity (especially the first 18 minutes).


References:

  • [i]

    Eating Disorders Victoria. May 2017. Retrieved from https://www.eatingdisorders.org.au/eating-disorders/disordered-eating-a-dieting/why-diets-dont-work

  • [ii]

    Worldodometers. Retrieved from http://www.worldometers.info/weight-loss/

  • [iii]

    The Lancet. Published 28 May 2014. Volume 384, No 9945, p 766 – 781, 30 August 2014. Retrieved from http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(14)60460-8/abstract

  • [iv]

    World Federation for Mental Health. 10 October 2012. Depression: A Global Crisis. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mental_health/management/depression/wfmh_paper_depression_wmhd_2012.pdf

  • [v]

    Luthra, S. Politico. 9 August 2017. The tantalising link between obesity and depression. Retrieved from https://www.politico.com/agenda/story/2017/08/09/mental-health-depression-obesity-000488

Further reading:

  • [vi]

    O’Connor, A. New York Times. 20 February 2018. The key to weight loss is diet quality, not quantity, a new study finds. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/20/well/eat/counting-calories-weight-loss-diet-dieting-low-carb-low-fat.html

Filed under

DepressionObesityEmotionsDietsWeightWeight loss

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