I was fat all my life. It wasn’t until my mid-forties that I finally found what I needed to do to take my weight under control and find a way out of what had caused and maintained an undercurrent of anxiety and even torment in my life. I’ve had to fight off feelings of regret that my weight cast a shadow over the majority of my life. I’ve wracked my brain to answer the question, why did I fail for so long?
I wrote my book for those of us who deal with weight for all or most of our lives; those of us whose brains crave food and our bodies want to be bigger. Our culture’s focus on weight and weight loss is largely not for us. It’s for people who haven’t spent their lives struggling with what they eat and what they weigh. It’s for people who have picked up a few pounds in today’s highly obesogenic environment and they can buy a book or start going back to the gym or eat Jenny Craig for a little while and get their weight right back where it used to be.
After I got my weight problem under control, I began a kind of deconstruction process. What I realized about what our society expects of overweight people made me very angry and I knew I had to make my voice heard. First, I realized that we fail repeatedly because we focus our efforts in a direction that will be completely ineffectual. Our culture overwhelmingly believes and reinforces the idea that overweight is caused by a personal failing, bad judgment, and weakness and that we could “fix” ourselves if only we would “put our minds to it,” get motivated, be inspired, get our act together. We are expected to determine what our character flaw is and resolve it. Figure out “what’s eating you.” We’re treated like we’re ignorant about nutrition and health issues. We’re even told we’re fat because we hate ourselves. Failing to lose weight means we are weak-willed, we lack discipline, we’re wounded and incapable of healing ourselves. So we spend years, even decades, trying to find and fix what’s supposed to be broken inside us. And we fail over and over.
Because we never were broken. It never was for lack of will or determination. It was never about “motivation” or “goals” or dealing with “self-loathing” or any of the other ineffectual ways we’re told to “change your mind, change your life.” I’ve long believed that all this focus on goals, motivation, inspiration, and what purports to be mental preparedness may be applicable in other areas of our life but when it comes to weight loss, it’s ineffectual. I recently read some information that finally validates what I’ve been saying. When we devote our focus to the “mental” approach, we experience what’s called “social acknowledgement” or “social reality.” It makes us feel engaged in what we’re trying to do. It gets us pumped up and excited and we believe we’re taking steps toward our goals. But it actually distracts us away from what we have to DO to accomplish what we want. Essentially, when we think about it and talk about it and process it, we tend to DO less and when it comes to weight loss, nothing happens until we change what we DO.
How can we bring authentic change into our lives?
The noise that has to be shut out is so vast and it’s quite a tempting siren song or we wouldn’t have listened to it for so many years. What we determine works, or doesn’t work, for our minds, our bodies, our nature, our daily lives, our values—The path can only be of our own making.
What needs to be done now?