Diets don’t work.
It would be great if they did.
If diets worked, almost everyone with a ‘weight problem’ would have handled it by now.
Because dieting is easy. Just change what you eat for a while, and presto!, the weight melts off and the body you’ve been dreaming of is yours!
But diets don’t work because our weight issues are not about our relationship with food. Our weight issues are about our relationships with ourselves. And how we manage stress. Or loneliness. Or anger. Or sadness. Or any other human state we find disconcerting, uncomfortable, or just plain unacceptable.
Because if we could ‘be’ with our feelings and emotions, we most probably wouldn’t overeat. Because weight is about the experiences we don’t feel we’re able to tolerate or handle in another way.
So we stuff them. We swallow them. We numb them out—with food.
When we are little, our difficult feelings are soothed, hopefully, by our parents and care-givers. We are brought to the breast. We are brought to the bottle. We are given a pacifier. We are held and cooed and comforted.
Or we might comfort ourselves with our thumb.
But as we grow older, we need more sophisticated, independent ways of dealing with our feelings. And most of us aren’t taught how.
We may have seen our parents, under stress, reaching for a drink, or a cigarette, or a box of chocolates, or zoning out in front of the TV or fighting with each other . . . They weren’t able to teach us how to manage our feelings, because they weren’t able to handle their own.
In fact, they may have silenced our feelings in any number of ways. Telling us to stop crying, quit being a baby, rise above, go to your room! They couldn’t soothe us because our feelings made them uncomfortable! For some of us, food was the only comfort we got. So we learned to depend on it and use it, as a means of taking care of ourselves.
Now we need to learn how to truly self-soothe. Ways that don’t result in more suffering. This means learning both new behaviors and new ways to talk to ourselves. Especially when we’re in pain.
Most people’s inner voices are habitually unkind. When we learn to think and talk to ourselves with kindness, patience and compassion—especially when we’re feeling bad—we can begin to make different, more effective decisions about how to treat ourselves.
Overeating is a behavior.
Not overeating is another.
So, ‘losing weight’ becomes not a matter of going on yet another ride of deprivation, hunger and distress, but of establishing a new relationship with ourselves.
One that is nourishing.
From the inside, out.