Escape From The Prison Of Diet Plans (And Yourself)

The other day, a friend of mine told me that if I had publicized my theories for treating disordered eating and obesity long ago, I would have been burned at the stake as a heretic.

There is overwhelming evidence that suggests diets don’t work in the long run, and that something more is needed to help people with food and weight related problems. The latest statistics say that 90 percent of those who lose a significant amount of weight will gain it back, regardless of whether they had weight loss surgery or did it using another diet intervention. Despite this knowledge, people are extremely frightened by, and resistant to, trying alternative treatment methods that don’t ask them to limit, restrict, etc. People still feel more comfortable with a diet, a plan, or other intervention that tells them when and what to eat. People don’t trust themselves, and both doctors and weight loss programs reinforce to them that they can’t, and that they must seek instructions from others.

Diets give people the illusion of self-control. It is an illusion because following someone or a plan means that the person or plan controls you; it tells you what to do, and you attempt to obey. When people learn to trust themselves; to listen to their bodies and guide themselves, they experience freedom from the prison that disordered eating, diets, planning, tracking, restricting and obsessing keeps them in. This prison of diet plans, with its illusion of safety, order and control, is often MUCH more comfortable than the idea of such freedom. That is why people want diet programs, as much as they don’t want them, and despite the fact that they don’t work.

In a nut shell, I help people address much more than weight loss. Addressing weight and food intake is not enough for lasting changes. I approach the treatment of these complex food and weight related issues from many different perspectives: a relational perspective, a systemic perspective and a mind-body awareness perspective, in addition to a behavioral perspective. People are able to change the way they have relationships with others, themselves, their bodies and they can also change their relationship with food.

Part of my treatment requires that people eat, and that is the part that people resist the most. It is much easier for people to believe losing weight and keeping it off means having to fight themselves and restrict themselves. It is harder to hear that it is possible to learn to eat in moderation. I think that defining what moderation means with respect to people’s eating behaviors, is necessary before disputing its possibility. In my treatment, eating in moderation doesn’t mean eating according to a plan such as Weight Watchers, in which you eat regular food (instead of pre-prepared food or shakes). When I help people learn to eat in moderation, I help them eat according to their bodies and their needs. I help people experience their bodies and their feelings so that they know what they need and can take action to meet those needs. Sometimes that means eating. Other times those needs can be met by other means. It’s ok to have needs, hunger, and cravings. It’s normal. The crucial piece is to learn how to slow down long enough to feel, so that you can determine what you actually need and then act to meet those needs. Otherwise people automatically reach for food because that is what they know and that is what they are able to access until they learn new skills. I believe that people can learn to eat in moderation when it is defined in this way. I also believe it is very scary to think about being able to eat in moderation, for both those who struggle with disordered eating, and those who treat them.

It is time to approach weight loss in a new way. I hope that my own success with weight loss, combined with the success of those I’ve treated for weight and food related issues, will give people some confidence that there are other ways than what they currently know to lose weight and keep it off; to end disordered eating; emotional eating; and compulsive overeating.  It doesn’t have to be my way. But there needs to be a new way or an expanded way, because right now people who struggle are sick, in pain, miserable, depressed and even dying. People deserve to get back to themselves, and to find freedom and enjoyment in life. Dieting, restricting, counting, planning, and otherwise obsessing about food and weight is not freedom. If I thought about food and dieting all day, I’d eat. Until people are open to a new way, perhaps even a radical new way that asks people to eat, feel their feelings, be inside their bodies and trust themselves; they will remain in their own prisons.

To make lasting changes with regard to food and weight requires a willingness to be open to new approaches and new concepts.

 

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