Have you noticed how America's self-help gurus are turning to the world of diet and health? Dr. Phil seems to be dedicating his entireshow this year to weight loss, not to mention his publishing schedule. "Life Makeovers" coach Cheryl Richardson has teamed up with her health and fitness expert husband to pen a new book about why people don't lose weight. There's even—I kid you not—a Mars-Venus diet, peddled by John Gray. (What's next? Fat Women Who Should Run With the Wolves? The Four Agreements Diet? The Power of Be Thin Now? The Prayer of Flabez?)
So I thought I'd beat Byron Katie to the punch and introduce The Work Diet.
There are always new diets on the market because of two factors: 1) many people are unhappy with their bodies, and 2) as a species, we don't like to diet and have trouble sticking to eating plans, so we're looking for the one that's tailor-made for us (in other words, easy and with immediate, tangible results).
Notice the words, "are unhappy," "don't like," and "have trouble." These are thoughts that have nothing to do with the body or even dieting. If we were clear, we could be happy and beautiful at 800 pounds, and at the same time, no diet would pose a problem.
But none of us are living on the mountaintop just now, so let's get real. Let's say you weigh 20 lbs. more than the weight charts call "normal." You can't button the top button of your jeans. Your blood pressure is through the roof, and your doctor says it's because you're too fat. In addition, your partner wants to break up with you because s/he's no longer attracted to you.
You are too fat, is it true?
Well, yes, we think, and here's all the proof: the numbers, the pants, the blood pressure, the disgusted partner.
It's time for The Work Diet, but don't run to the health food store just yet; all that's needed for now is a writing implement, a piece of paper and four questions.
With the education of the inquiry, we begin to see exactly what we've been "eating" all our lives—and what's been eating us—when we think the thought "too fat." For one thing, digits on a scale or a tapemeasure become a basis for self-hatred and an arbiter of attractiveness; we believe a number is bad without ever having "asked us." What of physical symptoms? High blood pressure turns us into a bad person who made ourself sick...so now we're sick and we're wounding ourselves too. And our partner? A disgusted spouse means we really must be disgusting. (That sure motivates me to lose weight, how about you? NOT.)
Then there's the regimen: if you follow it you're "good," if you "cheat" you're "bad." Innocent foods become either "legal" or "the devil." If you lose weight, then diets work, you had willpower, you did well, you're golden...and if you stayed the same or gained a pound or two, diets never work for you, you have a bad metabolism, you are out of control, you don't deserve to live. You may notice that these thoughts have nothing to do with food. Without a story, food is what is and you ate what you ate.
What are your can'ts, won'ts, nevers, shouldn'ts and shoulds about matters of weight loss and weight gain, body size and eating? Discovering and investigating underlying beliefs about food, diets, and the body might reveal that foods, dieting, and our bodies were never the problem. How do we know? Because of the way we change when our thoughts change. With the thought, "I'm too fat," stress and the behavior that comes of it: racing to lower that number on the scale, or racing to the fridge in a fit of "what's the use." Without the thought, peace...and that does not mean that you will not eat properly, exercise, and take care of yourself.
We can weigh 20 extra pounds in heaven or in hell; we can also get "buff" right here in the paradise of reality or down in the depths of the purgatory of thoughts that don't serve.
Here's to thinner thinking!
©2004 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.