By Elizabeth Babcock, LCSW
“But how can my weight not be the problem?!? It’s bad for my health and I can’t stand to look at myself. My life would be so much better if I could just get rid of it once and for all.”
Being overweight certainly is a problem, but it’s not the problem. You’ve probably seen proof of this in your own life already.
How long have you worried about your weight? How much have you lost, and how many times have you lost it? Do you see others doing any better than you? Do you even know anyone who used to be overweight but now enjoys comfortable, lasting success? We work so hard at losing weight, yet the statistics for overweight and obesity just keep climbing.
Experience overwhelmingly shows that focusing on weight does not solve weight problems.
To see how this makes sense, consider a different example: Your house floods, ruining your flooring and furniture. The damage is a problem a big problem that requires immediate attention—but it’s not nearly as important as the reason your house flooded. Until you figure that out, you can be sure it will flood again.
It’s the same with weight. Yes, you need to mitigate the damage to your body, just like you have to deal with the flood damage in your home. In both cases, though, your efforts can’t have lasting results if you don’t identify and correct whatever caused the problem in the first place.
The Real Problem
The real problem is the way we live. We like our super-tasty processed foods, preferably in generous portions. We end up taking in far more calories than most of us could ever use, made worse by the fact that we lead a more sedentary lifestyle than ever before.
We’ve come to see this as normal, to expect that we should be able to live like this and have it work somehow. In fact, only a tiny percentage of humanity has ever lived this way. This is not normal and was never even possible until just the last half-century or so, which happens to coincide with most or all of your life. We are part of the biggest lifestyle experiment in human history, and we are witnessing its failure. The results are in: We actually cannot live this way, as much as we might wish that we could. The experiment has resulted in staggering health losses for hundreds of millions of people, perhaps including you.
Many of us look at healthy choices as taking away the life with food that we think we should be able to have. We’ve learned to expect to eat whatever we want, whenever we want it small wonder, given that our society reinforces the notion constantly. As long as we work to reduce our weight but with the unspoken hope of somehow returning to a no-limits approach to food someday we are doomed to continually regain the weight and lead a life of unnecessary frustration, failure, and compromised health.
Contrary to popular belief, healthy choices do not steal “normal” from you. Populations adopting a westernized lifestyle always become sicker and more disabled. The human body simply is not built to live this way. Period. It would be nice if sitting around all the time eating lots of junky food could result in a good life, but it can’t and it doesn’t. No amount of wishful thinking will ever change that.
Distorted expectations cause many of us to feel resentful about healthful choices, but all those choices do is make it possible for us to enjoy lives in which we feel well, energetic, strong, optimistic, engaged, and motivated. They give us greater resistance to disease, quicker healing from injuries, better mobility, and a far better aging process at the end. Healthy choices make possible the lives that we all seek.
Happily, those choices are pretty simple: Eat moderate amounts of whole food (mostly plant-based), stay well hydrated, and be physically active for some part of every day. These choices result in the most robust health and by default, the most stable weight. Weight gain won’t happen again because you will have stopped it at its source. Eliminate the source, and you eliminate the problem. Life will become about living rather than about weight management, which is as it should be.
As long as you keep your focus on what keeps you energetic, strong, optimistic, and at peace with yourself, your weight will naturally stabilize at the healthiest level that it can.
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Elizabeth Babcock, LCSW has been a certified diver since 2000. She is a psychotherapist and community educator who has written extensively on topics of interest to anyone seeking to maximize their health and overall enjoyment of life, though her primary specialty is the treatment of overeating. She recently published “Why We Overeat and How to Stop,” (available at Amazon.com), a new approach to overeating which empowers readers to end the cycle of yo-yo dieting once and for all. She resides in southwestern Pennsylvania where she spends as much time as possible outdoors, preferably on, in, or near water. She can be reached through www.elizabethbabcock.comand on Facebook.