Ever since I published Weight Loss for Food Lovers, I have been asked, ???When is the sequel coming out???? Well, after four years of work I should have some rush copies next month, but I need to warn you all that it will not be what you might expect. You see the ???sequel??? doesn???t mention the words ???weight loss??? or ???eating lifestyle??? or any other words around weight management at all. ???What???s going on, how is that a sequel???? would be a fair question. Let me try to give you a fair answer.
I don???t know how many people I have worked with on their weight management over the years ??? it???s been a lot ??? and then I have trained and supervised hundreds of other therapists with their more challenging patients. What I have come to see is that the vast majority of people who struggle with their weight are unhappy at some level. They are not necessarily clinically depressed, but they are unhappy.
Food is the self-medication. It promises that ???being-cuddled-in-your-mother???s-arms-as-you???re-being-fed??? primal, soothing experience. It is the same for my patients who drink too much or use recreational drugs. Others are looking for more love (which often reads as ???sex???). People make the understandable mistake of thinking that having pleasure, in any of these forms, will make them happier, will sooth their troubled soul. The paradox is that trying to make ourselves happier through pleasure will, in the long run, actually add to our unhappiness. Pleasure is fine along they way, but it does not work as a strategy to be happier. Eating to self-sooth causes most of my patients to feel guilty, angry at themselves and more unhappy.
Paradise Lost, Inadequacy found
Modern life can be tough ??? technology and greater opportunity creates frustration, confusion and a greater sense of not being good enough, a greater sense of missing out. I remember visiting an idyllic tribal village in Fiji ten years ago where they had just gotten TV. The schoolteacher on this gorgeous island was lamenting how these kids, who previously thought they lived in paradise and had all they wanted, now thought otherwise. Television showed them everything else that they could have, that they did not, and their paradise suddenly fell way short. They started to find that their life as they knew it, was no longer enough, it was inadequate, they were inadequate.
I don???t think turning back the clock is the answer. I???m not convinced life was better a hundred and fifty years ago, or even fifty years ago. Back then, life was simpler, there may have been a greater sense of community and your extended family may have lived nearby. If a parent, or grandparent, was abusing you, however, the legal system was largely unable to stop this and it went unchecked ??? and the abuser knew this. Thankfully it is not so today where abusers can be punished twenty years, or more, later. And for half the population back then ??? women ??? opportunities to be who you could be, who you wanted to be, were very limited.
In working with people who have been deeply traumatised, as well as the obese, I have only found two things that really sooth unhappy souls ??? truly loving relationships and having a sense of meaning of life. More specifically, it is about have a sense of meaning in one’s individual life – because everyone’s ‘meaning’ is different. Amongst the demands, the incessant consumerism and rush of the modern world, life will be meaningless unless we make it meaningful. Meaning, in turn, informs our purpose in life. Lots of things will make us unhappy, how quickly we bounce back will depend on the meaning and sense of purpose that we have in our life. Nothing else, not even loving relationships, has the power to heal major trauma experiences.
For those of you less inclined to read a 300+ page book, in upcoming posts I will walk you thru some of the key principles that have come out of my research, clinical work and writings on how to find meaning and purpose in our lives. This is what I have found to be the most powerful treatment for having too much food, alcohol, drugs or sex in our lives.
PS I would love to hear comments from you about this and other recent posts ??? to comment, just click on the title of this post and this will open the ‘Reply’ box under the article.