Desperately Seeking Slimness
Bookmark and Share

Cartoon: Mostly Water

Being fat is not the problem; it's a symptom of the problem. That's why diets don't lead to permanent weight loss. You might lose weight initially, but the internal conflicts that caused the weight gain remain so eventually you gain it back. Diets are the tail wagging the dog - changing your outside without changing your inside.

Normal Eating is a step-by-step guide to fixing the real problem, the underlying triggers. As you free yourself from food and weight obsession and learn true self-care, normal weight follows naturally as a side effect. You lose weight without dieting, and without obsessing on every mouthful you eat.

Ironically, when weight loss is the direct goal, it becomes virtually unattainable because a focus on weight loss prevents you from eating normally. To become your normal weight, your goal must be to stop obsessing about your food intake and body size. Then you will be able to reconnect with body wisdom, eat normally, and return naturally to your normal weight.

The Crucial Shift in Attitude

This shift in focus away from your weight is crucial. But it doesn't mean not caring about your weight at all. It's natural to feel sad or disappointed about being fat, or to feel a sense of loss if you once were slim. But feeling desperation and despair about your weight is an overreaction unless your weight has become a health issue. Even then, there is a tendency to overemphasize the importance of weight and underemphasize what really matters.

In the scheme of things, being a good person, fulfilling your responsibilities, loving your family and friends, and making good use of the talents and gifts you've been given are far more important than how much you weigh! Perhaps you'd prefer to be slim, but it shouldn't be a key determinant of your sense of value or self-worth. Wanting to be slim is normal; dying to be slim - feeling absolutely desperate to be slim - is not normal.

How do you stop caring so much about how much you weigh? Pretending you don't care won't work. But as you read this book and do the exercises, you'll learn to put your weight in perspective.

For many people, the turning point is when they finally get angry - not at themselves, but at the culture and diet industry that has caused them so much pain. When they get sick of the whole diet merry-go-round and decide they'd rather be at peace than be slim, they finally start to lose weight. It's a classic Zen paradox. Wanting it pushes it farther away.

Body Size Obsession

Sometimes insight is a simple matter of reversing cause and effect. Your body size isn't the cause of your weight obsession; your weight obsession is the cause of your body size. One of the most frequently expressed disappointments of people who have lost weight through dieting is that the obsession did not go away - it was independent of what they weighed.

So why the obsession? There are many reasons, not the least of which is our weight-obsessed culture (more on this later). But emotional eating and weight obsession often begin with a life problem that's even more disturbing than being fat. Usually it's something we feel powerless over, like health problems, financial problems, or difficulties with a loved one.

Compulsive eating and being fat are sufficiently painful to be an effective distraction, while at the same time provoking less anxiety than the real problem because they are potentially under our control. We can always resolve to go on a diet, but what are we going to do about a bad marriage or a sick child?

The obsession with weight loss often grows into a magical belief that life would be wonderful if only we were slim. But being slim doesn't guarantee happiness. There are many normal weight people in this world who are unhappy. Still, people like to think they'd be happy if only they lost weight, because then happiness seems in reach with the next diet or weight loss scheme. If we allowed our real problems into awareness, it might feel like we never could be happy.

The fantasy bursts with weight loss. Many people who have lost weight feel great anxiety when being slim doesn't lead to the happiness they imagined it would. The anxiety comes from the fear that happiness isn't possible. That's not true, of course. They just haven't dealt with the real problems, and may have great fear in doing so. Sometimes people regain the weight they've lost so they can regain the fantasy that they just need to lose weight and all will be well. Seems strange, but it's true.

A Cultural Obsession

An obsession with slimness is not something we invented ourselves out of whole cloth. It's a cultural myth that slenderness brings happiness, communicated in dozens of ways, everywhere we turn. You can't look at a magazine or television program without being inundated with weight loss tips and smiling underweight models.

We live in a weight-obsessed culture. The obsession is like a contagious disease that we all catch shortly after birth. When girls start to menstruate, bone density increases dramatically, precipitating a weight gain of 10-15 pounds. Sadly, teenage girls often misinterpret this weight gain as "getting fat". They respond by dieting, and the pattern of disordered eating begins.

This is an excerpt from the book Normal Eating for Normal Weight: The Path to Freedom from Weight Obsession and Food Cravings by Sheryl Canter