Why diets won’t work unless you do

We all want to be healthy, to feel good about ourselves, to have energy and vitality. Today’s society promotes all kind of overnight miracle diets, pills, supplements and so on. Although some of them might work for someone, the results are only short-term if the cause of overeating is not brought into awareness. And instead of making us feel good with ourselves, we feel even more frustration, shame and sadness than we did before starting.

Instead of blaming a certain diet of not producing overnight long lasting results, we should start by shifting the attention within. What is causing the overeating? What role does it play in one’s life?   

Every addictive behavior (be it of drugs, alcohol, TV, eating, attention, phone, etc.) has behind an unconscious component. And in almost all cases it is linked to childhood trauma. Dieting without understanding the cause of overeating will only treat the effect, not the cause.

Diving into the cause of overeating

Pursuing a primarily physical approach, our quest for weight loss may cause us to go on a fat-free diet, while ingesting a diet formula that enables us to dissolve the fats in our system. We may also start an exercise program, or step up our current one, to burn more calories. We might even attempt radical physical processes like stapling our stomach or wiring our teeth together. Because such physical approaches involve attending to the effect and not the cause of our excess weight, they take effort. Some of them take blood, sweat, and tears, not to mention a substantial financial commitment. However, even when the weight is lost, this doesn’t guarantee the effect we are seeking. For a while we may feel better about ourselves because our appearance has improved, but this feeling wears off because the cause of our excess weight isn’t physical. All diets fail in the long-term because they fail to address the emotional causality of overweight. Stapling a stomach can’t seal off the discomfort of emotional turmoil we don’t know how to stomach. Wiring teeth together doesn’t empower us to express ourselves authentically and thus address our suppressed emotional charge. So even though these processes may be quick, depending on how drastic they are, the sense of wellbeing achieved through them is inauthentic and therefore temporary. When the inner discomfort finally resurfaces, it may be devastating because now there appears to be nowhere to turn. (Michael Brown, The presence process)

Some science based observations

The most important studies done on how childhood adverse experiences or trauma affects adult outcomes are the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Studies. These studies began with Dr. Vincent Felitti, who is an internal medicine specialist in San Diego. He was working at an obesity clinic where they found that with rigorous dietary control they could help people lose weight. However, they couldn’t help them keep it off and they couldn’t understand why. Then, Felitti and his colleagues did something extraordinary for medical doctors, they actually listened to their clients. The clients said, “Listen, don’t you get it? We’re eating to soothe our pain.” Every one of them had been traumatized in childhood. (Gabor Mate – Compassionate inquiry online training)

Going back to childhood experiences

Children are born with an underdeveloped nervous system. They are regulated by being in close proximity with the mother, during the breastfeeding. As the child’s nervous system begins to develop, the mother regulates the child through social engagement (smiles, play, tone of voice, facial expression, etc.). When the mothering parents are too depressed, distracted, stressed or traumatized, the child starts to self-regulate itself (soothe itself through food).

For every adverse childhood experience (e.g. a parent dying, neglect, divorce, physical or sexual abuse, violence in the family, etc.) the risk of obesity, mental illness, addictions, autoimmune disease, etc., goes up.

All these experiences lead to disconnection from the self, from the body. The experiences were too painful that the disconnection was the only way to cope with.

Although the disconnection served us to get through traumatic experiences, now it stops us from noticing the signals our body sends us.

Body awareness

The way you eat not only decides your physical health, but the very way you think, feel and experience life.

We call ourselves the most evolved species on earth, however, we don’t know what to eat.  Every creature on the planet knows what to eat and what not to. What is the human problem then? The human problem is not enough attention, but too much information. We are overwhelmed with information and we don’t know what to choose.  

Let us say you bought a gasoline car, but pumped diesel into it. It might still move around, but it will not function at its optimal capacity, and its life span would also be substantially reduced. Similarly, if we do not understand what kind of fuel this body is designed for, if we just force whatever comes onto our plate into our systems, it will definitely not function at its optimum capacity and its longevity could be seriously compromised.

You must learn to listen to your body. As your body awareness evolves, you will know exactly what a certain food will do to you. You do not even have to put it into your mouth. You can develop this kind of heightened sensitivity whereby just looking at or touching the food will be enough for you to know its potential impact on your system. (Sadhguru, Inner Engineering)

To sum it up

Looking for a miracle pill is not only unrealistic, but it surely won’t make you feel good about yourself. Before waiting for overnight results, gain some clarity on what is behind overeating. Then, practice self-awareness and re-connect with your body. Once you reconnect with your body and listen to what it needs to eat, the results will come without even focusing on them. Just the fact that you become more aware and self-conscious will make a huge difference in your eating behavior.

And if you need help in your journey, reach out to me. I would be happy to walk by your side.

Bibliography:

Find your ACE Score here.

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