This post is a follow-up of sorts to a Facebook thread that I accidentally started yesterday. What prompted the thread was an article that was sent to me written by a nutritionist who treated people for years for weight loss. It was an apology letter of sorts. The article really resonated with me because in the work that I do, I see many clients who, over the years, have been counseled by “professionals” about how to lose weight and have been harmed physically and emotionally by the advice. These professionals did nothing intentionally to harm their clients. In fact, I’m certain that they thought they were performing a valuable service or dispensing sound advice. But, an essential component to counseling an individual about food, nutrition, and their relationship with their body, is the human factor. It is essential to help the client see what is behind their struggles with food and weight. Their struggle is RARELY about the food or weight. It is OFTEN about other things. Trying to “fix” their weight in the hope of creating a happier life is missing the most essential information about the client. It is, essentially, missing the point. Helping the person to heal their life is where the real work lies. If someone is given nutrition information, factoids to help them become a smaller size, without addressing the underlying issues, it is like placing a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. It will cover up the problem, and provide a distraction from the issues for a period of time, but eventually it will backfire and the problems will persist. Not only will the problems persist, but then they will search frantically for the next diet to embark upon, and start the cycle all over again, shoving all the underlying issues further and further into the recesses of their mind and body.
I have a client who has worked for several years to heal her relationship with her food and body. She had anorexia as a child and now, as an adult, she suffers with emotional eating, and binge eating. As a result of her “use of food” as a coping mechanism, she has gained weight. Thankfully she didn’t come to see me with the sole intent to lose weight, because I wouldn’t have been able to treat her. In fact, I tell all my clients who want to be in a smaller body thinking that their lives will drastically improve when their weight goes down, that I will help them to improve their lives and, if their weight goes down as a side effect of improving their life, then their weight is supposed to go down. We will never intentionally do anything together as a deliberate attempt to lose weight. Over time, this particular client was tremendously successful in making changes in her life, putting her needs on the list of importance. She was able to prioritize her mental health for the first time in her life. She took the time that was needed to listen to, and attend to her needs in multiple areas of her life – private, social, physical, psychological etc.
In the past, she used to exercise purely as a way to lose weight. She was the “cardio queen”, focused purely on how many calories she could burn, and how that translated into what she could eat for the day. It was all a mathematical equation. Food became both her friend as well as her enemy. There were good foods, bad foods. Food was never eaten in a pleasurable way. Getting pleasure from food was “bad”. The moment she put something “pleasurable” in her mouth and swallowed it, she would feel guilt and remorse, swearing she would never touch that food ever again. She wanted to need only the bare minimum of food, but her needs were consistently higher than she wanted them to be. She wanted to restrict and control her body, but her body told her otherwise. She restricted and craved what she wouldn’t allow herself, and then restricted harder and craved more and more till she would “break” and give into the cravings, gaining weight in a rapid fashion.
When this client finally gave up the quest to focus all her attention on calories, fat grams, carbohydrate grams, calories burned, and cardio, and turned her attention to what the issues really were (by the way, this takes an enormous amount of courage and fortitude. It is much harder than focusing on calories and fat grams), she began to lead a much fuller and rewarding life. In fact, the rewards she achieved were FAR BETTER than anything she ever felt by fitting into a smaller pair of jeans for the brief moments that she did.
Currently, as a result of living a fuller life, and not using food as a reward or punishment, a distraction or a drug, she has been able to eat a variety of foods and enjoy every morsel with NO GUILT. The only problem that occurs now is when a “professional” tells her to stop eating this, or eat more of that. Only now, the problem is not HER problem, it is theirs, because she will tell them point blank “Don’t tell me what to eat! I’ll eat what I want to.” It’s amazing the response she receives when she tells people that she never diets and she eats whatever she wants. Now, of course, she doesn’t eat whatever she wants in the quantities that defy her body’s needs. She eats when she is hungry (which took a long time to discover), she stops when she is full (most of the time), and she pays attention to the messages and information that her body and mind give her. She eats foods that provide her with nourishment, and she eats foods that are just for pleasure and don’t provide nourishment. She has the wisdom to know what she needs.
There is no weight loss information, fact, knowledge or instruction that could have “fixed” this client’s issues. There is no diet or subsequent jeans size that could have replaced the healing that she achieved. There is no amount of information that could been better than the wisdom she discovered she had all along, that just needed to be tapped into and unveiled. There certainly would never have been ANY judgment or shaming about her size that could even remotely done anything beneficial to help her along her journey.
So, it is the amazing healing journey of clients like this one that enable me to say that I am so eternally grateful that I have not been a weight-loss professional. I did not write this post to criticize those who want to focus on weight loss as a profession. There is no “one size fits all” approach that works for everyone. I am certain that there are numerous professionals who, with integrity, are helping many people with body image and weight issues.
My advice is simply this:
I would encourage all of you to find the approach that truly “works” for you, not only in the short term, but in the long run.
Don’t blindly take any advice from a professional, simply because they hold themselves up as an expert. If it doesn’t feel right, question it. If a professional doesn’t want to explain their reasons or philosophies, ask yourself why.
Do your own research, not only on the internet or in magazines.There is a lot of misinformation and bias out there.
Find what resonates with you.Discover your own inner wisdom. It’s in there, even if it is buried.
Challenge the notion that weight loss at any and all costs, is healthy. A jeans size cannot determine health or happiness.
Challenge any and all of your toxic dietary beliefs (those that may not be true or are hurting you).
Invest time and energy NOW in finding non-weight related things that can enrich your life. Experiment with different things. You may not enjoy the first, second, or third thing you try.
My approach is not perfect and isn’t right for everyone. I am very fortunate however, to do the work I do and work with the most remarkable clients who have searched for an alternative approach to their food/body issues. We are on a shared journey. I am grateful for you! Thank you!Share on Facebook