The Weight Foundation
When the sense of being out of control with eating becomes overwhelming, it gets very difficult to see what is actually going on. When it feels as if an obsession with dieting is ruling most waking moments, one's powers of self observation are replaced by an incessant and nerve-jangling panic. It becomes like living in a pressure cooker.
It's at times like this when if you ask dieters what are their main concerns, you tend to get an answer like “It's everything!”
Rarely, though, is it everything – most of it is likely to be My Pig and My Rat and, once you have a fix on what is going on, you are on the road to regaining control.
My Pig is the precise area in which you feel most directly out of control with eating – it may that period between work and getting home when you munch on several chocolate bars. It could be the ritual two cans of lager, or half a bottle of wine, and a large packet of crisps between getting the kids off to bed and your own bed time. It could be the desolate graze through the fridge after arguing with your mother has made you feel one inch tall. It is characteristic of My Pig that what seems like a treat is in reality mechanical munching or sullen drinking, with guilt being far more prominent than any pleasure in the taste. Once you understand what is going on, the foul taste can stop emotional eating dead.
My Rat is different – it gnaws away at you. There are triggers to bad eating and overeating; these things don't just happen. You know what they are – you just usually don't care to look because you think they are embarrassing or insurmountable. Everyone has problems – but not everyone has problems which trigger depressing eating patterns.
My Rat is the biggest trigger. Next time you feel the old connection being made, between trigger and food issues, step back. Now is the time to stand up to that Rat (and standing up to all the other little ones will be so much easier once this argument is decisively won). You will suddenly notice how much bigger you are than the Rat.
Always be prepared to ask yourself, “Who's mouth is this anyway?”. What food does or doesn't go into it is certainly not for the Pigs and the Rats to be dictating.
So, seek out your own Pig and Rat. Identify them – and confront them. It's not “everything”. It's highly definable and, seen as Pigs and Rats, can be firmly shown the door.
3 Small Steps
By Malcolm Evans, The Weight Foundation's Secretary & Founder:
OK, so you've done The Hardcore Dieting Index, what happens next?
Well, that is very much down to you. We number it on a scale of one to ten; how you interpret that is your choice. Yes, there is no set classification of "good" or "bad", only how you feel about it yourself.
The Weight Foundation is not an unquestioning supporter of the Fat Acceptance movement - you do not have to like being overweight. Yet, if you are comfortable as things are, we are comfortable as well - and in that sense we are Fat Accepting.
To repeat, how you feel about things is key to everything. We live in a world where the official and traditional reaction to all things eating and obesity related is to start counting. We count calories, we count up the BMI, we count pounds gained, we count pounds lost, we count the number of diets we have been on, we count the number of diet videos gathering dust by the TV...........in fact we take into account everything except that thing which actually counts - how we feel.
You see, the main problem with just about everything written or said about dieting is not so much that it is wrong or that it doesn't work. We are not directly Anti-Dieting. It is simply that dieting and eating advice, as currently served up, is largely irrelevant. It doesn't connect with the real issues (and developing Hardcore Dieting issues is always a major risk).
Let's take an imaginary example. Marge is unhappy. Her elder brothers teased her about being "dumpy" and, as an adult, she feels awkward about her self-image. The TV and the magazines don't help - even being "Mrs Average" equates these days to being Quasimodo's twin sister. She flirts with dieting and she gambles with comfort eating. She is guilty and angry but, hey, who said that fat freaks deserve to feel happy.
.......As someone who has worked for many years with persistent dieters I can relate to this scenario. Not only can I relate to it, I can work with it. There are habit patterns to reshape and self-esteem to be coaxed. There is the thrill of empathy leading to the joy of achievement. In short, this is a picture that makes sense.
We could tell it another way. Marge was 140lbs as a child of 10 years old. As a 5ft 3ins adult woman of 36 she currently weighs 192lbs. She has weighed as much as 200lbs and as little as 177lbs within the last 5 years.
- I never particularly liked mathematics at school and, as someone who is interested in freeing people from hardcore dieting, this alternative picture tells me very little of relevance. More importantly, it also is of very little use personally to someone who is struggling with information overload, confusion, frustration, guilt and a horrible sinking feeling that the ghastly dieting merry-go-round is just about to go for another pointless spin......
So, what can people actually do themselves?
I have my own philosophy of personal change (it is actually more a philosophy of performance than change because I think most people waste incredible amounts of time dreaming about different things, instead of just getting on and doing things well). If you want to read more about the background thinking, you can visit my commercial consulting site.
We are taking the essence of this philosophy and sharing it specifically for weight control through The Weight Foundation. The approach is called 3 Small Steps*, which incorporates many of the key steps I use within my private work. It is distilled down here to what people can meaningfully remember and use by themselves.
These moves are away from Hardcore Dieting and they cover the bases needed to be able to hit problem-dieting right out of your life for good.
The three ties which usually keep people imprisioned within Hardcore Dieting are Emotional, Cultural and Commercial. They can be summarised by three questions which you can ask of yourself in any situation where you feel food or eating are invading your comfort zone:
"What meaning am I giving to this food?"
"Whose eating game am I playing?"
"Who's stealing my meals?"
The 3 Small Steps
1. EMOTIONAL: "What meaning am I giving to this food?"
Let's get a few things straight. Food is not a better job, a new partner, a better partner, less difficult children, new friends and certainly not the perfect parents none of us ever had. Yet people often try in vain to use it for all of these purposes - and more.
The key to life is managing issues within the environment they occur - work at work, personal relationships within the realm of personal relationships etc. And not letting inevitable concerns, as there always be, escalate and creep over into a general haze of uncertainty and anxiety. This process is so often the wellhead of eating, overweight and dieting problems. By remembering to ask the simple question you can cut off the stream at source.
2. CULTURAL: "Whose eating game am I playing?"
For quite some time the pressure to be excessively thin has been generally recognised. Through the shocking examples of stick-like supermodels, it can be viewed as a Cult of Thinness. People now understand this influence - but still often fail to resist it by not asking themselves this simple cultural question.
However, there is another, perhaps even more powerful pressure - and it is one which is barely recognised at all. This is what could be called The Big Game of Dieting, which subtly recruits thousands of new members worldwide each and every day. When all your friends are talking about dieting, when all the excitement and trendiness seems to be in dieting........yes, you also eagerly become a player in The Big Game of Dieting.
And when it all fails to work beyond the short term for you and when the guilt is joined by the panic over just which part of the never-ending stream of dieting junk advice to cling to next, you will be suffering from what we call Diet Shock.
People used to jump in to The Big Game of Smoking Cigarettes in order to feel that they belonged - but most of them have got over that, or died, by now.
3. COMMERCIAL: "Who's stealing my meals?"
Of course, when it comes to ourselves, we are all completely immune to commercial pressure. That's why we steer clear of fashionable brands of cars, handbags, make-up, perfume, sun glasses, clothes, drinks, shoes, childrens' clothes, pet foods......and food for ourselves. Or maybe not.
Borderline, or just plain unhealthy foods have for a long, long time fought to squeeze themselves in to our diets. It is the right of food companies to fight their corner and most people know where to draw the line with junk food (though plenty don't and it is a sad fact of social injustice that it is cheaper to eat badly than it is to eat healthily). But in recent times it has begun to go further than that. The new trend is to attempt to displace conventional eating habits.
One example is that of breakfast cereals, the advertising of which has traditionally comprised choice of start-up fuel early in the morning. Now there are advertisements which present cereal as an all-day food option. Another example is the attempted re-branding of flavoured noodles from being a snack into the status of a traditional food staple. The whole area of convenience shopping is a third area: one commercial portrays the multi-role juggling of a modern homemaker. Her late night meal comprises ice cream, to be bought on special offer from her neighbourhood store.
We call this Meal Stealing.
Seduced away from conventional eating by advertising on the one hand and in Diet Shock from the ceaseless flow of eating and dieting advice, many dieters have lost a clear picture of how to feed and nutritionally care for themselves.
- And the upshot of all these pressures added together is this chaos, this Nutritional Dislocation, whereby people are becoming completely disconnected from natural hunger and eating patterns, from the simple joy and sociability of real food and sensible meals.
We contend that there is a straightforward choice. You can choose to be heavier and unhappy, or choose to be lighter and happier. Each outcome requires just about the same amount of effort. In fact, with 3 Small Steps, the latter outcome does not actually require much effort at all - just the easy discipline of asking the right questions. Make a habit of it.
- "What meaning am I giving to this food?"
- "Whose eating game am I playing?"
- "Who's stealing my meals?"
.....Don't forget them - they can transform your life. Plenty of commentators have said that it is not what happens to us that matters most, rather how we choose to deal with it - and it is a message that bears repeating time and again.
The magic of this approach is that it lifts you out of yourself, away from the resentment, embarrassment and guilt which usually stop any meaningful self-debate about eating, dieting and obesity. And you cease to be a victim by standing back and looking at yourself. You can see clearly, free from confusing emotions, what is really going on - and take the straightforward and practical steps necessary to move on.
We will continually add to 3 Small Steps as research presents new perspectives on how to step away from Hardcore Dieting into a lighter, more relaxed relationship with food and eating. However, good and accurate instructions never need be overly long if the advice goes straight to the heart of the matter.
So why don't you stop the counting, wake-up, take 3 Small Steps for yourself and smell the coffee of a post-dieting lifestyle?