Thursday, August 6, 2009

Wild Weight Loss - Will it last?

Weight Loss is always a "hot" topic. Rush Limbaugh lost 90 pounds in the last 6 months! Weight loss - it's on every cover of nearly every single popular magazine. Even some content rich magazines will still include weight loss articles sure to be on the cover for increasing sales. While we obsessively put weight loss on everyone's lips and reading material, we are becoming a nation of exponential obesity. There is something amiss when we are so focused on weight loss and becoming fatter in the process. I have plenty of thoughts about what's amiss. It's not just opinion, but based on 22 years of working with people who struggle with this pervasive issue. What's the deal that we can't get weight loss right?

Let's look first at what is applauded as "weight loss." Only a few days ago, the news was all over the fact that Rush Limbaugh has lost 90 pounds in the last 6 months. Yes, 90 pounds in 6 months. Scary! How does one lose 3.5 pounds per week for 6 months in a row? Again, it's scary. Ask any nutritionist, in-the-know eating disorders therapist or doctor and you will hear a resounding voice of this not being a good idea medically or psychologically. And to boot, there is no exercise included in this diet of Mr. Limbaugh's. The "Quick Weight Loss Program" will, no doubt, be inundated with people looking for that quick fix to their weight problem. They will make a lot of money.

This diet has several key ingredients; starvation, structure, supplements and support. It's missing exercise and sustainability. Doesn't sound bad, does it? But sustainability is a big deal. I sat with a client in my office only last week - she came to see me in a total panic after she had spent the last year losing 104 pounds.(I had not met her until she came to me in her panic). She had been down to 135 pounds, 20 pounds below what her goal weight was to be on Weight Watchers. Now she weighed 155, had been eating/binging for a month, and was in literal terror about feeling consumed and out of control with eating. It was so sad to see her terror. She had no freedom around food, and any "slip" whatsoever from her spartan choices and amounts sent her into a full force binge.

This is what happens 99% of the time - and the portion of the diet that no one talks about. People talk about the success of their diets. "Yes, I lost 104 pounds!" But the next stage of the diet is the binging, the weight gain, and the subsequent piling on of guilt and shame. The diet is the faulty factor, not the person. But the person is always amassing more portions of guilt and shame. Then it starts over. "I'm fat, I must diet and do it harder."

Why mention weight loss in a blog on performance? Because appropriate weight is essential to top performance as an athlete, a stage performer, or to anyone wishing optimal health. I have a particular passion for working with weight loss, having taught classes for over 20 years to help people free themselves from their ineffective, harmful patterns with food and their emotional traps with overeating. I've seen the diet cycle up close and it never changes. If you have emotional issues that are unresolved and use food to get you through life, those emotional issues don't go away, just underground while you're on the diet. I repeat, the "loss" part is just one portion of the diet cycle. It's only one portion.

If the emotional or addictive tendencies with food are not resolved, the person, no matter if they've lost 20 or 90 pounds, will eventually have to come "off" the diet. The only other choice is to become an addict - a dieting addict. I'm concerned for Mr. Limbaugh - he's revealed his addictions in the past. This just may be his newest one. And I feel sad for all the well-meaning people sold a bill of goods about diets and weight loss.

The answer? Doing the smarter, harder work - learning how to deal with anxiety without the aid of food. Discovering, identifying what the anxieties really are and knocking them out of the body. Learning how to literally neutralize the cravings that occur from years of habitual ways of thinking and behaving around food. There's a lot of intention involved in not getting swept down the path of dieting. My wish - to give everyone I can the courage and hope that there are ways to do this work that lead to total freedom around all foods. The freedom to eat is the freedom not to. Choice and freedom, no guilt, no obsession with calories --- freedom. That is permanent weight loss.

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