We all must learn to "carry our own weight" they say, which means to take responsibility for ourselves and not to expect others to "carry us". Some people have more to carry, as they have had the misfortune to come from difficult family circumstances, unhelpful environments and little opportunity for education or personal growth. And yet some who began in the most disadvantaged of situations have emerged, found ways to thrive and find happiness -- we say that such individuals have "resilience." These individuals have discovered how to unburden themselves of unnecessary weight, to keep only what is essential and valuable.
Why do so many of us appear "weighed down" by our emotions and problems, as if we are carrying the "weight of the world" on our shoulders? Why not just set down the heavy load, and allow ourselves to feel light and free? This is not merely a rhetorical question, but a central philosophical and psychological problem. Each of us must look deeply into our own eyes, into our soul, to our past, present and imagined future, to make sense of existence, to see ourself clearly, to finally say, "I understand why I do this," before we will be able to let go...
To understand ourselves we look within, but we can also learn by looking at the outside, seeing ourselves as another would, as an observer. In this sense, look at your physicality, at your body, your posture, your facial expression, your movements. Look at how you do things, your attitude. To take a simple but relevant example, look at how you eat. What is your attitude towards the food? Do you value the food? Respect it? Give it the proper attention? Use it sparingly, rather than greedily? Do you consume it slowly with mindful pleasure, or aggressively and quickly? Look at your attitude towards food and the act of eating as a reflection of your attitude towards yourself, other people and life itself. Perhaps this is a radical idea, but give it a chance...
When we carry too heavy an emotional burden it is bound to come out in many small but ultimately significant ways - in our eating, sleeping, moving, breathing. The central human dilemma is to gain self-awareness and to find philosophical meaning in our lives. This is not merely an intellectual, academic exercise, but the key to health and happiness!
Stephen Stotland, Ph.D.
Weight problems are created one bite at a time. That extra few mouthfuls, the second or third helping, the mindless nibbling... What is it that motivates these behaviours? Is it hunger, restlessness, anxiety, or pleasure seeking?
If you ask people why they overeat, the usual answer is "hunger," but when this takes place only an hour after a meal it can't be "real" hunger. It can be more accurately described as an "impulse," which means simply an urge to act in a certain way. The basis for the impulse is habit, which is a learned reaction to a specific set of conditions.
For example, one may get the urge to eat as soon as she/he sits down to watch television in the evening. The sequence of events is: turn on the tv....think of eating....feel an "urge" to eat...go eat! Pretty simple, and not much thought involved. Sometimes a battle ensues, as the person simultaneously has anticipatory guilt feelings ("I shouldn't"). A test of self-control, with the outcome depending on the momentary physical and emotional state of the person and the strength of the habit.
The essential nature of impulsive overeating is what is often called "mindlessness." The sequence of thought, feeling and action is so quick and automatic that there seems little opportunity for conscious self-control.
Examine your thoughts and feelings the next time you're about to cross the line into eating excess. Ask yourself what it is you really want. Is it really more food? What do you think will happen if you don't eat? How does your body feel? Can you relax and let go...wait for the urge to pass? Is it worth the effort? Are you worth the effort?
Bringing awareness to automatic reactions is step 1. Choosing an alernative course of action is step 2. It takes effort, repetition and consistency to change habits. You have to really want it, but it can be done...
Stephen Stotland, Ph.D.
This blog presents some of our ideas about the key issues involved in achieving successful long-term weight control.