A few weeks ago I wrote about Being Perfect. One of the common ways many of us strive for perfection is in our weight or body shape. We think: If only I could lose 10-20-30-40 pounds, then life would be perfect. Truth? If you did lose 10-20-30-40 pounds, you’d just be skinner… with the same old problems.
This pursuit of perfection is endless — and those of us in pursuit often pay a high emotional and psychological toll. It’s like this: we weigh too much, so we can never be enough. That is a stuck mindset. It’s a limiting place. It’s no fun. It really hurts.
It’s time for the anguish and suffering to stop.
It’s time for Thinner Peace.
Among the clatter of competing weight loss approaches, arrives leading life coach, author, O Magazine columnist and friend of mine, Dr. Martha Beck. In The Four Day Win: End Your Diet War and Achieve Thinner Peace, Martha provides a funny, thoughtful, erudite, practical approach to losing and maintaining your best body size. It’s a diet book for all of us who think diet is a four-letter word.
Even if you don’t usually buy diet books, don’t you think you’d love a book with chapters like “Eat Whatever The Hell You Want”, “How To Stop Eating When You Can’t Stop Eating” and “How Not To Be A Big Fat Liar”?
What I love about this book is that Martha gives a thorough, intelligent explanation of how the mind works (would you expect anything less from a gal with three degrees from Harvard?) — and bases her approach on cutting edge research. She tells you not only “how” – but gets you to understand the all important “why”. You’ll find out how traditional diet programs based on deprivation, willpower and suffering work on our minds and help us stay heavy.
Martha undertook this work in as a consultant to Jenny Craig, to help them better understand the psychological aspects of weight loss. Her key finding, after working with plenty of Jenny Craig clients as well as her own private coaching clients, is this: when you set up a famine situation in your brain, you are undermining your ability to lose weight. Psychologically, when you say, “I cannot have even one cookie. If I have a cookie, I will be bad. I will have no willpower and be a loser if I eat just one cookie. Nope, no cookies for me!” – you actually program yourself to only think about what you’re missing: cookies. And if you have the opportunity, you’ll satisfy your cookie famine with a cookie binge.
I know that where I put my attention will grow more central to my life. Martha’s approach plays on the same idea. If you focus on what you can’t do, can’t eat, can’t be, you’ll be stuck there and won’t even be aware of what you can do, can eat or can be.
Martha suggests that we have three aspects of our consciousness: the impulsive overeater in all of us is our Wild Child; the Dictator is the punishing, judgmental part. To really achieve Thinner Peace, you have to take the third way — you have to be The Watcher. The Watcher expresses loving kindness toward the recklessness of the Wild Child as well as the demands of the Dictator, but asks “why” frequently. Why does the Wild Child want the ice cream sundae? Why is the Dictator punishing me for having a french fry? It’s the Watcher who is forgiving, self-loving and self-nurturing. And in charge.
For most people, this shift away from having the Wild Child or Dictator rule the roost is a significant move. The reason your diet has not worked in the past is because you’ve been ruled by impulse or guilt. You have eaten to soothe your emotions. But under the Watcher, you can be in a loving, caring, responsible position. And the Watcher helps you lose weight because you are free to just be – and eat when your body tells you you’re hungry. If you’re sad, the Watcher will notice that and turn your attention to lifting your mood with something other than food.
Here’s a brief excerpt from the book, and a good indication of why I gush about Martha Beck: “Almost all of us assume there’s only one way to lose weight: by willpower, by white-knuckle resistance, by forcing the body with an aggressive, adversarial, disciplinarian mind. This can be achieved sometimes, though not often. Maintaining it long-term? I don’t think it can be done. I’ve seen numerous clients deploy incredible discipline, using their Dictator selves to trap, dominate, and starve their Wild Child selves. Losing weight this way is as draining as keeping a violent criminal pinned to the floor with sheer force. But even if you manage to do it, you can’t hold your own Wild Child in a hammerlock for the rest of your life. The minute you get tired, distracted or sick, the Dictator loses control, and the Wild Child goes into a feeding frenzy.
“That’s the whole reason I wrote this book. Simply going on a diet program, without changing your mental set, causes backlash and weight gain. This is an inevitable reality, based on the way our brains and bodies are designed. But if you use 4-day win techniques to become a Watcher and bring yourself to Thinner Peace, your brain changes, as well as your body. Weight loss happens without backlash or resistance.”
Thinner Peace. Count me in. Because it’s time for the war to stop.