Saturday, October 9, 2010

Food Doesn‘t Make You Fat, You Make You Fat.

The obesity statistics are surely alarming. It seems like they are climbing daily. Every where you look you see the majority of people are overweight. Experts are quick to point the finger at the reckless abundance of processed foods and the enormous ‘normal’ serving sizes.  We debate macronutrient ratios and demonize foods that don’t fit those ratios. Hundreds of diet books are published every year, each claiming to be the answer for which you have been looking. Local governments propose anti-obesity legislation. However, as we watch these numbers rise, or even watch our own waist sizes increase, it seems like it is all ineffective. We seem to have all this knowledge about nutrition science and awareness of how to lose weight, but the results are frustratingly grim.

Obesity, though, itself is not the problem. It is the manifestation of a deeper problem facing us. Food is simply the medium that we use to deal with the increasing prevalence of psycho-social issues that we face in our modern lives. Interestingly, weight loss does not solve these deeper psycho-social issues. Julie’s story is a testament to that. 

The following are a list of reasons which may lead one to overeat. Or, another way of looking at it, large doses of food (providing a drug-like effect) may be used by people to cope with these common issues:

Chronic psychological stress
Social isolation
Sleep Deprivation
Body image disorder
Lack of control
Lack of creative output

Essentially, our mal-adaptation to modern life leads us to seek food to help cope with these psycho-social issues. We don’t need the food for simply nutrition and energy, but for stimulating reward pathways in neural circuits in our brains. Processed foods do provide a more powerful punch and can be used more effectively than whole foods.

Lao Tzu
Figuring out how to break this cycle is the key to weight loss, fitness gain, health, and happiness. Fulfilling your psycho-social needs in appropriate (non food) ways will allow you to change your relationship with food. Figure out what psycho-social needs you are using food to cope with and you will be on your way to changing your body. But, it is not a quick fix. It may require a reevaluation of your priorities and how you spend your time. You may have to simplify your life, say ‘no’ more often, ask for help, cut-off negative relationships, cultivate positive relationships, spend less money, manage your time, get organized, learn to accept who you are, love yourself, appreciate what you can do, develop a good balance of work and rest, disconnect from electronic media more regularly, and find a creative output. This is a very eastern philosophical approach and is also important for success in any aspect of your life.

When I work with a client who desires fat-loss, I know on paper exactly what they need to do to achieve those results. I have had many clients achieve their goals. At the same time, I have seen many clients fail. The critical factor is their psycho-social state. If they aren’t able to fulfill their psycho-social needs in non-food ways, then they will fail. They need to have a healthy state of mind if they are to develop an appropriate relationship with food. 

Food doesn't cause obesity, no matter how calorie-dense or processed it is. Using food to cope with the highly prevalent psycho-social issues our culture faces is the underlying problem.  Address these underlying psycho-social issues if you wish to achieve any long-term fat-loss, health, fitness goals. 

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