This is an important question, one we are too seldom encouraged to ask when we embark on a weight loss plan. Eating habits are not easy to change. They are much harder to change when we forget to ask, “What’s wrong with the big picture?”
The approach to obesity and weight loss in the U.S. is much like the practice of treating chronic disease by simply treating the symptoms. Fixing the “problem” (the symptom) may not solve the real problem.
Like many other health issues, carrying extra weight is not a simple cause and effect situation. Factors like stress, body image, sleep, mental outlook, personal relationships, environment, and physical activity are so interconnected with each other and with our eating habits. To think that we can just treat overweight as a simple energy imbalance is like thinking we can always fix a flat tire by putting air in it.
Sometimes a tire is flat because it has a big hole in it. Few flat tires are fixed by simply filling the tire with air. Similarly having a diet plan that will cause weight loss (if you can follow it) is seldom the answer. More often I hear people say, “I know what to do. I just have lots of trouble doing it.”
Unfortunately, instead of taking a look at the big picture and learning more about personal hurdles – dealing with work stress, incorporating physical activity, or working on a key relationship, for instance – many people will think they simply are not capable of succeeding with the prescription (a diet).
That is so unfortunate! Eating is such a great window into life balance. If you struggle with eating habits, you are gifted with a very visible indicator of your life balance. “Oh yay,” you may say, but I’m serious! When eating is out-of-whack, you can bet that there is something in your bigger life that needs attention.
By focusing attention – and intention – on the big picture, all of the littler pieces will begin to fall into place, including eating. Unlike simply pumping a leaky tire with more air, you will be solving the real problem. You will be patching the hole or getting a brand new tire. Voila! Finally the air will provide a constructive purpose.