Getting Real About Weight
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I find that whenever I read about weight loss in the popular media or watch people on reality TV trying to fight off the pounds, or listen to the latest strategies from the experts – be it a drug, diet, or the promise of some genetic breakthrough – I’m left feeling empty, used and uninspired. It seems to me that we’re collectively stuck in the same limited conversation around weight that keeps playing itself back and landing us in the same place – nowhere. With obesity rates at an all time high and continuing to rise, I’m stunned at how these anemic messages about weight never change, and never truly work:

  • Eat less, exercise more
  • You’ve got to have more willpower
  • Try the latest weight loss drug
  • This new diet book is the answer
  • Staple your stomach
  • Count your calories
  • Some day, soon, we’ll simply just change your DNA
  • If you can’t lose weight, you must be a loser
  • What’s your problem?

Science has failed us in the weight loss department.

It literally gets an “F.” The culture has failed us as well. Far too many people have intense moral judgments towards anyone with excess pounds, which contributes to the hidden epidemic of social disconnection, apathy, and plain old sadness. Let’s face it: when it comes to the subject of weight gain and weight loss, we’re clueless. And from that place of cluelessness we tend to flail around, we try our hand at the most inane weight loss strategies, we diet for decades, we consume diet foods and ingredients like synthetic fats and artificial sweeteners that are, if you care to closely study the scientific literature – toxic.

I’d suggest that if you’re not outraged at how all of us have been handling the issue of weight, than it’s time to pay more attention. It’s time for a more enlightened conversation. It’s time to strap your gear on, pack a few snacks, and take a good, long, deep dive into the rabbit hole called weight. Before we can “fix” the problem, it’s best to see the problem through new eyes. So rather than go into the specifics of what to do and not to do – no article is big enough to honor such a powerful and epic discussion – here are some thoughts around what some fresh thinking around weight might look like:

  • Weight is a richly complex, multi-dimensional phenomenon. Most often, there are no simple black and white solutions. It’s time to honor the depth and the psycho-physiologic complexity of weight and it’s loss
  • Excess weight is a symptom, and every symptom we experience under the sun has a divine message, a wise teaching, and has lessons that we are being asked to learn. We need to honor this sacred symptom rather than attack it
  • Extra weight can be related to an unlimited number of nutritional and metabolic factors
  • Extra weight can be caused by an unlimited number of emotional factors
  • Extra weight is fast becoming an issue of genetic inheritance
  • Extra weight can be directly connected to deeper and more profound soul lessons that we are being asked to learn. Some of these lessons might include patience, humility, getting present, embracing our sexuality, forgiving others, forgiving self, learning how to nourish ourselves, loving what is…
  • Extra weight can be a mix and a swirl of any or all of the above factors
  • Extra weight, often times, doesn’t even belong fully to the person who has it. Meaning: humans often “carry” the symptoms of others, of parents, of the collective. The most obvious example – few obese children have “a problem” – it’s all about the parents, or their surroundings, their peers, the media…
  • Extra weight is not a personal issue, it’s collective – meaning, if over 200 million individuals in the USA are overweight, then weight is about the entire tribe. We need to heal the culture as much as we need to change individual habits
  • Women suffer in a unique way, and in a more intense and poignant way when it comes to excess weight. We need to ask why, and to understand that men and women though equal, are rather different
  • Eating disorders have skyrocketed. Eating disorders have absolutely nothing to do with food per se. They are not food issues. They are LIFE issues, expressed via the vehicle of food. Once we listen to these sacred dis-eases more deeply, we can hear how they are calling us to grow, and how they are pointing to the ways our families and communities are failing to hold and love one another in a good way
  • Our relationship with body fat, even for those who have very little of it, is clinically bonkers. Too many of us assume that any body fat is demonic, unworthy, unnatural, unappealing, and deserving of our contempt. Body fat has a brilliant biological purpose. If you could truly suck all the fat out of your body, you’d be dead in an instant
  • We project our shadow – our unconscious judgments, our negative mind chatter, our prejudices, our hate, our moralism – onto people who carry too much weight. As a culture, we secretly love to hate fat people. Who’s issue is that?
  • From the standpoint of science, we really don’t even know how much any given person truly ought to weigh at any given time. So many people walk around claiming, “I need to lose 5 pounds, 10 pounds, 20 pounds.” Says who? By what scientific criteria can anyone assess ideal weight?
  • According to the sum total of all the research on weight, science cannot say with any certainty that extra weight is a symptom, a disease, a risk factor, a positive indicator of health, a genetic issue, a psychosocial one – because it can be any of these
  • The scientific community still can’t wrap its’ head around the simple fact that weight is a mind, body, heart, soul, psychological, cultural and spiritual phenomenon. How we “do” science as a nation is rather immature, and often primitive. It’s time for the scientists, doctors, dietitians, and researchers who hold the collective power to counsel others – to heal their own inner wounds and expand their vision so they can serve from a deeper and more humane place, and a truly scientific/holistic place.

I’ll pause here for now.

 

I’ll remind you that the emotional and psychic issues around weight are far heavier for people than the weight itself. The amount of pain and suffering we carry around body fat is tremendous. Imagine what would happen in society if all of us were in love with our own human form, and in love with our own humanity. We’d be powerhouses. We’d be free to do our work, our mission, our truest purpose in life. So much energy would be liberated. We’d be more creative, more confident, more connected to one another. Our hearts would feel better. The sex would be better. We’d have no reason to hold ourselves back.

But being in love with our own human form doesn’t mean: “First I lose the weight, than I love myself.” It means we begin the journey of love now. Would you tell your own child “I will love you once you are skinnier.” Sounds terrible doesn’t it? Well, that’s what so many people are saying, internally, to themselves. Love only exists in the moment, and in the present. Vitamin L – Love, has long been the key missing ingredient in the weight loss recipe. But the love needs to be guided by a healthy dose of Vitamin W – wisdom. We need to not just be kinder, but to smarten up.

It’s time to let go of our limited scientific and emotionally charged beliefs about weight that are stale and outdated. How would love and wisdom guide you to a deeper understanding of this powerful challenge of our times? Where would it ask you to go, and how would it ask you to be an agent of change and transformation?

My warmest regards,
Marc David
Institute for the Psychology of Eating
© Institute For The Psychology of Eating, All Rights Reserved, 2014

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  • joe Grosso

    Marc,
    Your message is always loud,clear and simply obvious. I always believed that if there was one thing I could change in the educational system on the planet it would be this;
    First grade. Find out what physical exercise one enjoys. Jumping rope, walking, swimming, running. playing an active game movement and only teach that, and that alone. NO subjects just play, be in the moment of fun and enjoyment. I’m sure when mom called us for dinner, and we were involved in play, we were so fulfilled with “primary” food. Eating was a bother in that moment. We were relaxed and happy.
    Second grade. teach nutrition and what nourishes oneself, and blend it with the first grade activity.
    Third grade until college there is plenty of time to learn and forget all those other mandatory courses that we wind up forgetting anyway.
    We all seem to have to learn about nutrition late in life usually due to some therapy remedy, then usually resist it and yo-yo back to the “in-born” bad habits we acquired in those formative years.
    Loved your article. god bless you.
    sincerely
    Joe grosso

    • Marc David

      Hi Joe,

      Your response is extraordinarily insightful.
      Wouldn’t it be great to be privvy to this wisdom at a young age so that it would become instinctual?
      I’m always thankful for your dedication and enthusiasm for this work.

      Warm regards,

      Marc David

    • I couldn’t agree more with joe. Moving around or any physical activity at younger years seems to be the “hidden” culprit in developing a sedentary lifestyle later in life. Put a little overeating habits on the side and viola! weight loss problems start to pop up.

      the more children learn to enjoy physical play and outdoors, I think the lesser chance they will be lazy to exercise and develop some discipline later in life.

  • LiZa Bliss

    What if the “extra” weight we think we don’t need is a blessing in disguise? What if we don’t have to stockpile food for the future, maybe we are the fortunate folks? Let’s just get healthy and enjoy life!!!!!!!!!!

    • joe Grosso

      Liza,
      You are so right!
      As a man I find nothing more fabulous than a women who loves to cook and does not worry about weight.
      Women nurture.. Men hunt.
      I know my mom owned a very successful Italian restaurant and was the cook and
      the main reason for it’s success,
      RIHgT ON!! Keep cooking and be happy…We only go around once. FOOD is a joy and pleasure however we wear it on our bodies. Makes no difference.. It’s the inside and soul that what is important , to me at least…
      sincerely
      joe

  • donna

    quite humorous article. lol.

    everyone should be educated from 1st grade on how not to get overweight. lol.

    • joe Grosso

      Donna
      Right on !
      Lets go back to # 2 pencils and paper. Computers are moving our world and the stress level at an all time high and technology will make it worse.
      Children need to move, not just a mouse pad and bags of chips
      “get where I’m going with this”
      IT WILL BE THE FIRST TIME IN HUMAN HISTORY THAT OUR CHILDREN WILL CONTRACT AND DIE OF DISEASE long before anyone from their parents generation. FACT !!!!!
      Childhood Obesity is growing at an an alarming rate..
      When is the last time you saw a child wear a belt…..? Draw strings, so their waistline can be adjusted on an hourly basis….SICK

      SAVE the children….PLEASE !!
      STOP THE madness
      SINCERELY
      joe grosso HHC

  • pam

    I happened upon this website and blog and glad I did. I am not a professional, but one of those of whom you speak. I found your article to be spot on. Weight loss and attitudes regarding it are the result and responsibility of the whole village. We need more consolation and less condemnation. However I know that I am ultimately the only one who can do the work. Thanks for yout insight.

    • KarnaN

      Hi Pam,
      We’re so glad you stumbled upon us and that you found the article helpful!
      Warmly, Karna Nau – Director of Student Relations at IPE

  • Sally

    Thanks, as usual a great article!

    • Very well written! I have been teaching clients for years that it is absolutely necessary to love yourself – to be kind to yourself – to appreciate and respect yourself, as you are, completely, right now and for always – before consistent positive change can take place. Thank you for such a well written piece on self love! Yours truly in Peace & Love – Coach Tanya

      • KarnaN

        Hi Tanya,
        Thank you so much for your kind words, keep up the great work you do with your clients! I’m sure they are benefiting tremendously from your approach.
        Warm regards,
        Karna Nau
        Director of Student Relations at IPE

  • Marc David

    Hi everyone,

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments and responses.
    We really appreciate your unique perspectives in this line of work!

    Warmly,

    Marc David

  • Great article. Really.

    I think you forgot to say that some extra pounds are not deadly as some people like to think. Right now I’m reading The Obesity Myth, by Paul Campos and I think he’s onto something. It has a lot to do with what you say here. It would be wonderful if every “obesity expert” out there knew everything you state in this post.

    Thank you very much.

  • mickaela

    Today I had to exchange a beautiful dress bought for me as a gift by the man who loves me. It was too small. When I tried to return it for another size, it wasnt there. I had to go to a different store. The problem was that in the back of my mind I was beating myself up for not being the size of the dress originally purchased for me. “If I were only the size he thought I was in the first place we would not be driving cross town for another one” Suddenly my dress size was at fault for adding a cross town trip to our errands ~ wasting time ( mind you he was in no way participating in me feeling like this. It was all my internal dialogue) Its a lovely dress, but I swear I will probably feel fat in it when I wear it. Its shitty that a gift from someone who thinks Im beautiful symbolizes me feeling less than such. Its amazing how self defeating and abusive thoughts about our bodies will interrupt so many simple pleasures.

    • KarnaN

      Hi Mickaela,

      It is incredible that you are stepping back and noticing your thoughts.
      Sometimes we just have to step back, breathe, and remember to love ourselves regardless of form.
      Thank you for being so open and sharing your story, I’m sure it will help many others that read it.

      Warm regards,

      Karna Nau
      Director of Student Relations
      Institute for the Psychology of Eating

  • It is so clear how narrow the conversation is and the amount of pain this creates. And yet, people are so absolutely SURE that it is due to their own personal failure (ie lack of self-control) that they become convinced that they are broken. Beyond repair. Unworthy. And it is this conviction that keeps us blind to the truth. That we are whole. We are powerful. And we are SO incredibly worthy of giving also to ourselves the time, care, and love that we so freely give to others.

    • Kim

      Beautifully stated, Darice!

  • This is brilliant. Totally paradigm shifting for me. I’m about to become known as the “crazy-lady-who-won’t-stop-pestering-me-to-read-that-article-about-weight-issues”! It’s that important…I want everyone I know to read it. Thank you, Marc.

    • Marc David

      Hi Carrie,

      Thank you Carrie for being enthusiastic about this material and for your desire to spread it to those you know.
      I am so grateful.
      You just made my day.
      Love your website – my father, now deceased, was a chiropractor way back in the 1950s!

      Warm regards,

      Marc David

      • Hi Marc~
        I’m happy to validate the value of what you do and present to the world! And thank you for checking out my website…glad to know of our chiro connection.
        I just followed today’s e-mailing, “A New Kind of Nutrition” back to your site again and, again, it speaks so clearly to the bigger picture of “nutrition”, why food is failing us and we are failing with food. I was left with the thought, “How many of these nutrition postings and passings on of Marc’s will people tolerate from me?” Ha! We’ll find out! Thank you again…so happy to have discovered your “brand” of nutrition. And, though I follow and educate from a Paleo perspective, I am increasingly aware of it being “a” way, not “the” way, and your work and perspectives can only benefit my own work and the people I serve in this arena.

        ~Carrie

        • Marc David

          Hi Carrie,

          It’s really great to hear that these posts are providing you benefit and that you’re inspired to share this nutritional perspective.
          I couldn’t thank you enough.
          We are very fortunate to have you in our community.

          Warm regards,

          Marc David

  • Oh, Marc,

    My heart lifted as I read these words, because you’re saying out loud what I have felt and observed for years.

    I, too, find that most rhetoric about health and weight loss makes my heart feel sick and empty inside. I see such a desire to control the human form, to bend it to our will. I even see this in alternative, spiritual, and health circles – and this is where I feel the most sad and disheartened. I suppose I had an expectation that I wouldn’t find it there!

    Health has become a weapon, a weapon where we make war against our bodies, fat, and especially our own tender hearts. As I get older, I see more and messages about how I should control my body and my ageing process so that it unfolds in the best possible way.

    I find this tiring.

    Please, oh, please let’s put our focus on what really matters – our deep needs for love, connection, community. It’s what our hearts most deeply need. It’s what we’re seeking in our quest for perfect bodies and perfect health – to know that we fundamentally, on the deepest level, belong. That we are held in love.

    Let’s expand the definition of health to be about something much, much deeper than the size of our tender bodies….

    • Kim

      Love you, Karly Pitman! Thanks for sharing this article.

      • Marc David

        Hi Karly,

        Thank you for your thoughtful response. Your analogy of health as a “weapon” can be very applicable in the United States, where weight, now more than ever, affects such a large percent of the population through print, media, and dominant ideology. We’re all working to make a difference and create a new norm concerning the relationship between the mind and body. Thank you for touching the lives of others with your positive energy!

        Warmly,

        Marc David

    • Brenda Stephens, RD, PhD

      Amen, Karly, Amen!

  • Chris

    Sir,

    This article was linked on a website I frequent and typically enjoy the articles they suggest for reading. This is an exception to this trend. You have done your readership an immense disservice with what you have written. I cannot count the number of issues I have with your article, as it dissuades those who are overweight to get a real grip on their issues. Most people are not in need of a pep talk or a “”love yourself moment” most of the people whom are overweight need counseling an education and a strict diet regime. Science, as you have pointed out so well in your beginning statements, proves my statements to be very accurate. ***(If you would like for me to send you some topical research links for your reading pleasure please don’t hesitate to ask.)***

    Although you seem to be coming from a wonderfully warm hearted place and have the best of intentions with your writing, it is not a blessing to your readership and those who truly need help it is more misery you have provided. Generally speaking, (because clearly every person isn’t the same) the people you are attempting to relieve from the pressures of societal scorn are in need of kind hearted honesty and assured guidance the most. Education is an immense help, it demystifies a subject that can seem overwhelming to those in most likely in the position of being in need. Your approach on the other hand is not about educating people it’s a typical ‘fake it till you make it’/’feel good now success will come to you’ approach. To be blunt this approach is childish at best, completely disingenuous and health guru voodoo.

    As for your final comments about the science community needing to readjust its goals to heal the person’s soul, you clearly misunderstand the difference between a physician and a psychologist or psychiatrist. You are basically accusing a carpenter of failing to be great at fixing or even addressing plumbing issues in your house. This is not the science they have been trained to practice and to claim that because a physician has a doctorate of medicine that they should also be able to fix an emotionally broken person is just plain ignorant.

    I certainly hope that in your next article, you are far more honest with your readership as to what success actually takes…, repeated sacrifice. Just ask those pesky MDs about how much they had to in order to gain that degree.

    Best wishes,
    Chris

  • Hi Chris,

    Thanks for jumping into the conversation, and I will acknowledge right off the bat that we will need to agree to disagree.
    I am not anti-science or anti medicine, having been raised in a family of scientists and doctors. I think you have misunderstood my intentions. You also make assumptions about my approach that are not based on any familiarity with it. Suffice it to say, I have been at the front lines of clinician nutrition and eating psychology for over 3 decades of my life, and have seen, first hand, hundreds of cases where calories in/calories out theory simply doesn’t hold. It does when it does, and it doesn’t when it doesn’t. I am not alone in this regard as I have worked with plenty of MDs, in medically supervised fasting programs, and with dietitians who all have similar and numerous case studies. Quite frankly, it’s stunning. Science advances via observation first, and so many of the new scientific concepts and breakthroughs since the advent of the scientific method are indeed met with disbelief, ridicule and even scorn. People have gotten burned at the stake for scientific heresies that we take for granted as fact today. You are clearly someone who is passionate and educated in this realm, so I don’t need to elaborate on this unfortunate aspect of the history of science. Consider the wealth of research on the impact of stress/cortisol on thermic efficiency. Human and animal studies alike show that well stressed creatures will gain more weight than their unstressed counterparts when caloric intake is equal.The impact of insulin resistance on calorie burning capacity is also well established. A wonderful raging debate in the research community on ketogenic/paleo diets vs high carbohydrate diets and their various influences on weight gain also points in a new direction. Bottom line – there’s more to the story of weight loss then Newtonian physics applied to the human body which is dramatically impacted by thought, feelings, beliefs, traumas, stress chemistry, relaxation physiology and more.

    Warm Regards,
    Marc David

    P.S. Chris – we tried to reach out to you directly twice but the email you gave did not work and we received email delivery failure notifications each time.

  • Kathy

    I stumbled on your site via a Facebook site I follow. You have touched an area of my life that needs help, has been begging for help. The psychological issues I have involving eating. I don’t need another diet, I know what to do. I need someone to help me realize I am not crazy, these cravings,stress eating, etc is a very real problem I struggle with every day of my life.

    I am reading every blog and comment I can, gleaning knowledge and overwhelming sense of relief.

    Do you have or can you guide me toward more resources that can help me?

    One of your recent blogs discussing stress and lack of weight loss. I am living this. My life was literally turned upside down 7 years ago. I have been in a survival mode.

    Thank you for what you have published showing me I am not the only “loser” in the weight loss battle.

    God Bless

  • KarnaN

    Hi Kathy,

    Karna here from the Institute for the Psychology of Eating.
    I’m so glad you found us through Facebook!

    Yes, absolutely, there are other resources we can offer you. I also want you to know that we understand where you are coming from and want to congratulate you on having the courage to ask for help.
    These are the products of Marc’s work that are for purchase:

    Our Mind/Body Nutrition Audio Guide – http://psychologyofeating.com/shop/audio/
    Marc David has written two books available to purchase through Amazon
    The Slow Down Diet and Nourishing Wisdom which you can find here: http://psychologyofeating.com/shop/products/

    Also, if you haven’t had a chance to check out our free information packed video series called The Dynamic Eating Psychology Breakthrough you can sign up for it below. It’s a great way to get a better sense of the work we do here at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. http://psychologyofeating.com/free-video-gift/

    In your comment you also made a request to work with someone. We would be happy to match you with an IPE-Certified Coach who can help support you on this journey; we just need some more information. In order for us to be able to set you up with a suitable counselor, kindly reply to this email with your age, location, whether you’re willing to work over the phone or skype.

    I look forward to hearing from you soon.
    Warm regards,
    Karna Nau
    Director of Student Relations
    karna@psychologyofeating.com
    Work # 303-440-7642

  • I found this article to be extraordinary. I wish I’d known this years ago. Growing up I didn’t have a weight issue. This lovely issue hit me at menopause…..well, let’s put it in perspective. I hit menopause, got divorced, had thyroid issues and stopped smoking. So, for the last 10 years I’ve found out what carrying extra weight does to your self esteem. I think the part that really touched me is “would I say to my daughter…..I’ll love you when you get skinnier.” I never thought of that in relation to myself….

    Thank you.

    • Hi Rosemary –

      Thanks for your thoughtful words.
      I’m so glad that you had an Ah-Ha around the daughter inquiry.We can be so tough on ourselves!
      I’m also pleased that this had such a positive impact for you.
      Thanks for sharing your insights and perspectives!

      Warm Regards,
      Marc David

  • Just a brilliant article Marc. I loved the part you said about how we love to hate fat people. I consider myself a pretty easy going person but as soon as someone begins to attack someone for their weight I simply cannot hold myself back. The ignorance someone who has never struggled has for people who are is mind boggling. And the dangerous thing about weight is everyone thinks they have it figured out, especially those that have never had a weight problem. They think they are just eating too much and moving too little so they are free to weigh in on their lack of results. We must shift the way we think, feel and act around weight and I am on the same mission as you to change this. I know it can be done… strength in numbers!

    • Michelle –

      Thank you so much! I’m glad you enjoyed the article.
      It tends to be a bit controversial for some.

      There is so much shame and blame that gets passed around in our culture, so thank you for having the passion to stand-up against this. Good for you.
      I totally agree – we’re overdue for a shift in perspective.
      Thank you for adding your voice to the conversation here. A little courage can go a long way.

      Best,
      Marc David

  • Emily

    I used to obsess over my weight. I struggled with anorexia and bulimia for most of my younger years. The focus on numbers- lbs, inches etc etc prevented me from having a healthy relationship with my body, despite assurances from boyfriends, family, even my ex-husband that I was fit and slim. I would starve myself, run on the treadmill, eat, then cry because I had eaten and I wasn’t getting any thinner.

    Only since last year have a stopped starving myself and avoiding mirrors. How? I don’t go near the scales, I never read women’s magazines, and MOST IMPORTANTLY I took up rowing. Seriously rowing. I train 6 or 7 days a week- I’ve never been sporty, but this is the one thing that has done it for me. It doesn’t mean I don’t need will power; for months I would finish work and wish I could go home and sit on the sofa. It has now become routine though; it is what I do at the end of the day.

    No longer do I see food as a necessary evil or even a dirty secret. Each meal is an opportunity- to give my body what it needs to get stronger and faster. I smile when I look in the mirror now and see those small changes- each week my body becomes leaner and more powerful. I’ve stopped worrying about the fact I’ve eaten; all I worry about is that I am getting enough protein, water, carbs, AND fats. My body is a machine; the eating part is only part of the equation.

    The best thing about my sport: we are all different weights and heights and shapes. Even though we all train HARD, we all look different. In the boat, it’s the effort and performance that count- not what we look like, and NOT what dress size we are.

    I really wish I could help others find their epiphany.

    • Emily –
      Thank you so much for sharing your story! What a powerful journey you’ve been on. I’m glad that you’ve found something that works for you, and I praise your desire to help others. Have you seen our free 3-part video guide on The Dynamic Eating Psychology Breakthrough?

      It’s a great way to get a better sense of the work we do here at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating.

      Perhaps you’ll join us someday in the future.

      Warmly,
      Marc

  • Hi Marc,

    I came across your site through my daughter’s facebook page and have found myself, consistently reading your articles.

    I must admit, this is the first time, in many, many, many years, that I have actually come across information, about weight that is legitimately healthy and appropriate to be reading.

    For years, I have been saying that there is something more going on about “weight” issues and that there was a whole other important component to it; emotional and psychic/intuitive.

    This last update, that you posted on facebook struck home about weight being emotional and psychic and the issues we carry, may not even be ours, but those around us, projecting onto others…which is exactly where I fit into this.

    I am an awakened empath; with ultra extreme sensitivity and holding many, many levels of intuition, a reader/healer and transmuter, bringing emotional pain into a context and concept of understanding for healing…however, with that being shared, as I have just spent the last 29 years of my life, with a very direct and often times, without the choice or luxury to bypass emotional pain, healing deep emotional pain and wounds that I grew up in.

    I did not start out with issues about my body, in fact, spent a lot of the first half of my life, being stopped on the street for people to tell me I looked like Ali McGraw and Natalie Wood.

    I also grew up with a mother that was going through a lot in her life and was living in a time, where pain meds were the thing to handle pain, instead of bringing an understanding to life, about pain.

    It’s only in the years that I have been doing healing work, that I discovered that not only was I an extreme ultra sensitive empath, but the issues that my mom had about her body, were issues that were projected onto me; from starvation diets that she would force on me, to eating next to nothing to maintain a weight of 115lbs at 5’6”.

    What was unfortunate at that time, was I had no clue on how to protect my personal boundaries to these issues, picked up a lot of these issues and never had a chance to feel myself, actually grounded in my body, that is until now, with an extra 100 lbs, that I am looking to work myself through, because, why not heal this part of myself, when I have spent the last 29 years healing my emotions.

    Since reading your articles and especially this most recent one, it is only now, that I am finally grounded, aware and present in my physical body, that I feel myself going into a wee bit of panic with omg…how did I get here? Well, duh, I know how I got here…the point is, there is finally someone out there, that is understanding the true dynamics of the issues of weight and this information is so very desperately needed now.

    So basically, I am writing to thank you for these very informed, very healthy and very appropriate information, for others to begin their healing process and to say, finally, thank you, for your approach; that this is in fact emotional and psychic trauma and the soul lessons are many.

    Finally, we can all begin to heal, with the right information that supports our emotions, feelings and our soul.

    Thank you,
    Carolyn Gwiazdzinski

    • Hi Carolyn
      Thanks so much for your kind words and wonderful story.
      I am just so happy for you that you can see how our bodies are responsive to so many forces and factors that are often beyond our control.
      The phenomenon of weight is indeed a rich and complex one, and it deserves more understanding, more consciousness, and more humanity.
      I trust that your beautiful journey will take you exactly to the places you need to go for growth, transformation, and whatever healing needs to happen.
      Ultimately, I believe the issues we grapple with have a powerful soul/spiritual component. I’m glad you can see into these realms!

      Warm regards,
      Marc David

  • Brenda Stephens, RD, PhD

    Great article, Marc! I just have one little issue with it. Whenever it is said that “obesity is a symptom,” there is a tendency to assume it is a symptom of some deep psychological issue or that something other than obesity is what is “wrong” with a person. But sometimes “obesity” is just a genetic norm, and we need to honor the diversity of the normal range of human body fatness. Much of the time, dieting might be to blame for the severity of obesity, due to the “ratchet effect” of weight cycling. I’m an advocate of the concept of Health at Every Size, which encourages a healthy lifestyle (eating according to body cues, enjoyable body movement, the psychospiritual aspects of a healthy lifestyle, and various other healthy behaviors) without the expectation of weight loss. Self acceptance, of course, is a part of the Health at Every Size paradigm.. I’m also a huge fan of Ellyn Satter, a dietitian/therapist who has developed the concept of “competent eating” for all ages, but is especially focused on raising children to be “competent eaters” who “listen” to their bodies and have a healthy relationship with food. Ellyn has written several books and articles, and has a great website and a very interactive Facebook page. Basically, I’m in favor of less worry about calories and weight and more focus on “normalizing” eating – moving away from obsession about food toward eating food we enjoy to truly satisfy physiologic hunger.

    To those commenters who are focused on whipping children into shape in the first few grades of primary school, I suggest that we need to be very careful in our approach to this. I myself was a very active child, and watched very little TV, but that did not prevent me from becoming chubby around the age of 6, and staying that way until puberty. My son had the same weight pattern. I think most children will naturally be physcially active if they have the opportunity to do so in the form of play. Good habits do preferably need to start in childhood, but we need to be careful as to what we define as “good habits,” in order not to set up a pattern of imposing cognitive restrictions on food and makng exercse seem like work instead of fun.

    • Hi Brenda – thank you for your comment.

      If you look through some of our other articles, you will discover that I too am a proponent of health at every size. According to the sum total of all the research on weight, science cannot say with any certainty that extra weight is a symptom, a disease, a risk factor, a positive indicator of health, a genetic issue, a psychosocial one – because it can be any of these.

      From the standpoint of science, we really don’t even know how much any given person truly ought to weigh at any given time. So many people walk around claiming, “I need to lose 5 pounds, 10 pounds, 20 pounds.” Says who? By what scientific criteria can anyone assess ideal weight.

      That said, I find that many people are focused on weight loss and we do our best to offer an approach that address the whole person. I never see it as my job to tell someone that their desires or goals are not valid.

      If a client wants to work on weight loss, I will always meet them where they’re at. In addition to believing in health at every size, I also believe in “unhealthy” at every size. Meaning, we can be at any weight imaginable, including “perfect” weight or a large body – and be unhealthy.

      I have seen many clients over the years who simply needed to drop into love and acceptance of their body – and we teach that here at IPE. And I have seen people who truly needed and wanted to lose weight. We like to look at each person’s journey as truly unique and honor where they’re at as well.

      Again, thanks for taking the time to share your perspective.
      And thank you for all the work you’re doing in helping to raise healthy, body-wise kids.

      Marc David

  • Jenna

    Thank you Marc for this article and the kind and compassionate intention with which you write.

    Ok. I’m going to say some things that I’m sure will not be well received, but I’m hoping it will contribute to the conversation and perhaps shed light on some attitudes we hold.

    First, I must say I haven’t given much thought to the struggle of someone who is overweight and I do not think negative thoughts when I see an overweight person. I can empathize because it requires a great deal of effort for me to keep myself fit. I have always struggled with accepting my body and perceived flaws.

    But here is where my issue is: I think I lack compassion for this struggle because I know the tremendous amount of effort I have put towards my health (and by extension, my appearance) and the information is available for anyone who seeks it and is willing to put in the work to achieve their optimal health.

    I don’t mean that a person with some weight on them cannot be healthy, not at all. We are all different shapes and sizes and I know my fit frame is not the same as many fit girls who are smaller than me even if I am far healthier.

    But to be honest (here is where you’ll be mad) often times I see overweight people eating garbage food that’s clearly bad for you. Lots of thin people do too of course (and that food is often tasty, I get it). But the asshole in me thinks, why do you get to eat that (or be inactive) but also complain that you’re fat? If you’re among the maybe 10% of people who actually have a genetic or hormonal factor getting in the way of losing weight, sure that would be frustrating. But many (dare I say, most) obese and overweight people are not leading a healthful lifestyle (and yes, this can include carrying negative beliefs and judgements about your body, diet, ability in activity etc mental health is also a factor of health, and go figure also influenced positively by a healthy diet and lifestyle).

    I too have struggled with this. I have also taken the initiative to LEARN and educate myself about my body and health (everything from nutrition biochemistry to movement mechanics to vitamins, minerals, food combinations, you name). I move my body all the time (dynamic movement, yoga, weight training, hight intensity interval training), eat extremely clean (all organic, grass fed animal products, zero sugar or caffeine or alcohol), even learned how to cook, pair food, handle nutrient ratios etc all to be in better health. It was not easy, nor was it taught to me (I grew up being taught and modelling extremely unhealthy habits), nor do I have a lot of money (self taught). I also experienced a lot of emotional trauma, depression, anxiety etc and guess what? Treated it myself by learning and approaching health in an holistic way. This took a lot of time, a lot of effort.

    So I guess what I lack is compassion based on an (maybe incorrect?) assumption that overweight and obese people are not putting in the effort I did/do. I firmly believe with what I know (the information is out there, and free!) that they cannot possibly be doing everything they can. You can live an unhealthy lifestyle then complain about the situation you created (kids omitted from all this as their parents feed them).

    Yes, we need a compassionate outlook towards our bodies and others in general. But maybe we are coddling a bit, maybe people need a fire lit under their ass to get themselves healthy now! This is an epidemic and a major financial strain quite frankly.

    We aren’t allowed to say to obese people, you need to lose weight it’s unhealthy and wrecking havoc on your body. We’re too politically correct in a way. But, it’s ok to point to a skinny girl and make derogatory comments like “eat a cheeseburger” (how is that healthful or helpful?). I have certain family members in my extended family who are quite overweight but always have something snarky to say about my fit body, and proceed to eat garbage while I eat a sensible portion of healthful food.

    I admit my instinctual response on this is less than desirable, I’m just being honest. I know a lot of fit and thinner people who work their asses off for their health, who generally lack compassion for those who won’t make the same efforts but want it to be socially acceptable to complain about a problem of their own doing. I know, I clearly have some issues here and I’m not proud of this opinion by any means. I wish I felt all the things Marc stated above. But you gotta get your lifestyle and diet in alignment WITH your mental schema and self love practices.

    • Hi Jenna,

      Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. We always welcome diverse perspectives and ideas here at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating and value your perspective!

      While many people are able to stay fit by simply having the knowledge around fitness and nutrition, for others this knowledge is just not enough. We all have our areas of struggle that are essentially doorways for growth and evolution in our lives. It sounds like for you, weight and your relationship with food is not necessarily that realm that demands a deeper dive into the murky underpinnings of behavior. And that’s just fine. For many others, however, having the information about how to move and what to eat is just not the key to tapping into vitality and health. Personal stories, past traumas, emotions, etc. make the area of health and weight loss much murkier and more complex.

      We don’t need to have a personal experience of a certain flavor of suffering in order to carry compassion and love for others.

      I hope that this helps and once again, thank you for sharing!

      Warmly,
      Marc

  • Kristin

    Love, love, love this! Thanks Mark! Brilliant article:) I think another misconception a lot of people have when they step on the scale is that weight is measuring fat only. I used to be one of these people not long ago, and would obsess over the numbers on the scale. Then I switched to a Dr. who gave me some great words of wisdom and actually checked my body fat. Even though I weighed more than I ever have in years, it was almost all muscle! My body fat was dangerously low the Dr. said. This was a very freeing experience for me. I hardly ever get on the scale anymore. I know that am doing my best to live an active and healthy lifestyle and that has to be enough.

    • Thanks so much Kristin, for your kind words and for sharing your story! It’s amazing how a powerful a shift in perspective can be, isn’t it? So glad you’re on a healthy, nourishing path 🙂 Warmly, Marc

About The Author
Marc David
Founder

Marc David is the Founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, a leading visionary, teacher and consultant in Nutritional Psychology, and the author of the classic and best-selling works Nourishing Wisdom and The Slow Down Diet. His work has been featured on CNN, NBC and numerous media outlets. His books have been translated into over 10 languages, and his approach appeals to a wide audience of eaters who are looking for fresh, inspiring and innovative messages about food, body and soul. He lectures internationally, and has held senior consulting positions at Canyon Ranch Resorts, the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, the Johnson & Johnson Corporation, and the Disney Company. Marc is also the co-founder of the Institute for Conscious Sexuality and Relationship.