The article was originally written for The Dragontree.
In the previous article of this series, I explained some of the many reasons why humans today have more trouble staying slim than ever before. These include differences in our lifestyles, food changes, chemical disruption, and several other factors. At the end, I offered an idea that has been on my mind for a while, although I admit it’s a bit outside the box: I believe we have a greater tendency to become overweight because we see so many overweight people around us.
I think the prevalence of people struggling with weight around us has contributed to the development of shared thoughts like, “It happens to almost everyone … even people who eat well and exercise. It seems almost unavoidable. Even when people lose weight through dieting, they always gain it back. It’s easy to get fat and really difficult to lose weight.” I’m not saying we should put all our eggs in the psychogenic basket (thought-induced), but we might as well do whatever we can to address this issue on both physical and psychological levels.
If we have a belief that becoming overweight is probably inevitable, we may unwittingly help to make this true through subconscious changes to our behavior and the direct effect of our thoughts on our body. The first task, as I see it, is to change this belief – even though we’ll probably continue to see many overweight folks around us and perhaps our own overweight body. Even just the slightest shift in thinking can initiate a trend in the right direction.
Numerous authors have written about changing our thinking and emotions in order to change our objective reality. For people who like philosophy that’s a bit “out there,” I recommend Vadim Zeland’s Reality Transurfing and Esther and Jerry Hicks’ The Astonishing Power of Emotions. Zeland might say that obesity is a “pendulum” – a thought-form that increasing numbers of people subscribe to, giving it greater and greater power to influence our consciousness.
Other examples of pendulums include social trends and political issues. As more people latch onto them, they swing all the more strongly and are increasingly influential. According to Zeland, we can never truly win when we fight with a pendulum. Both subscribing to the pendulum and fighting with it mean engaging with it, and therefore giving it our energy and being taken for a ride. The only real solution is to avoid engaging with it. Become indifferent to it. Let the pendulum swing through you as if you were a ghost. Laugh at the pendulum.
Based on this idea, it doesn’t make sense to hate or fear obesity. Or to expect it to be a long uphill battle. Just a subtle shift of our rudder, such as, “Having a fit body is possible for me. I’m already on my way,” is not so hard for the mind to swallow, and it orients us properly without a fight.
Consider this passage from The Astonishing Power of Emotions:
If being slender matches the emotion of happiness [if you are happy and slender] … and you were to consistently eat ice cream while feeling happy … you would be a slender person who eats large quantities of ice cream. If your desire to be slender while you are currently not slender matches the emotion of discouragement [if you feel discouraged about not being slender] … and you were to consistently eat ice cream while feeling discouraged … you would be a fat person who eats ice cream. If your desire to be slender while you are currently not slender matches the emotion of discouragement … and you were to consistently use your willpower to keep yourself from eating ice cream … you would be a fat person who does not eat ice cream.
As you can see, the key in these three scenarios is whether the individual feels happiness or discouragement. Happiness indicates there’s no fight happening. Discouragement is what the authors refer to as an “upstream emotion,” like we’re paddling against the current of life because of an internal conflict. So, if we think to ourselves, “I notice there are many people becoming overweight,” there isn’t yet a conflict … until we think, “I’m headed that way, too, and I hate that this is happening to me!” There’s the conflict.
So, if you have concerns about your weight, an important part of the healing process is to begin watching your thinking. Notice when you’re engaged in mental conflict – e.g., “My body is doing this and I don’t like it” – and try for just a subtle shift toward a sense of trust, ease, or gratitude.
Finally, regardless of what and how you eat, never feel guilty. If you’re about to eat something decadent and you’re already feeling guilty and thinking, “I shouldn’t be eating this,” or “I know this isn’t good for me,” don’t eat it until you get yourself into a different mental space about it. By all means eat it if you want to, but only if you can shift to a feeling of eagerness and thorough enjoyment. Tell yourself, “I’m going to relish the hell out of this cake,” and really do relish the hell out of it. If at any point you find you’re not relishing it, stop eating it. If you notice any guilt, forgive yourself.
I believe that by directing some of our weight loss effort at this form of internal inquiry and script revision, we stand to not just lose weight, but to actually forge healthier beliefs and become happier people. People who can eat the occasional bowl of ice cream and simply be glad that such a creamy and delicious thing exists.
Dr. Peter Borten