Weight Control – It's All In Your Mind Not Your Mouth
No area of human addictions is so badly served or exploited as that relating to food, eating and dieting.
The very same substances that form the food and eating addictions are being repackaged and represented as the possible cure – a proposition utterly ridiculous as soon as one steps back and sees the context.
It would be like producing a range of slightly blunter blades for the self-harming, or slightly reduced moonshine for alcoholics, or boxing gloves for the domestically violent.
Yet a similar kind of lunacy continues within the food arena, with every conceivable variety of lo-calorie, lo-fat, lo-carbohydrate or lo-sugar being promoted as the cure to all one's underlying eating, weight and self-image issues.
- Is food your problem? Then, hey, come right over here because we have more food that just happens to be your personal solution!
But legislation is rarely the right answer to these things. Calls for tightening regulations governing what the Food Industry can produce and what it can promote are little better than dead end by-ways on the road forwards to lasting solutions.
Education is what is needed. However, this so often ends up in the backwater of nutrition, not the mainstream requirement for a better mass understanding of the psychology of eating.
It starts at the highest levels, not just with business, which will naturally and not improperly seek advantage wherever it can be obtained. The Government of both the US and the UK are currently in the process of releasing new eating guidelines.
They have been putting out similar advice at regular intervals for over 100 years now. No-one pays a blind bit of notice. People by and large understand the fundamentals of adequate eating. The deficit is in workable strategies for individuals to be able to adopt these fundamentals permanently and painlessly into their everyday routines.
Instead we end up with a ceaseless tide of next to useless diet and nutrition advice. A lot of it revolves around scientific studies into the possible effects or non-effects of various micro-nutrients, often presented in a context utterly removed from the daily reality of eating.
There is a growing Academic Industry which needs to fuel itself with research – and that often becomes research for research's sake. In relation to all things food and eating, the sector needs to look closely into itself and to assess whether it is acting in the interests of solutions, or risking an increase in food obsession through its often self-serving output of irrelevant nutritional verbiage.
It is even easier to take pot shots at the Dieting Industry – but as it is still standing and, indeed, thriving, there is no harm at all in taking a fresh swipe! Everything about it is simply wrong.
There have been experiments where kids have been left to select their own intake from a range of offered foods – everything from trash candy to fresh fruit, with all other major foods and dishes in- between being represented.
And you know what? Within a couple of days the kids stop binging on rubbish and self-select a balanced diet. But perhaps that isn't that surprising really after all.
The problem is that we are in danger of losing sight that food and eating is actually quite easy and instinctive. Can you imagine if there was a rising international epidemic of dysfunctional breathing? There would be fears that humankind was collectively taking leave of its senses. Well, without entering the realms of science fiction, this is the self-induced and self-perpetuated variety of madness with which we flirt through our food obsessions.
There is a growing movement called Intuitive Eating which is attempting to recapture the innocence and simplicity of eating. Of itself this is a very good thing but it is does not go far enough.
Hand-in-hand with an anti-dieting message needs to be a proactive and personal sense of awareness about the social structures which support the Dieting Madness. Once you understand your own personal combination of emotional, cultural and commercial pressure points, it becomes very easy to grasp that food is nothing more than fuel – with a little sociability and celebration thrown in for good measure once in a while.
Next time you are tempted by any diet product (which can be as superficially OK as a lowered calorie something or other), forcibly remind yourself that it is all nonsense. It is the total consumed which matters, not the sum of the parts. And, much more importantly, beyond this initial breakthrough acknowledgment, learn to accept that nothing we put in our mouths (certainly nothing that emanates in any shape or form from the Dieting Industry) actually has much to do with it at all.
The gainful alternative is to learn to put good things into our minds instead and when we do this we are talking a whole new ballgame – and it is one we can win on our own terms time after time.
About the Author: Malcolm Evans is founder and secretary of The Weight Foundation weight control research charity, which develops free weight loss resources.