Honor Your Body (Don’t Punish it) with Food

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You’ve seen it before, the fad diets that rise in popularity with promises of losing weight with no effort, improving athletic performance, increasing lifespan, or offering some other scientifically dubious health benefit like “glowing,” “detoxifying” or “eating clean.”

Most of us have tried at least one of these and found that, while they might seem to work at first, they don’t deliver on their sensational claims in the long-term. And most of us eventually give up on the fad, revert to our old habits, gain back whatever weight we lost, and feel worse about ourselves for “failing” at the diet. But what if these diets were all destined to fail because of the mere fact that they are diets?

Diets Slim Wallets, Not Waistlines

For those over 30 years old, you know that these years can be some of the best of your life with stable relationships, careers, and more disposable income. Unfortunately, you might also notice that it has become more difficult to maintain a healthy diet and weight. This can be disheartening since we know that being overweight puts us at a significantly greater risk of developing the chronic diseases that tend to manifest in middle-age, like hypertension, heart diseases, and diabetes.[1]  And while one of the blessings that comes with kissing your 20s goodbye is having more resources to focus on your health it often also brings greater demands on our time and energy.

On top of everything, we are surrounded by cheap, calorie-dense foods that while tasty, aren’t always the healthiest option. Yet, it’s often easier to eat what’s convenient rather than taking the time to plan, prepare, or select the foods that are best for us.

Unsurprisingly, many of us find ourselves among the 70 percent of American adults classified as overweight or obese and searching for that simple trick that will help us shed pounds and improve our health.[2]

The diet business, a $450 billion a year global market, is all-too happy to exploit this situation. But, even though half of all adults are on a diet and we spend about $66 billion annually on weight management products, we keep gaining weight.[3],[4] While the obesity crisis is often put into terms of its cost to society, it also has tremendous personal price.[5] Every time we try and fail to stick with erodes something far more valuable than money: our self-confidence and belief in our own ability to control our behavior, diet, and health.

Diets Don’t Work

While some people can conform to restrictive of diets for a time, for most of us these programs focused on consciously limiting food intake to a prescribed pattern doesn’t help us lose weight and can actually lead us to become less healthy, physically and emotionally.[6]

Diets fail, not because we are weak, stupid, or have too little willpower, but because they’re designed to fail.

The Myth of Willpower

 In a famous psychological experiment study participants were asked to remember a string of numbers that were either two or seven digits long. They were then instructed to walk down a hallway to a room and repeat the numbers to another researcher. Once in the hallway, however, the subjects were met by someone with a snack cart and offered their choice of snack, ostensibly as a reward for participating in the study. Subjects could choose either fruit salad or chocolate cake. Though the subjects didn’t realize it, their choice of snack was the true focus of the experiment and the results proved both shocking and revealing. Those trying to remember just two numbers generally chose the fruit salad. But, subjects asked to remember the seven digit number overwhelming chose the chocolate cake.

What this experiment demonstrates is that willpower is not some inborne trait or measure of your value as a person: It is a finite cognitive resource.

Like a computer’s processing power, we each have a limited amount of cognitive energy which we expend addressing large and small tasks or decisions every day. When we run out of cognitive resources, however, we tend to default to our impulses. Like the subjects in the above experiment, their cognitive energy was used up trying to remember a seven-digit number which made it difficult to calculate the long-term effect of choosing cake over fruit. All they could think of was that since cake tastes better than fruit it was the better reward.  

When you diet you are essentially putting yourself in that experiment, making each choice about food an enormous burden on your cognitive resources involving tracking calories, weight, nutrient needs, creating a battle of wills between your higher-minded goals and impulses, and the psychological ups and downs of feeling frustration for lack of progress and shame for “cheating” on the diet. It’s no wonder that dieters cheat the minute they run out of cognitive energy.

While we can’t change the amount of cognitive resources we have or control the demands on our attention, we can change the cognitive math around food-thinking. And this is at the heart of the Lotus Eater approach.

One is the Healthiest Number

Mindful or intuitive eating on the other is, at heart, a one step process.

This central goal of mindful eating is to honor your own body with the foods you choose to eat.

Lotus Eater is here to help you do that. With our tools, resources, and support network we will discover together how to respect our own bodies, be kinder to ourselves, and build a healthier, happier relationship with food.

Your Health Adventure

We might not all have epic tales like Odysseus’s voyage across the Mediterranean, but we’ve each walked a unique an interesting path to become the person we are now. In the comments, let us know about your health journey; where it started, where it has taken you, where you’re hoping to go next. And don’t forget to note something about yourself or your life that you cherish.

 

References:


[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevalence of Obesity Among Adults and Youth: United States, 2015–2016. NCHS Data Brief No. 288, October 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db288.htm. Accessed September 8, 2018.

[2] National Center for Health Statistics: Obesity and Overweight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/obesity-overweight.htm Updated May 3, 2017. Accessed September 8, 2018.

[3] Mann T, Tomiyama J, Westling E, Lew A, Samuels B, Chatman J. Medicare’s Search for Effective Obesity Treatments: Diets are Not the Answer. Am Psych. 2007;62(3):220-233. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.62.3.220.

[4] U.S. Weight Loss Market Worth $66 Billion [news release]. Rockville, MD: Marketdata LLC; December 20, 2017. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/us-weight-loss-market-worth-66-billion-300573968.html. Accessed September 9, 2018.

[5] Cook L. Americans Are Fat, and It's Costing Us Billions. U.S. World & News Report. November 2, 2015. https://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/data-mine/2015/11/02/americans-are-fat-and-its-costing-us-billions-each-year. Accessed September 8, 2018.

[6] Schaefer JT, Magnuson AB. A Review of Interventions that Promote Eating by Internal Cues. 2014;114(5):734-760. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2013.12.024.