Dear Dr. Respler:
It wasn’t long into the group session that I once again had the feeling of despair. For as long as I can remember I have gone from one diet to another. I began with Start Fresh when I was 12. After that I tried Diet Center, Weight Watchers and a number of other very good programs, but somehow always ended up right back where I started –
overweight. So I turned to books, diet books that is. With each book I read I became a believer of the particular plan discussed, and just knew that it was the one that would work for me – until it didn’t anymore. Now, as I was giving another plan a try, the group discussion and the counselor’s speech was giving me an enormous headache. My experiences with weight loss programs have made me see that the focus is all on the wrong aspect of “fat.” In program after program, in one book after another, the focus was always the same: The foods and what to eat and what not to eat. In the long run this focus doesn’t help, and I suspect the reason is because the focus needs to be on the mind and how ‘it’ perceives the food. Let’s be honest, we all know what we should be eating and how much of it.
Shouldn’t our focus be on why we eat – on the hows and whys of our relationship with food? The body is an amazing machine and the brain its main motor. Something in the foods we are choosing to eat causes the brain to ask for more of it. But can’t we train our brain to ask for nutritious food? There are many foods that are not only good for you, but that are also delicious, tasty and juicy. I call them fruits and vegetables. You can call them whatever you like. But when you eat the proper foods, your brain doesn’t ask for more of it than it needs, because the body knows that it is functioning properly. Doesn’t it make sense to teach ourselves to crave what we truly need?
I agree with your ideas and know that your assertions are correct. Food actually means different things to different people. For many of us, food not only provides nutrition, it also gives us a certain level of comfort and security. We eat when we are happy, when we are frustrated or sad, and we eat when we are nervous. Most of us consume more food than we actually need to live and be healthy.
Not only that, food has become a central aspect of our lives. Most of us go out to eat at least once every two weeks. That would be fine if we were also exercising and making healthy choices.
So, yes, you are correct when you say that people focus way too much on food. The question is why?
As I noted, food or eating is comforting and a place to go when your feelings are all over the place – the cookies and cake are what you know. When life is out of control, we look for what we can have control over – and mistakenly believe it’s our food intake. We think because we have decided what and when to eat (even when the choices are bad ones), we are in control. Other people aren’t making these choices for us, are they? However, how many times have you eaten more than you should and then said, “Uch-I should not have eaten that.” It might help to remember that by “controlling our food intake” in an unhealthy manner we are, in essence, poisoning our bodies.Dr. Yael Respler
About the Author: Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at www.jewishpress.com and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at www.dryaelrespler.com.
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