Volume: 1, Issue: 2

August 8, 2011

Why Do You Really Want To Lose Weight?

This may be the fundamental question each of us has to answer regarding any decision to lose weight. But there is a more fundamental one to answer that we seldom think to ask. Why did I gain the weight in the first place?

If we are really looking for the answer to the original gain, then we have to understand how and why we became the way we are. I am forever teaching that “everything that we say, everything that we do, everything that we create is a self-portrait.” I mean absolutely everything! We use everything as a metaphor for self and then express our self through the metaphor.

Everything that you bring into the place you live, where you place things in your living space, who lives in the space with you, what kind of clothing you choose, the colors, styles, when you wear what, the language you use….the books you read… the things that interest you….the choices you make….all express who you are. It is absolutely inescapable….everything around you is a metaphor, a symbolic expression of your depth self. The place that this is most obvious to others and least obvious to ourselves is our bodies. The body is a means of self-expression!

I am not talking about the things you put on your body…those are easier to see as symbols for self-expression. I am saying that your body itself is a symbolic representation of who you are. This is what the word “embodied” means. It is as if your body were a garment that you had selected in a clothing store and purchased to wear. It will have all of the qualities and characteristics of the manufacturer’s choices (your genetic make-up) over which you may have little control. However, that you are in the particular body you are and you are continuing to live there is, in fact, a choice (Ask Kavorkian!). Whether you lift your hand right now or not is a choice of self-expression. You are choosing to use that body where you are now as a means of expressing yourself. You have done so since, and possibly before, your birth. You do every moment that you live. And herein lies the difficulty.

How conscious are you at every given moment that you are choosing anything?

When you were born you could signal that you were hungry, but then you were dependent upon another’s choice about feeding or not feeding you. You learned how to be within the family to which you were born; you learned by choosing to modify who you are to meet their demands and expectations about how to express your being within the family. If you are from a dysfunctional family of any kind, the way you learned to accommodate the needs of others is part of the way you have learned to express yourself. Sometimes in dysfunctional families we are taught to “stuff” ourselves; this can mean to stuff our feelings or even physically “stuff” ourselves. Sometimes we are stuffed by others. Sometimes we use the action of stuffing either with food or withholding of emotion as the symbol of our self-expression. What we cannot say aloud (I originally wrote “allowed”; perhaps that is correct!), we express non-verbally.

Eighty percent of all of our communication is non-verbal and most of that is unconscious. This means that we are not…or are no longer…aware of what we are expressing. The individual who is unable to see that the body is the most intimate means of self-expression is probably not only having difficulty with weight but also have sexual difficulties. I can predict that link because: everything is a means of self expression….sexuality and body are linked in expression of innermost feelings. If there is a blocking of awareness about expressing through the body metaphorically, there will be difficulty with body….period. Sexuality is simply another metaphor for a self in expression.

For instance, we could impose a metaphor on the body of a person who is over- weight. We could say that it is a need for distancing from the outside world. The layering in the body creates the distance in the same way that the person may build walls emotionally to distance from others. We can say these things arbitrarily….what we cannot say is that this is what is going on within another individual. No one can impose an interpretation on another’s meaning. So to understand about weight loss in ourselves, we have to understand about weight gain. We have to understand what is going on in our self-expression and what we are really saying.

There is also another problem with body and expression in our culture. There are times when we are supposed to gain weight and when the body is supposed to rearrange itself. It is part of the process of aging. However, in our culture, this is not recognized as the ideal image. The ideal image is that of youth and thinness; other than the ideal is considered “less than”. I really believe everyone in our culture needs to watch films from the forties and fifties to see how those ideals of body have changed. And they are changing still. If we try to live by an externally imposed anything, we are going to be miserable. Remember that is what we learned in our families as children. While each of us has been dealt a genetic make-up, we also have learned to choose in terms of everybody else….rather than learning to be in touch with who we are and allowing that deep self to have an expression. The more we hold our SELF in abeyance, the more that will be expressed unconsciously through everything around us, particularly our bodies. And the more we will stuff…using food, alcohol, drugs to pile on top of the covered self. The uncovering….or discovering…of the buried self is a process. The choices we make about how we want to look when we say, “I really need to lose weight” are subtle choices. What we are really saying is: “I look at myself and I want to change….I want to be who I want to be.” That is our conscious thought speaking to the unconscious mind. What absolutely must happen is that we come to allow a deep authentic expression of our SELF in our words, thoughts, the things around us, and in our bodies and actions. When someone says my “eating is out of control and I want to lose weight”, what I hear is “I cannot hear what my body is saying to me and I want to change so I can live what I truly want.” How often do we really allow ourselves to live what we truly want???!!! That is what shows in our bodies and everything that we do to express ourselves.

What we are really saying when we talk about losing weight is learning to live in terms of who we really are…everywhere! Those choices may be about changing you entire life. It may mean changing how you express yourself through exercise and how you move through space….how you dance or walk ….It may mean changes in how, when, what you eat…. It may mean getting yourself out of a lifestyle that is destroying you….out of a relationship that is “eating” you up…it may mean changing your work…doing what you love rather than what you don’t….It may mean surrounding yourself with people and things that are expressions of you loving yourself. It may be that you will learn to live your own life, in your own way….more healthily….happier…

If you want to change your life, your mind, your body, you must first listen to what you are saying verbally and non-verbally…you must dare to hear the metaphor you are shouting to yourself. And then you must learn a new way of living in the world.
Quinntessence Renovations: “Renovations With Love”…

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Other Stories

Taking Time–The Winter Solstice

A patient of mine stopped me in the hallway this week and ‘demanded’ that I help her with her New Year’s resolutions! I just laughed and told her, “That it isn’t my job…I don’t make up rules that help people defeat themselves!”

“Well, how am I supposed to use this holiday season?” she muttered petulantly.

“That’s a really good question; we will work on it in group,” I responded smiling. “And thanks for the idea for my column this month!”

I recently participated in a workshop in which the facilitator called me a

“token Pisces” because my “sun sign was in Pisces.” Now, I have been reading my horoscope for a long while, and I know how Pisces are described. We are spiritual; mystical; touched deeply by art, music, poetry and all things mysterious. We are the peacemakers and the leaders in these areas. So you understand….I like this metaphor because it speaks to my own spirit, not because all who are Pisces are this! I have known sexual abusers who are Piscean and some who could care less about the mystical, magical, ephemeral aspect of reality. I, on the other hand, am an outspoken teacher and leader of persons questing their own spirits. And, I know how to teach this, guiding others along their own paths into mind/body/spirit wholeness.

If we summed up who I am and what I do, this is it. And, I am staunch in my defense of my right to express and to be who I am, as well as for others to do and be their own souls. No one defines me, and I will not define another. I support the quest of each. I also say what I see. Want to know what I think? Just ask; I’ll tell you….no secrets…no b.s.

This perhaps is my holiday thought for all of us…this is my message.

 

I was thinking about the Winter Solstice and the meaning of the loss of light, the weavings of an extended night. I was trying to imagine what it might have been for men and women who lived long ago, connected to the Earth and the Universe around them in a way that we have long since lost.

I suppose this loss accounts for so much of the alienation that I see in people all around me. When we, as a people, lose the grounding in our lives, we become disconnected and chaotic. In these alienated people, I see the desperate seeking for any meaning at all that gives them a purposeful life focus. It is this desperation that makes people so vulnerable to having others set themselves up as the “guru” or leader in people’s lives. The true teacher supports and guides but never “tells” the other who or what they are. The process is one of ‘discovery,’ not ‘dictate.’

Perhaps this is part of the process of healing which is included in re-discovering the self.

So, at this time of the year, when our culture emphasizes the commercial, I return to the wonder of the Winter Solstice. I imagine a world where the night begins to extend into infinity. What would I feel or think sitting in the darkness, knowing that the sun is later and later in its rising? What if it never came one morning, and I was confined to an eternal night; what if I were cast into the darkness…never ending?

This is the seeking for light, and it becomes the basis of most of the religions of the world…all of the light-seekers and the gods and goddesses of light play a part. The mystical dances of light on night water; the sun songs of the Hopi calling the sun to rise every morning….and, if the Hopi cease to be? Does our sunrise also cease? I pray that the Hopi continue their songs because I don’t want to find out what happens to our sun! Are these thoughts pagan?…sure. And, they are the subsumed thoughts of Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Sufism….everywhere at the Winter Solstice the heart, mind, body turns to a slowing of thought and motion; to a place of self uncovering.

What would I be if…? What is the purpose of my life? What is my spiritual journey? How will I know? What is this connection to my body and its health or illness? How do I approach others and the relationships in my life? What are the obstacles that I create or allow that encumber the unfolding of my life? Who do I allow the power to define what my life is about? Who dictates to me? What do I get out of allowing this? What do I need to change in myself to allow myself to be my own internal source? Do I allow stillness, time, quiet so that I hear my own thoughts arise within me? Do I hear the messages of my body telling me where I need to go, do, be? Do I understand the message of illness in my body? Where am I going and what do I do to get there?

Nope….I won’t help write the resolutions….I’m too busy asking the questions that guide my patients/students on their ways!

What you Don’t Know About Diet Pills Can Kill You..

There is one thing that we all know. Lots and lots of people in this country are over-weight….and lots of money is being made literally preying upon the desire that all of these people have to lose weight. That is what I call them: “diet predators.” They write books…sell fad diets…and medicate us…the horror of the whole process is that we are purchasing their services and goods without doing the research necessary to protect ourselves.

These are probably some of the things you do not know about food and losing weight.

1. When your body consumes less than a thousand calories (1000), it is chemically sent a message that says the food supply is low and you are in danger of starving….store everything and slow down the fat burning process!

What happens then is that no matter what you eat, it will be converted and stored in the fat cells to be used at the time when the food supply entirely runs out and you have to live off the stored fat. Problem: The food supply is not running out and you are already overweight.

2. ALL MEDICATIONS ARE FOREIGN SUBSTANCES TO THE BODY.

Let me say it again…I am shouting to you now….ALL MEDICATIONS ARE FOREIGN SUBSTANCES TO THE BODY!!!!!

This means that when you introduce ANY medication into your body, your body identifies it as foreign and reacts to it. This is why medication works in the presence of illness. Medications are composed of chemicals that break down and then bind with certain receptor sites in the body to produce change. So, when you take a medication (let’s take a pretty commonly prescribed one such as Xanax), it is making a chemical change in the body. This particular medication is pretty routinely given for anxiety, depressive feelings, sedation. Almost always this medication is given for months and years at a time because when it was first developed it was designed to replace the barbiturates, and the negative side effects found with those drugs were not supposed to be present. We now know that the maximum time this medication should be given is A MATTER OF DAYS! Why? Because there is a serious side effect called “rebound”. Rebound simply means that after you stop taking a medication the body will react as it always did and try to counteract the presence of the drugs action by doing even more of what it always did.

People will often express anxiety and depression if they are overweight and if you are medicated for those symptoms then you can anticipate a rebound response. If you are depressed and anxious about your weight, then guess what your mind and body are going to do in rebound!!??? The cycle is vicious.

3. Many people self medicate with “over the counter” medications for weight loss. The problem with OTC medications? The body treats them as foreign substances; they probably will have a rebound effect; and most people use them in combination with other medications, forgetting to tell the physcian, nurse practitioner, or pharmacist what they are taking.

So, there are accumulations of similar medications stored in the system that the body is reacting to. Increase these enough and you run the risk of cardiac and respiratory arrest. For instance, let’s suppose you are taking an OTC diet pill. These usually will be made of a chemical like ephedrine or epinephrine, which happens to be the same medication in our cold and allergy medicines sold over the counter, and is similar to the prototype chemical in the prescription medications we just looked at. Not only are you setting yourself up for rebound but you are running the risk of overdosing!

4. Buying diet pills in the health food store is no safer. Read the label. They will often contain epinephrine from a “natural source”….this does not means it is safe or healthy for you to use these medications… because??? They will do the same as other over the counter medications and you can overdose, and have a rebound effect. Look at it this way.

Rattlesnake venom is from a natural source and can be used as a medication, but you wouldn’t just medicate yourself with it, would you?

Maybe you need to look at the over the counter medications in the pharmacy and grocery as rows of rattlesnakes. Be careful what you touch, pick up or use. That’s how dangerous these medications can be for you.

5. And be careful of going to any healthcare giver and taking medications…this is true for all of them….nurses…physicians ….pharmacists…and expect that we will have psychologists eventually prescribing medications too. Remember that medications prescribed routinely for anxiety, depression, sedation should not be used for more than several days…ANYBODY prescribing for longer than that is endangering your health. You would be horrified at the numbers of people I have to remove from medications in a health improvement weight reduction program (and often just to treat the underlying cause of their emotional distress).

6.Throughout your life there are growth hormones present in your body. These affect growth both up and out. When you are no longer growing taller, my rule of thumb is you will be growing out! This simply means that the insulin cycles in the body, and hormonal endocrine processes that helped you grow up can now function to make you grow rounder. This is a normal body process; when it becomes abnormal, then you have a genetic problem that can cause weight gain problems.

Most people are not genetically defective in this area.

Most of us do not expect to have the aging process affect us in the ways that it does. It is normal in the 40’s and 50’s to gain weight and then to have the fatty tissue in the upper body begin to migrate to the stomach and hips, but not to the extent that we have in this country. We do not expect to develop “beer bellies” (that does come from drinking beer and improper eating) nor do we expect to carry extra weight from “eating for two” during pregnancy (two? what? truck drivers?!). Americans eat too much. And we eat too much of the wrong foods. And then we want a magic pill to make the consequences of our actions go away. The great majority of us are not genetically defective…we are behaviorally defective.
Ask Dr. Quinn…

Dear Dr. Quinn,

I have been divorced for several years and I have a problem that I cannot go to anyone else with. I find myself going on dates with men I don’t really want to, not because I’m lonely. Even though I am. I go because I know that most of them will try to make a pass at me or will touch me. I am so desperate to be touched that I hurt all over sometimes. Please don’t tell me to talk to my doctor about this. I don’t think he would understand!

Shriveling Up

 

Dear Shriveling:

There is nothing wrong with you!! Now, having said that, let me tell you why. What you are experiencing is more common than you will ever imagine. In the forties, we discovered that little babies in orphanages who were not picked up and held developed illness or died inexplicably. This dysfunction is called “miasmus” or failure to thrive. In children, when a therapist sees this malady we know that the child is not having the physical nurturing that it needs just to survive.

But what about adults? The same problem exists, only we do not have a name for it. It is an obvious problem in older adults who are confined to nursing homes or who live alone. In this population, the need is sometimes labeled “skin hunger.” I had an old aunt who was in a nursing home when she was in her nineties. She and I found a perfectly acceptable way to get her touching needs met. She could not say that she needed touching, but she could say that she liked to have her hair brushed. So, I would brush her hair which was very long, and I would brush down her back which got her touched to her waist. Sometimes I would give her hand and foot massages which would go to the elbows and knees, and then I would give her lots of hugs and snuggles. When she lost the “ability” to remember everyone else around her, she remembered my name, could identify me, my former husband, and all of my children…all of us “brushed” her hair. I am convinced that it was touch that helped her memory.

Now, for the rest of us. I know precisely what you mean. Sometimes we long so desperately for touch that our whole bodies ache. That is a way for the body to tell us that something is wrong and we must take care of the problem.

This is critically important. Current research clearly demonstrates that the immune system is affected by touch. The elevation in positive blood chemistries in the presence of human touch has been demonstrated unequivocally. Without human touch and stroking, I am convinced that the adult human organism will develop illness, fail to thrive, and ultimately will die. All of our research points to this. My father, who was an incredible physician, used to say, “If you do not touch the patients, they will not get well.” I saw him repeatedly stand at the bedside of a patient and stroke her arm while he spoke to her. These patients brightened when he entered the room, seemed to heal faster than the average patient, and of course, they adored my father.

Research also indicates that we need to receive approximately 12 hugs a day to grow, 6 hugs just to stay the same. In the presence of hugs, children flourish and so do adults. Now, how many hugs a day do you receive? That’s what I thought! First of all, if you want to get hugs you are going to have to learn to get them. Which means you have to learn to ask for what you need. When was the last time you did that? You will have to learn to ask people who know you well to touch you. I promise you that this will not be enough. We need a lot of touch to stay healthy, and there is not a lot of healthy touch in our culture.

Often we can get some of these needs met by having a total body massage on a regular basis. Use a massage therapist who is licensed and not into “head trips.” Call me if you need several referrals. Having your nails manicured and your hair done will get you touched.

But perhaps the most important thing to do you must learn to give yourself. Some therapists recommend masturbation; I do not because there is the possibility that you will intensify your experience of aloneness. However, if you experiment with this kind of self-pleasuring and it is good for you then clearly it is alright. However, I must caution you that all masturbation should be used for the same length of time that you would prefer to engage in intercourse (including foreplay and afterplay); otherwise, you will condition yourself to shorter and shorter periods of time and will interfere with later intercourse. This is a particular problem for men who condition and reinforce themselves into premature ejaculation and sometimes loss of erection.

In the absence of a partner, self-hugging is not only appropriate but instinctive. We all know how to wrap our arms around the self and give ourselves a hug! Self-massage is also a feasible means of managing needs for touch.

One final word. Much of our need for touch gets translated into sex which can and does interfere with relationship, this can be particularly true where a couple or one person stays in a relationship because there is such a desperate need for contact that a disastrous relationship is preferable to being alone. This is as true for men (who have desperate needs for healthy touch—look at the rates for first heart attacks!) as well as for women. Or where the partners confuse the need for sex and the need for touch which are two very different things. In this instance there will be incredible power struggles over sexual contact which could be solved by appropriate touch and stroking.

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