It’s important to understand a number of things about self-help programs. One of those things is that no one program will be perfect for every individual.
We’re all dramatically different. We all come from different childhoods and have different psychological defense mechanisms. We have different comprehension capabilities and we have different physical abilities. There are general things that can help anyone feel better, though, because we’re all human beings—we’re the same animal.
My father was obese throughout my entire life, and most of his life as well. I considered him to be one of the most stubborn case studies pertaining to eating disorders. There were many reasons why this was so.
Factors included the time he was born in 1940s, him being the youngest of 13 children, growing up in Brooklyn, New York in an orthodox family, and having been sexually abused by strangers. Additionally, he never really had to reach rock bottom because he always had a safety net in money. Also, he has tremendous toleration and coping mechanisms to help him deal with inner pain.
He’s a self-taught person who went through a lot of trials and self-help measures and made dramatic improvements in other areas of addiction in his life. But food and eating were his Achilles’ heel.
My father is perpetually stubborn. He won’t do simple things because they don’t make sense to him. And if they don’t make sense to him, it’s because of too much mental anguish on his part. That’s the danger of being highly intellectual. If you’re a highly intellectual person, I recommend that you balance your life with something esoteric and metaphysical. You could practice a hobby such as astrology (which I personally don’t personally believe in). You should do some type of activity that helps you to be creative and have a balance in your psyche.
Consider a theoretical situation. Perhaps a person struggling with inner pain from child abuse issues has been in talk therapy their entire life. They may get to a point at which they don’t seem to be getting to their core issues and feelings. If this is the case, perhaps they need to try some sort of alternative treatment (e.g., Reiki healing). Or they might take acting classes to see if pretending to feel something brings up real feelings that they need to experience.
If a person is really stuck and isn’t getting anywhere emotionally, they’ve got to do something drastic in order to get their feelings to surface. Otherwise they will struggle with their addiction forever, whether that addiction happens to be smoking, food, alcohol, spending money, or something else.
A diet program that teaches you how to count calories and prepares your food for you is a map with lots of winding paths to get to the treasure. Most people get lost along the way at some point. Or they may find the treasure and pick it up but then squander it away (metaphorically speaking).
My father struggled because he had no one in his childhood to teach him proper dietary habits. In fact, he had the opposite behavioral models. He would watch people overeat, eat junk food, smoke, drink alcohol, gamble, and womanize. That was the society he grew up in.
It speaks volumes about his character that he removed many of those addictions. He got to the point where he was only really relying on one addiction: Food.
I don’t think there was a possibility that he would ever have true relief from that addiction unless he incorporated in his lifestyle all of the patterns that were common among the great peaceful, earth honoring nomadic indigenous peoples.
Those people groups may not have had spaceships and the good pharmaceutical medicines of today. And I’m not saying that all human beings throughout all periods of our history were good people. But there have been and always will be groups of people that know how to live a good life without hurting their children and without desecrating their bodies.
I’m not suggesting that we should go back and live the way that they do (or did). I’m saying that if we take certain lessons from their patterns and we incorporate them into our lives, we will likely feel much better. And we’d have nothing to lose by trying.
In the process of patterning our lifestyles in ways that will serve future generations well, we must recognize a number of things.
The first and most important thing is to recognize that children must be raised with a tremendous amount of dignity and self-respect. They have to be taught self-esteem, and we have to protect them from trauma.
The next thing we have to recognize is that everyone in our society needs to feel like they have a profound purpose; that their daily routine plays a part in the big picture of other people's lives.
It’s also important to recognize that all people need to have a close connection to earth. The earth really is a true mother. There are many things about this planet that we need to stay in touch with. We need to stay in touch with the excitement and gratitude that the earth is edible; there’s food here. We need to remind ourselves of that every day in whatever fashion we choose to.
As an example, the Jewish faith has its practitioners say a blessing before they put any type of food in their mouths. Some people have been doing that for their entire life, and it’s become a routine. But there’s something very positive about the fact that such people are showing gratitude for that moment of abundance.
You can show gratitude for food outside of a religious context if you so choose. The format would be before eating for you to just take a moment to take a deep breath and be thankful for having food. Then, you would take a moment to encourage yourself to be present while eating. You can then enjoy the food and feel how it affects you, starting with your eyesight, then your nose, and then your taste buds. And then finally you would pay attention to how the food makes your stomach feel full.
By all means enjoy food, but don’t overeat or abuse your body with toxic food products. And remember that human beings are designed to be physically active all the way to the very end of their lives. If you’ve become sedentary then you will find that it’s very difficult to truly feel happy.
You could have things that make you happy. But you should be able to feel happy when you just think about being you. And you should be able to do so without all of the things that make you think that you’re you. This is where quiet contemplation and meditation exercises come in handy. Such practices are invaluable and contribute immeasurably to your physical and mental health and happiness.