I had a big reaction initially when I heard the news that my beloved teacher Oprah is not only on the Weight Watchers diet herself but she has also decided to become a major shareholder in the company.
Following my first response of gutted disappointment I was able to temper my response to one of loving curiosity. Everyone is entitled to change their minds after all. However, I so wonder what has led her to this place? What has transpired in her relationship with food and her body since her outspoken support of the non-diet movement to bring her to Weight Watchers’ door? What will be the impact of this decision? Are there any positive opportunities for women that could possibly come from this influential move?
In 2010 it was hearing Oprah declare that she ‘will never diet again’ and subsequently reading Women, Food & God, the book that inspired her, that sent me on my own search for a non-diet answer to my struggle. It was this search that resulted my understanding that this struggle has deep emotional and spiritual roots and my resulting belief in non-diet approaches, mindful and intuitive eating and Health At Every Size which led to the formation of The Deeper Cravings Path™.
This path eventually led me to the opportunity of a lifetime when I got to meet Oprah on stage in front of 10,000 people in Nov 2014 and share with her the positive impact that his message has had on my life and how I am now able to be free of dieting and at home in my body. What felt so poignant about this encounter is that I so credit Oprah for my spiritual evolution particularly in learning to see my body differently.
Prior to my Deeper Cravings journey I was a champion dieter. I have been on Weight Watchers 3 different times in 3 different countries over 3 decades. I must say it is a gentler, more sensible, diet than some of the others I have tried but nonetheless it is a diet. It still involved my obsessing over my daily ‘point’ intake, panicking in restaurants and dinner parties because I didn’t know the points and the public humiliation of the weekly ‘weigh-ins’ where I would have to face the scale and either feel a fleeting moment of pride but more often shame and anger at myself.
What I know from my own experience as well as that from countless clients is that peace with food can only come when we can be empowered and balanced in our eating rather than controlled and restricted by external dictates. While I maintain that dieting leads us further away from connection with our bodies and out of sync with our perfect natural wisdom, I also concede that dieting will likely be a chosen direction for millions of people for years to come.
The tides are changing, but they are changing slowly. One by one people are coming to the same conclusion I came to years ago that diets just don’t work in the long run. The fact is that 95% of people regain the weight they lose on a diet. Why? Because a diet is a solution on the physical level that doesn’t address the real culprit; our emotional and spiritual rift with ourselves that causes us to numb with food. As long as we diet we will always be artificially controlled in our relationship with food rather than living in peace and empowerment in our eating.
Another dire problem with dieting is that when we inevitably hit the point in the cycle when the diet fails us we feel demoralized, embarrassed and like there is something deeply flawed in us. We don’t question the premise of dieting as a sustainable solution rather we question our own ability to get a grip on our plaguing issue.
This repeat failure rate has meant big money for the big corporations of the diet industry. Tara Mann, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota and author of Why You Should Never Diet Again writes: “It’s the perfect business model. People give Weight Watchers the credit when they lose weight. Then they regain the weight and blame themselves. This sets them up to join Weight Watchers all over again, and they do.”
I have seen many clients in my therapy and coaching practice who come in feeling humiliated. Many have undergone the pain and expense of arduous weight loss programs and some even weight loss surgery only to gain the weight back. Heartbreaking. Naturally I prefer people don’t go down these roads in the first place but that is not for me to judge.
We all have our own paths to walk. However, if people are going to walk the diet or surgery road then my greatest hope for them is that they will also deeply engage in a process of understanding the deeper cravings beneath their struggle and gain the necessary tools to heal the wounds that lie beneath the eating.
While I would love Oprah to encourage Weight Watchers to change their name to Weight Wisdom and espouse a philosophy centered on body acceptance, intuitive & mindful eating and emotional healing concepts doing away with meal plans and point calculation, that may not be forthcoming.
In the meantime I sit in hopes that my ever-wise and beautiful Oprah will find the health and wholeness in the realm of her own body that she deserves. I also feel encouraged that perhaps she will use her mighty power and business influence to help the Weight Watchers Corporation move their program a little further along the path of trust and kindness with the body and peace in our eating.
Once our heart lands on the insight that the fight with our body has deeply spiritual roots it is hard to ignore that truth. I put it out to the universe that each and every person who diets will find their way to that truth and discover the healing that is our birthright.
The Deeper Cravings Path™ is a 12 session journey to making peace with your body and finding total freedom with food.
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