There’s a moment as I lead my weekly weight loss workshops in which the reactions of heavy sighs and nods of agreement among my participants has become quite predictable.
It is the moment that I grab my weight scale from the floor, fervently raise it above my head and declare that too many of us have turned this square piece of metal into our God.
“We’ve given our weight scales the role of a supreme and perfect deity,” I tell my participants. “We give them the power to determine our moods, our previous week's efforts and how we treat others -- gain a couple pounds and we're grouchy and pissy, lose a couple pounds and suddenly we're kinder to others.”
Sadly, our reverence to our scales is only surpassed by the religious fervor many of us give to whatever diet or weight loss program we are currently following or weight loss product we are ingesting or injecting.
As we continue our search for the Holy Grail of weight loss, a large majority have come to view many weight loss programs with the same devotion as the religions we entrust to guide our souls toward eternal salvation. Whether we’re counting calories, restricting our intake of carbohydrates or enrolling the aid of any one of our nation’s plethora of diet products or programs, we have become a nation riddled with angst about every crumb we put into our mouths. We look to weight loss programs and products to deliver us from this hell.
As the nation's obesity problems continue to rise, we increasingly look to the diet industry to ease our food obsessions and rid us of our sinful gluttony. We zealously follow their commandments – attending weekly meetings with other devotees, eating tasteless freeze-dried meals, whipping out our bibles of permissible foods, depriving ourselves of the foods we love or that our body desires, driving gallons of juices or even injecting ourselves with hormone shots while severely restricting out daily food intake.
“Foods are often described in moralistic terms, independent of dieting: decadent, sinful, tempting – all the words of food fundamentalism and eating morality,” writes Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch in their book, “Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works.” “Since we are a nation that worships the lean body, it easily becomes virtuous to be eating foods associated with slimness and guiltlessness.”
And while the forbidden fruit may have been the source of temptation that led to the downfall of man in the biblical story about Adam and Eve, eating an apple nowadays may just be the key to Heaven’s gate in the hopeful minds of many yo-yo dieters.
As a former yo-yo dieter, I lived nearly two decades in a state of guilt, dividing my food into “good and “bad” and labeling myself either a “saint” or a “sinner.” And our nation’s multi-billion dollar diet and food industries were the choirs in the loft of my desperate mind – singing the attributes of fat-free foods, of product dependency and of fervently counting my daily calories or points while enticing me with product labels that played on my desire to remain pious – “guilt free temptations,” “sinfully delicious” and “heavenly indulgence” to name a few.
I often allowed my scale to determine my mood, my disposition and how I related to others for the day. Like many women, I gave my scale the power to determine if I'd been “good” or “bad.” I allowed this voiceless measuring device to become the supreme ruler over my previous day’s indiscretions –giving it the power to instantaneously fill my head with verbal self-flagellation if the numbers have risen.
It was hell.
So how did I finally find salvation and freedom? I turned my back to diets. I took back the power I’d given my scale and placed my faith back into God and into myself. I learned to follow my own hunger cues and to trust in my body. It wasn’t easy. Like a cult follower, I felt brainwashed and it took time, education and patience for me to understand the falsity of the beliefs that I had placed upon diets, scales and food.
I would never have imagined eight years ago when I turned my back to the beliefs that I had followed with such religious fervor that during the next two years I would lose nearly 50 pounds without dieting, deprivation or product dependency.
And that, my friends, is a miracle.