Why do we fail so often at diets? The answer may surprise you: it has to do with what and how much you’re thinking and how diets exacerbate that thinking problem, rather than relieve it.
- The thinking that we have about our overeating habit
- How dieting layers more thinking on, which doesn’t help
- Therefore diets are not the answer
- Looking at what our feelings are telling us about our innate wisdom
- How this is what creates peace with food
Transcript of the episode
Hello, explorers, and welcome to Q&A episode 27 of Unbroken. I’m your host, Alexandra Amor, and I’m so happy to be here with you today.
The question we have today has to do with dieting and how dieting is actually creating a different kind of suffering than, let’s say, an overeating habit, but it’s still suffering.
I’m going to talk about why that is and where that comes from, and how we can do things differently.
If we think about an unwanted habit like overeating, or binge eating, or whatever it is – smoking – we know that we have a lot of thinking about that situation, right? It’s a thing that feels like it shouldn’t be happening. And we can have all kinds of stirred up thinking about why that is.
I know for me, it was always about why does it seem like it’s so not an issue for other people? And yet, it feels like such a huge issue for me. In other words, why have I spent all this time and energy and effort trying to fix this situation, and I’ve completely failed for 10, 20, 30 years. All kinds of thinking about being a failure and being someone without discipline or someone without willpower.
Lots of thinking about, of course, in this day and age, with all the visually focused social media accounts and all the messages that we get from the media, I would have lots of thinking about how my body wasn’t “right” and how I didn’t measure up. I’m sure you can relate to all of this and how I wasn’t perfect. And that until I changed that, that I wasn’t really acceptable. Just lots of suffering going on, because of my thinking.
What we see then, very often, is that diets and I certainly was someone who experienced this, diets and self-help programs that teach us how to eat, and apply rules and structure and whatever kind of program you want to call it, that would help us to change our eating habits seems like a solution, right? Of course it does.
If we’ve got a situation where we’re overeating, and then someone proposes something where we would be eating less, and we would be changing the situation that feels like it’s a problem, then, of course that looks like a solution. And absolutely it did for me as well, all those years ago, and up until just a few years ago, actually.
What I see now, that’s very different when we’re exploring this inside out understanding, is that diets actually just create a slightly different kind of suffering.
What I mean by that is, we’ve got all this thinking about our overeating habit already that I just talked about. And then when we come along with a diet or a new eating plan, what we end up doing is layering a whole bunch more thinking onto the thinking that’s already there. And so it becomes like, the metaphor I want to use is a snowball rolling downhill.
The original snowball is all our thinking about ourselves and our overeating habit. And then we start to diet or we find a new eating plan. And we think it’s a solution. And we may even feel some relief for the first few days. But what we’re actually doing is rolling that snowball downhill, and adding more and more thinking to that situation.
Because now we’ve got a whole bunch of thinking about what can I eat and what can’t I eat? And if I slip up what does that mean about me? And of course, in my case, and maybe yours too, you know, I would fail with the eating plan over and over and over and over again, whatever, they were all different all the time. And that just adds more and more thinking: why am I such a loser? Why can’t I figure this out? And oh, forget it. I just give up.
So that snowball is just rolling downhill, adding more and more snow to the snow ball. So at the time we do this because it’s all we know. It’s the way that our culture is focused. It’s the outside in paradigm of psychology. When we don’t see any other way of doing things, we innocently choose to try to find a solution to our overeating problem.
And I get it. I’ve been there, I’ve done that. As you know, I’ve said it over and over again, the reason I have this podcast is because of all the suffering that I experienced for 30 years. So what does that mean?
How is it different when we’re exploring an overeating habit from the inside out.
How does that differ? Why does it not add more snow to that snowball that’s rolling downhill.
The reason this approach is different is that we’re not actually looking at our drive to overeat, and our thinking about food and about our unwanted overeating habits as a problem. That’s the big difference.
We’re looking at how our feelings – in other words how that drive to overeat – how our cravings are actually coming from a very wise place within us.
That’s the difference. And when we turn our heads toward seeing what that wisdom is trying to tell us, and how it’s available to us all the time. Then those sorts of cravings for eating too much, or drinking too much, or smoking too much, whatever it is, begin to fade away. Because once we understand them for what they are, they don’t have a need to be there anymore.
This understanding points us toward the fact that we’re living in the world of our thinking, not in the world of our circumstances, that our internal experience of life isn’t coming from outside of ourselves, it is generated within ourselves. And that the feelings that we have are always a reflection of our thinking in that moment.
If I’m feeling a really deep, urgent craving for some kind of food, what that’s telling me is that my thinking is really stirred up. Now it may be stirred up in that moment, about a situation like if I’m out for lunch with friends or something. It’s also reflecting the fact that in general, my thinking about food and about life really, is really stirred up.
The only way that my innate wisdom has to get my attention about the state of my thinking is by offering me these feelings within myself.
So they’re like little mindfulness bells that go off, and that let me know about and you and everyone about the state of our thinking at that time. And then when we begin to look in that direction, seeing the wisdom of that feeling, the snowball of thoughts that we have, about our overeating habit begins to melt. Instead of starting to roll downhill, and add a whole bunch of things more thinking about the thinking that’s already there, that thinking just starts to melt away, we see it for what it is, we see our feelings for what they are, for the wisdom that they contain, for we see that we have access always to insight, and to the wisdom that we are essentially made of we are designed to be able to access insight and wisdom.
The design is perfect. It never ever fails us. So that’s why in my exploration of resolving an overeating habit I never will and I never have mentioned any kind of eating plan or structure that you should follow or foods that you should avoid and ones that you should eat and all of that kind of stuff, because that is just more snow added to the snowball.
What we’re really looking for is understanding, and really embracing the fact that we are designed so wisely. And that the way that we feel is always a reflection of our thinking. And that we naturally, that thinking naturally settles down on its own. Like I talked about last in last week’s episode about the snowglobe metaphor, that when we see our thinking for what it is, and just leave it alone, and don’t try to get in there and figure it out, it always, always settles down by itself.
That includes our thinking about food, and about our overeating habit.
I hope that’s been helpful for you. And if anything hasn’t been clear, or you’d like some clarification, please do let me know. You can submit the little form at alexandraamor.com/question, and I’ll be happy to answer your question on a future episode, q&a episode of unbroken.
I will leave you there with that and I will talk to you again next week. I hope you’re doing well and taking care. See you next time. Bye.