The KEY Questions: Are we doomed to be overweight?

I don’t gamble anymore these days. I gave it up a long time ago but this was one bet that I just couldn’t resist. It was a high-risk venture but after a sleepless night during which my mind did cartwheels weighing up the various probabilities I calculated that the odds were slightly in my favour. Losing meant total humiliation and misery but if I won I knew my life would change for the better, there was no doubt in my mind about that. We settled on a time limit, (one month), I looked my personal trainer in the eye and slapped my stake down on the table.

The clock began to tick.

It’s that little word ‘Diet’ that puts me off. I find those first three letters troubling. I think whoever coined the word could have chosen something with a more upbeat subliminal message, (‘Livet’ perhaps). There is also the fact that a whole industry has built up around the idea of ‘watching your weight’ and I can’t help it, I’m suspicious of people who prey on others’ vulnerability, their fear and anxiety about the image they project to the world. From what I know of how these programs work there seems to be too much pressure placed on the individual to ‘perform well’ for their weight-loss mentors. The last thing an overweight person needs, in my view, is to find himself an unwitting contestant in a race to achieve his (or someone’s else’s) idea of physical perfection, haunted by the fear of failure with every ‘illegal’, stolen bite of chocolate he eats in secret. If he succeeds in losing weight his tormentors will no doubt take the credit. If he fails, he’ll just as surely take the blame.

Besides I never knew of anyone solving a personal problem by studying it closely. As they say, a watched kettle never boils. The analogy, inevitably, is with psychology and therapy of all kinds. Probing into the problem doesn’t ever seem to make it go away but instead reinforces it, makes it real. Syd Banks put it memorably in one of his lectures. He said that delving into your past to retrieve and re-live painful memories is like putting your hand in a fire, recoiling in pain, then deciding that the best cure for the (now injured) hand is to stick it back into the fire. Crazy.

My suspicions aside, I still wanted to lose weight for many and varied reasons that I won’t go into … (okay, vanity), hence the bet. I was grateful at least that I wasn’t in competition with anyone but myself, but almost immediately my old insecurity began to assert itself. Getting the pounds off until the required weight was achieved would mean hardship. I like my food, and my heart sank as I imagined starving myself, chewing on boring ‘healthy’ options like salad and making do with meagre portions of everything. What’s more I knew that dieting alone would not get me where I wanted to be. I would need regular, if not daily trips to the gym if I was going to reach my target. In the end I settled on a compromise regime that I discovered had worked for many people, consisting of physical workouts five times a week, plus two days’ fasting. It was a pretty ghastly prospect, but I focused on the Three Principles, allowing my unconscious to do the work for me and embarked on my new regime.

This is what I found:

I’ve treated people with depression for years and the first question that I ask them is whether they are depressed all the time, literally every minute of the day, to which the answer is invariably no. The question challenges their entrenched view of themselves as being permanently in pain. Well, it turns out that you can’t feel hungry all the time either. (I am not talking about extreme cases of starvation obviously, but only in the context of a normal healthy person who has missed a meal). We are conditioned to believe that the experience of hunger stems from ‘external’ stimuli, (i.e. your body making you feel hungry). It’s not true. From the start I discovered that it was my thinking, and only my thinking, that manifested hunger pangs. When I didn’t think about food, I didn’t feel hungry. At first it was hard to accept that the hunger doesn’t trigger the feeling, but that has been my experience, and now that the month is up you’ll be pleased to know that I succeeded in losing the weight, pretty effortlessly.

That was the sweetest ten pounds I ever won.