Weight Loss Isn’t Always Logical
Weight loss isn’t rocket science- it’s a process that can be intentionally set in motion by creating a negative energy balance. That’s simply where your body burns more calories than it takes in from your food sources. As long as you don’t drop your calories quickly and for extended periods of time, the caloric deficit will prompt your body to use stored reserves of fat (and in some cases muscle) as an energy source to make up for the missing calories needed to keep you going. Over time, it leads to a reduction in overall body mass. Pretty simple if you look at it that way.
Even easier to understand are the benefits. If you are overweight and lose weight, you decrease the likelihood of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and osteoarthritis. Weight loss also increases the survival rates of those already suffering from obesity related diseases. It’s logical thus, that to combat the increasing rates of obesity here in developed countries, everyone should understand the simple formulas for weight loss. But it isn’t about logic, and as long as weight loss is seen as a problem that can be solved by applications of what some might see as simple science, it won’t work. In today’s world, just about everyone with a weight problem is acutely aware that weight loss comes from a combination of diet and exercise. It is everywhere- television, books, internet, you name it. Yet over the past 20 years here in the United States, in spite of the increased access to weight loss information, there has been an steadily increasing rate of obesity. Losing weight shouldn’t be that hard- but it most certainly is!
Cold Facts As An Obstacle To Weight Loss
Aside from the noise created by fad diets, fad exercise trends and weight loss supplements that do little or nothing at all to help people lose weight, and media bombardment from profit driven pharmaceutical as well as fitness related industries that benefit from an overweight population, there are very real barriers to weight loss that are seldom addressed. A conscientious man or woman who does their homework and asks the right questions of the right people, can learn what is real and what isn’t. It’s hard, given the background noise, but not impossible and there are some great, proven sources out there. However, even those armed with the best information possible, in most cases still don’t achieve the weight loss results they are looking for. The problem stems not always from the cold, hard facts of thermodynamics, but from the very shifting and complex aspects of our emotions.
In Western societies, the way we acquire knowledge, think and solve problems can be broken down into two basic approaches- Apollonian or Dionysian. The Apollonian approach, named after the Greek god Apollo, who represented, among other things, truth and a sense of order- is one where we employ a very pragmatic and logical thought process. The Dionysian approach, named after the Greek god Dionysius- the god of wine, ecstasy and intoxification, focuses however on our emotions. Our feelings and how we relate to the world on a very personal level. In today’s world, we tend to give more validity to Apollonian ways of solving problems. Science and facts are seen as truth and a superior way of problem solving, relegating more emotional and subjective based methods to a more subordinate role, since feelings can’t be easily quantified as factual information can. But it wasn’t always like this.
Weight Loss Comes From An Understanding Of Our Emotions
From the beginning of our existence as human beings, we have needed to employ both approaches to solving our problems, and neither was considered to be superior to the other. The logic based Apollonian process, has always been crucial to our survival. It allows us to function effectively in the world by controlling our environment, creating tools, organizing society and planning for the future. As important as this forward looking and logical approach may be, it does not answer or address all the conditions we experience as human beings. An Apollonian thought processes and ismeant for interaction with an external reality. It can’t help us cope with loss, express our love or find meaning in life itself. For these issues, we turned to the Dionysian approach. Myth, religion, philosophy and tradition, all spring from this way of looking at the world. Practices that help us find our way in an often overwhelmingly confusing world.
There will, therefore, always be problems unsolved by approaches completely reliant on hard scientific facts, especially those that are of a personal and intimate nature to begin with. Our global problem of obesity is a prime example. Seen by many administrators, governing officials and experts in the field, as a problem remedied by the logical application of diet and exercise, this way has obviously failed. And continues to fail. If anything, this plan of attack has had the opposite effect, as obesity rates keep climbing over the years. It isn’t surprising if you consider what we eat and what we do, (diet and exercise), falls squarely into the realm of our emotions- not our analytical thought processes. In twenty years of working with people to help them lose weight, what I learned is that weight loss is all about self control. One of the hardest and most difficult mountains for any of us to climb. To accomplish this Herculean task, people don’t need facts- they need patience, inspiration, understanding and support. Weight loss is about intimately changing our lives and leaving behind the person that we once were to become someone new. Like any new life coming into the world, this rebirth is a delicate and very often painful process where you have to deal with many complex and emotional issues.
The Change Required To Lose Weight Is A Major Emotional Undertaking
As difficult as it sounds, this is still an oversimplification of the challenges each of us face with our own inner demons and obstacles to changing our lives. When I started as a personal trainer, I learned everything I could about the human body, diet and nutrition, and I firmly believed I had all the knowledge that I needed to help people lose weight and keep it off. I had no idea whatsoever, how much more it entailed! Helping my clients lose weight meant having a nonjudgmental and always listening ear. It meant being a constant source of support and it meant always doing your best to inspire and helping them go forward one day at a time. Early on, I thought one diet, with some slight modifications, would fit everyone and boy, was I wrong! I had no inkling that I would spend hours, days and months going back and forth with my clients to create new eating plans that not only would help them lose weight, but also that would fit into their lives.
I learned that food forms a narrative in our lives, establishes order, influences our emotions, creates and sealing bonds and can’t just be changed to fit a one-size-fits-all mold. It calls for small steps, and a deep respect for the way people look at their foods, if there is any hope of helping them change. Meeting people where they are, walking with them along paths of self discovery has little to do with science, but without objective facts, we wouldn’t have all the tools we need to make weight loss a reality. One of the consequences of living in a logic dominated environment is the illusion that we, ourselves, are primarily logical beings. An overweight personal is a choice examples of how paradoxical our behavior can be. But even closer to home, each of us, at some point in our lives, has left logic far behind when we get involved in questionable relationships. Leaving us asking ourselves what in the world we were thinking in the first place! We are indeed emotional beings. So in the end, we need balanced approaches if we strive to do such difficult tasks like as losing weight and changing our lives. Apollonian roads have their uses, but what we also need today are sources of inspiration, compassion and understanding.
1. Pi-Sunyer, FX. Short-Term Medical Benefits and Adverse Effects of Weight Loss- American College Of Physicians
2. American Gastroenterological Association (2002). AGA technical review on obesity. Gastroenterology, 123(3): 882-932. [Erratum in Gastroenterology, 123(5): 1752.
3. US Obesity Trends 1985-2009. Center For Disease Control
Kevin Richardson- celebrity NYC Personal Trainer is the creator of Naturally Intense™ High Intensity Training, a lifetime natural bodybuilder and arguably one of the most sought out personal trainer in New York City. Custom online diet plans available.