The Thin You Within You

Winning the Weight Game with Self-Esteem

Abraham Twerski, M.D.

St. Martin's Press

The Thin You Within You
Part One
Understanding Overeating
Chapter One
Why Do We Let People Insult Our Intelligence?
Every month, without fail, someone advertises a miracle diet guaranteed to reduce your weight quickly and dramatically and, as an added bonus, without starving yourself.
Let's think for a moment. If any of these phenomenal diets really worked, why would there constantly be a need for new and different ones? Why not just stick with the one that works? You might argue that people don't know which one is really effective, and that might be a valid argument--if the notion of dieting was recent. You could say the right diet hadn't been developed yet. However, dieting has been going on for years, month in and month out: diets, pills, exercises. Hundreds of gimmicks have been advanced over the years, and if any of these was really good, certainly it would have persisted.
It is not really accurate to say that these diets don't work. In fact, they do work, and that's part of the problem. Almost any diet will cause you to take off weight fairlyquickly, but as most people have sadly found out, it is only a matter of time before the weight returns, and then some. The result is a yo-yo syndrome, and as some people have said, they have lost more than a thousand pounds over the years--and are still overweight.
If we were honest with ourselves, we would understand that these quick, surefire methods work for the short term, but none results in a long-term weight reduction.
Of course, if you are marooned on an island with nothing to eat but fish, you could indeed lose all the weight you wanted. But as soon as you returned to civilization, the weight would come right back. This is equally true of pills, diets, spas, surgery, and other gimmicks. None of these is sustainable over the long haul, and consequently the weight loss is short-lived.
Hope lives eternal, and each time a new promise of some magical method appears, we are vulnerable. "This time things will be different! The effects of the previous seventy-four diets didn't work, but this time I'll take the weight off and keep it off."
We know why we allow our intelligence to be insulted. We wish to deceive ourselves.
The only way to maintain a reduced weight is by a lifestyle change. We are always reluctant to make long-term changes because they can be uncomfortable. We are essentially creatures of habit. We do things a certain way, and our habits become integrated into our behavior. If you have any question about this, just transfer your wristwatch to the other hand. Even though it should not make the slightest difference on which hand it is worn, you will soon find that you are very aware of the change, and it may even feel cumbersome or awkward. Returning the watch to its usual place brings back a feeling of comfort. If feelingsof discomfort accompany so minor an alteration, how much more so with significant behavior changes? It's easy to imagine why some people consider change virtually intolerable.
Another factor in our resistance to change is an intolerance for delay. Thanks to technological advances, most tasks can be accomplished with unprecedented speed. Distances that required weeks if not months of travel can now be traversed in hours. Cooking that used to take hours can be done in minutes. Written communications that took days to arrive at a destination appear in seconds, and calculations that required laborious, time-consuming effort can be done in a fraction of a second. We have come to expect things to happen fast. However, a lifestyle cannot change at a rapid rate; it may take years. Little wonder that people who are accustomed to microwaves, fax machines, and computers are impatient with a process that takes years and are susceptible to promises of methods that take only a few weeks.
If you are one of those who have tried umpteen diets and have come to the realization that your next diet is not likely to produce any more durable results than its predecessors, this book is for you.
Much of my work as a psychiatrist has involved treatment of alcoholism. When I began working with alcoholics, a very wise and seasoned therapist told me that the only word I should avoid using with my patients was "alcohol." Recovery from alcoholism requires a lifestyle change, and as long as the focus remains on alcohol, the real problem will remain unattended. This is equally true of food, and this is one reason why preoccupation with food and diet is counterproductive: It evades the real problem.
You will therefore not find in this book much mentionof foods to eat or not to eat. Also, there is still no universal agreement on which foods to avoid or to emphasize: fat, proteins, carbohydrates. Each one has been championed or vilified throughout the years. Indeed, new and sometimes conflicting ideas about nutrition appear in the news every few weeks. How can we avoid being confused?
Obviously, we can use only the information we have, since we have no access to discoveries of the future. Furthermore, it is important to take a reasonable approach toward nutrition and not go overboard. For example, a recent finding that broccoli and spinach contain a cancer retardant does not mean that you must eat huge amounts of broccoli and spinach at every meal, but rather that these should have a place in the menu. Similarly, if it is found that a certain food may be harmful, this does not mean that it must be totally avoided. Usually the findings are based on foods fed to laboratory animals in amounts much larger than any sane person would eat.
There will always be people who champion dietary extremes, and there are many anecdotal claims for certain diets. Medical research has not confirmed any of these claims, and the reasonable approach is to have a well-balanced diet, based on the most reliable scientific information. The appendix at the end of this book contains current nutritional guidelines.
Eating problems involve two components: the person and the food. The various diets that have been unsuccessful in the long term have sought changes in the food. My approach is to deemphasize the food by avoiding fads and adhering to the general guidelines in the appendix and focusing instead on the necessary changes in the person. Let us now look at what some of these are.
THE THIN YOU WITHIN YOU. Copyright © 1997 by Abraham J. Twerski, M.D. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.