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Why do we struggle to be healthy; the missing component?

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Why do we struggle with staying on a healthy diet that works? It's complicated, because we are complicated. It is not just about calories in calories out, It is not just about the type of food you eat. It is not just about how much exercise that you do. These are all true, but there is another factor that is not addressed. It is the psychology of eating. Why do we eat? Why do we "want" top stay fat? How does it serves us? Doctors have prescribed diet pills, performed lap band surgeries, etc. These address some of the symptoms, but do not deal with the underlying causes. I am reading Broken Brains or Wounded Hearts by Ty C. Colbert, Ph.D. and his book suggest some answers. Like the smoker, the alcoholic or the drug user, we are self medicating to deal with the past pains that we have experienced to suppress the hurt feelings. Our self esteem has been destroyed and we don't feel worthy, so why should we care about being healthy and doing the right things. Perhaps this is why our New Year's Resolutions or the hot new diet only last a little while, perhaps long enough to lose all of the weight that we wished for, but we drift back into old habit patterns. What is the answer for this psychological component of health and weight loss? I don't have THE answer, I'm just working it our for myself. I think that we all have to find our unique solution to our particular reasons for not being as successful in this area as we think that we should. What do you think?
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  • ERIN1957
    Interesting blog and sharing through out as well.
    Europe trip; 5 countries 5 weeks, mainstay was Asse Belgium. From there we fanned out. Biking and walking an absolute. Their bikes were easier to ride than ours here. First day out we biked 23K. I hadn't biked since I was 13 years old. It was beautiful.

    They shopped each day and brought home just what they would consume that day. Small proportions compared to us heavy meat eaters. They take their time and enjoy and celebrate each bite. They also loved their sweet baked goods. Small amounts, they love their alcohol as well, beer and wine, small amounts. Moderation and appreciation. What the 4 of us would consume at a meal, would be served here as one meal in most restaurants. Quality over quanity.

    2249 days ago
    HISINJAPAN-I have never traveled to Japan, but I've been fascinated by Japan since a new neighbor introduced our family to sushi at a New Year's celebration when I was about 10 years old. I have since read many books on Japanese culture and food. I love Japanese food and eat it often. I used to cook it all of the time. My understanding is that the Japanese diet is healthier than ours in some respects and worse in others. They are not fat like Americans and they have lower cholesterol, but have a higher stroke rate. When they come to live in American, they have the same problems that the rest of us have. Being physically active is an important part of health and like the Europeans, they are much more physically active than we are.

    The high incidence of alcoholism makes me think that their pain is masked by drinking not eating. This doesn't mean they have more self control, it only means that they find an expression for their pain suppression in something other than food. I suspect that the psychological mechanism for overeating and drinking are the same and OA was started because AA addressed this mechanism in a highly successful way with the support of an accepting, and trustworthy fellowship. A friend of mine has been a member of AA for some time and as a result of our conversations and emails, I am considering applying the principles of the Big Book (which is available online for AA and OA) and see if this approach addresses some of my problems with my eating.

    2292 days ago
    There's a book out that I have read titled, Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat. It is true! It is very, very rare to see an overweight Japanese woman. The age so much better than we do. They say it is their diet. They also exercise walks, subway stairs, walk, walk and walk some more. I know they have some of the same psychological issues we do, perhaps more. Alcohol is a big factor for a lot of them. I don't know what the solution is. I make vows to myself and I don't keep them. Today at Curves, I was really talking to myself while I was working out. There is no reason why I can't get some of this weight off. I wanted to lose 20-25 pounds this year while I was stateside and instead, I am trying to get the 10 off that I gained. emoticon

    It's a never ending battle. Most Japanese that I encounter think we lack self-discipline. Perhaps that is part of it. Learning to deny self...
    2293 days ago
    JANRTEACH-My son made me aware of the no snacking tradition in France before we arrived. At the time, we had snacks every two hours. As we were driven through the French country side, we were "climbing the walls" because of our snack habits. We eventually went to a market and bought some nuts and dried fruits which we rationed ourselves. He said that the Germans eat bigger meals than the French and that Strasbourg was more like Germany than the rest of France in its eating habits, but we didn't see large portions compared to American Standards. We went to a McDonald's once because of the odd hours after coming from a beautiful art nouveau cafe in Nancy. We arrived at the same time as our waiter from the beautiful cafe and we recognized each other. Inside, the food was more expensive than I expected and it seemed like a dress up, dine in place to eat American food, than a fast food place. The food was the same as here, but the draw was that it was exotic and not common.

    We use a Mexican spice called Tajin that is used by Mexicans on their fruit. It is made of lemon crystals, salt, and chili pepper. We don't use it on fruit, but use it on sun chokes, jicama, and as lower sodium spice on avocado, soups, or in our salad dressings. It is good on fruits, but we prefer the sweetness to the saltiness it adds. Growing up in Tennessee, everyone added salt to their water melon as did I. Now I prefer the sweetness and eat the seeds like the Chinese do. I miss the seeds in the seedless water melons. The Chinese sell them as pakuan in their markets and once I saw that, I started enjoying their mild nutty flavor. Cultural habits are fascinating.

    We should all pay attention to the quality of the food like the French, walk more like most Europeans, and be more attentive to our food when we are eating it and make it a slower paced conversational occasion rather than an unconscious feeding to soothe our wounded hearts.The later is more than a matter of will power, it is a process of practicing awareness of our feelings when we eat, why we think that we are hungry, and practicing new habits to break from the old ones we have carried around for most of our lives.

    2293 days ago
    One other quick thought -- in Mexico they have the most wonderful fruits. All kinds of fruits that are treasured here in the states. The women said that they had to give the children chili sauce with the fruit just to get the kids to eat the fruit. We Americans said, "Oh yea -- catsup!!" Imagine having all the fruit you want and not being interested.
    2293 days ago
    Chanetc -- excellent blog and observations. When I visited Germany a few years back, my son and I were the biggest people I saw. It was embarrassing. At that time I didn't weigh that much more than I do now. I, too, noticed that lots of people, even the older people, walked and biked all the time. The meals were good, but not over the top. (We stayed with private families in villages.) In Munich the worst thing we saw were the young boys lying in the street that were victims of drug abuse.

    My husband and I have since traveled to Rome and Mexico. Still I find I am one of the biggest women,no matter where I go. I'm with you-- I think they concentrate on quality , no quantity.

    I noticed at the cruise ship buffets , the bigger people were the ones hanging out there. The small people grabbed a bagel and kept on going. It's interesting.

    I had pizza in Rome. It was not baked. It was a piece of sliced cheese, a raw tomato, some herbs on a crust like a cracker. :) I got a big piece and used it for two meals -- it just wasn't what I expected. At night my husband would get a beer and I would get an ice cream cone for supper at an outdoor cafe while we watched the "beautiful people" go by. :) It was an eye opener. emoticon
    2293 days ago
    The issue is complicated. The compulsions to over eat, smoke, or abuse alcohol stem from the same source. I recently watched excerpts from a an old film, A Man and a Woman and I remembered loving the film when it came out. In the YouTube excerpts, I couldn't believe how much the two lead characters smoked.

    When I recently visited my son and daughter-in-law in Strasbourg, France, I became aware that the people spent a lot more time walking than Americans do, fast food restaurants were not common, the quality of food was higher in the small convenience food places that existed in the cities, and snacking did not seem to be a significant part of their way of life.

    In North America, we drive everywhere, cities are made for cars, not pedestrians, fast food is everywhere, convenience foods with lots of artificial ingredients designed to be microwaved are common fare, food is cheap and available everywhere from convenience stores with giant calorie laden drinks to mega stores where one buys wholesale quantities of food in giant shopping carts. Snack foods are made in a seemingly infinite variety, not as foods to be eaten at meals, but foods designed only as snack foods. My son walks in his neighborhood to buy fresh bread every day from a local baker; parking is limited in the older parts of the city, the streets are narrow, and the bakery is only a couple of blocks away.

    While the French may obsess on the quality of their food, the portions are traditionally smaller and they are more conscious about eating it. In North America, we obsess on food, but we are barraged by ads for poor quality fast food and giant super-sized portions of it. We have giant, thick crusted pizzas with cheese built into the doughy edges, in Strasbourg, the Alsatian pizza has a super thin crust, with thins slices of high quality ham and cheese, not a bubbling mass of some anonymous white gooey substance with toppings piled on so that each small slice is 300-400 calories.

    Since we are North Americans, we self medicate on food as well as all of the other substances and we live in a society where exercise is not necessarily built into our everyday lifestyle, so we must join gyms or do exercise outdoors as a recreational choice. The question is how do we address the spiritual and psychological basis for our compulsions, because we have proven over and over again that diet and exercise alone are not enough for a permanent change. What is missing and how do we incorporate it to achieve long lasting success?

    2293 days ago
    I understand that human nature plays a part in this dance, but I wonder why a lot of European countries, even though they have an abundance of wealth to spend on food if they want to, aren't on average as overweight as North Americans. They must have angst and self-doubts they feel a need to medicate as well, but perhaps theirs is directed more to tobacco and alcohol. They seem to have more pride in wanting to have a non-overweight body shape. It is complex.
    2293 days ago
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