Dieting trends and fads seem to be as numerous as the stars. Yet watching food intake, exercise and counting calories in whatever dietary form that might take is not all that can be done to be healthier and to lose weight. Watching how you think about self-image – mental dieting – has emotional and physical benefits too.
An experience early in college starkly illustrated the point for me. It was the second week of an Intro to Theater class, the professor asked each student to act out a transformative experience. A pretty woman began by narrating her journey out of obesity, an arduous process of counting calories and exercise. As she spoke, she slowly and deliberately began to unroll a pair of jeans. In her conclusion, she held up the unrolled jeans, which looked like they could hold two of her, and she told the class that it took her twice as long to think of herself as thin as it did to lose that weight.
That negative self-concept is something many of us find hard to let go.
A friend of mine, when I asked about his New Year’s resolutions, said he was going on a “thought diet”. He challenged himself to exclude any thoughts that connected him to a negative self-image.
For anyone who has tried to make a meaningful life change like losing weight, finding the motivation, consistency and fortitude to follow through – the mental aspects including changing that poor self-image – seems to be the most daunting of tasks.
Open up a copy of State of Slim, by James O. Hill PhD and Holly R. Wyatt M.D, and you find ways to eat and exercise that potentially will change your metabolism. But, look closely and you will also find a discussion of how people think about themselves, their choices, their environment and the changes they can make to be successful in this or any diet for that matter. (See Chapter 3)
When it comes to considering how to approach diet, Deepak Chopra seems to be on point when he writes in a recent book “…the choices you make come down to a single question: “What am I hungry for?” In part what he’s saying is, is it the actual food we hunger for or is it really something deeper.
One approach, to addressing a deeper need to feel satisfied, is called “story editing”. It was developed by Dr. Tim Wilson, a psychologist and PhD at the University of Virginia.
Through a series of unique and creative exercises – called “story prompting,” “story editing”, and “do good, be good,” he believes he has found an effective approach to helping people rewrite their own narratives — producing healing and sustained changes in behavior.
Similarly, exploring and adopting a more spiritual view of our identity can also result in rewriting our narrative. It can be done through an approach to prayer that opens thought and allows communion with an infinite spiritual source of good. This, in turn, connects our identity with that Divine source. So then it is the Divine, or God, that changes the conception of one’s self from dissatisfaction to goodness, from feelings of incompleteness to a sense of wholeness. This type of prayer allows the divine source to rewrite our history.
This may seem ethereal, but consider Biblical figures such as Peter, James or John. What about Paul? Consider Siddhārtha Gautama and Mahatma Gandhi. Each was changed fundamentally through a divine inspiration or a revelation. A University of Chicago study found that over ½ of Americans have had a transformative spiritual experience. So, maybe you are not going to be a transformative spiritual leader, but it’s not so out of reach to allow divine inspiration to provide a better narrative for you and your body.
An expert in spiritual thinking, religious leader and author Mary Baker Eddy had some things to say about a spiritual diet. And, she took it one step further saying in effect that a thought diet will determine one’s very health when she wrote, “Stand porter at the door of thought. Admitting only such conclusions as you wish realized in bodily results, you will control yourself harmoniously.” Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Page 392.
So in the quest for controlling that needle on the scale, the Colorado Diet might not be a bad way to refocus one’s attention to diet and exercise. And editing one’s own inner-narrative may be a good foundation for re-examining how we look at ourselves. But ultimately, changing one’s thought from a negative self-image to something constructive and positive, – by identifying with Spirit and letting that guide one – may bring better and more lasting results.
David Price writes on the connection between health, thinking and spirituality. He is also the media and legislative representative for Christian Science in Colorado.