17 May Weight: A Problem or a Symptom?
Are weight struggles a problem…or a symptom?
Have you ever considered the possibility that maybe your weight and your eating habits aren’t actually the problem?
And that maybe issues with food and weight are actually a symptom of something else (ie: the tip of the iceberg)?
Almost every single person who comes to see me (at least initially) thinks their weight is the problem and that all they need is a meal plan to sort them out. But you can download 1001 free meal plans off of the internet – you don’t need a dietitian for that. What I find even more fascinating, is that these same people often have meal plans from previous diets/programs they’ve paid for and yet they aren’t following them. So what’s different this time?
If you want a different result, you need to change what you are doing.
So let me explain how a dietitian thinks and what we are looking for when we meet with someone.
To me, issues with food and weight are a signal that something in a person’s life is out of balance.
It’s my job, as a dietitian, to figure out exactly what is out of balance and exactly what is causing the problem. Maybe it’s the person’s appetite or their food choices, maybe it’s a medical condition….but more often than not, the real problem relates to stress/anxiety, lack of sleep, and the person not doing anything for themselves (which is why food/alcohol then becomes their only “treat/reward”).
For a dietitian, I spend a surprisingly large amount of time NOT talking about food and I have therapists on my team who I refer on to frequently.
So why do I spend 75 minutes on an initial appointment and then spend a lot of that time NOT talking about food? I mean I could just join the “beach-body” brigade and hand out meal plan after meal plan – giving people exactly what they say they want.
The reason I DON’T do that, is because it is a waste of their time and mine. I know that one more meal plan is not going to have a meaningful, long-term impact on someone’s life.
To me, giving someone a meal plan when they’ve spent years struggling with their weight is like putting a bandaid on a bullet hole. You may feel like you are doing something…taking action…but in reality, you are making the situation worse. By distracting people with a bandaid (aka a shiny new meal plan), you are giving them the illusion that they have sorted the problem…which just stops them from getting the help they actually need! Then when they stop following the meal plan, they have absolutely no clue how to eat without someone else telling them what to do. That generally leads to what some clients refer to as “free-fall eating” – when they eat whenever and whatever they want, gaining back all of the weight they lost, until they reach an all time low, and go looking for next shiny new meal plan (all-the-while berating themselves for being lazy and unmotivated).
I have a different philosophy. Remember the saying, “If you give someone a fish, he/she eats for a day. You teach someone to fish, he/she eats for a lifetime.”
I would rather take the time and “teach you how to fish.” To help you understand and interpret the information your body is giving you (and your thought process around food) so that you can start making decisions on your own…in any situation. And while we do talk about meal and snack ideas, you get to decide how much to eat on a given day based on the other skills I have given you. And if I’ve done my job well, at the end of our time together, you should never need to see me again (at least for the same problem). I won’t lie — this approach is more work than just following a meal plan — but the results will stay with you forever.
Now that is something to get excited about. The question is…are you ready?
Blog compiled by Sheri Taylor, Dietitian & Nutritionist