Monday, September 29, 2008

McSameness and McFashion: The Supersizing of the Modern “Burger, Fries, and Shake Mentality”

The more things change, the more things stay the same. Often this statement is one that is “sad but true.” I remember back about 15 years ago. A client had given me a gift for helping him reach his goals. It was a rectangular long and thin wood-backed print graphic. From one end to the other it was covered with about 16 depictions of Dalmatians, all in black in white, in various sizes and different degrees of repose. All accept the Dalmatian in the middle of the graphic. He sat tall. He was depicted in color instead of black and white. And his spots instead of black white were all multi-coloured polka dots. And the caption read:
“In a world full of copycats, BE AN ORIGINAL.”
It sat hung on my wall for some years. All who witnessed it would say, “Yep, that’s you.” I didn’t put a whole lot of thought into that back then. But since, it has struck me just how true that slogan rings. So much imitation out there, so little creativity and originality. Why is that?

I fast forward to this summer when I met for lunch with a colleague who was in town and we got to talking about the industry and the “McFashion” and “McSameness” of it all. He was expressing how long I’ve lasted in an industry that is usually so fickle and short lived in terms of longevity. The fact that most clients average a five year stay with me as their coach was not lost on him. We discussed what may be different about what I bring to the coaching table. It took me some years to recognize these attributes but I think I finally have a grasp on it.

See the rest of this blog post, and many more in Scott's New E-Book 

Monday, September 01, 2008

Diet Psychology: Understanding the Diet Dilemma!

There’s more to lose than weight!

Several times in the pages of my new book Your Truth is Calling I make a simple exclamation to a point by stating “It’s not the diet.” That statement in fact is sprinkled throughout the text in an attempt to make relevant metaphysical points. Many of you have written me since and asked me if I would expand on this a little deeper. I will use this Blog to do so.

Way back when, in my days of academia we students were faced with the old chicken and egg dilemma of behaviour and thought. My life experience and study led me to the decisive conclusion that mindset determines behaviour and not the other way around. At the time this flew in the face of prevailing models of social work that were centred on a concept called ‘behaviour modification.’ It still exists today and is one of the main marketing strategies behind the Diet Industry and its success. The relevant point here is the success of the diet industry to make money, not necessarily to help people achieve sustained weight loss.

Often I concede that behaviour can indeed reinforce a mindset but mindset is the determining element. How this plays itself out in the diet industry is particularly interesting. In most cases it is flat out fraudulent; but still interesting. If people truly understood their own role in falling victim to various marketing strategies they may come to awaken to my point that “It is not the diet!” And the rest of this editorial serves Understanding the Diet Dilemma.

If people seek to change themselves by changing a behaviour, in this case, eating a certain way; well without a corresponding alteration in their mindset that illusion of ‘choice’ will never work long term. In truth 95% of diets will fail a person long term. This is well known. In the fitness industry most of these ‘before and after’ successes attached to supplements ads regain their ‘before’ status in very short time. Dieting is behaviour of futility. Because it reflects a futile mindset. Weight loss and fat loss are not diet related; they’re a mindset. And the marketing industry knows and understands this very well. They endeavour not to empower people but to keep them dependant on a certain mode of thinking. And that thinking is rooted in ‘want and need and lack.’ (powerlessness to be exact)

Lately I have been boning up on some old research for another book I am writing. The research I have focused on is obesity or very overweight people, diet attachment, and various support groups and studies affiliated with them. I noticed a common thread that jumped out at me that seemed to be missed by every single researcher I reviewed. And it seemed to be missed because their focus was narrowed to various diets and behaviours rather than the more qualitative information gained from the interviews. The fact is, diets fail people and people fail diets because of mindsets and thought patterns. Of course as a coach I witness this all the time as well.

Most people begin a process of diet to get thin because of a deep sense of need, want, or lack. In qualitative feedback interviews from overweight people in their support groups, there were many consistencies that reflected this mindset. Most reported being unhappy and always wanting a thinner body. They lack self-esteem and self-acceptance going into the diet. The results of the diet were going to change all of that.

They failed to see and the researchers and counsellors failed as well to coach them of the reality that they may be overweight because of the prevailing mindset and its emotional affects which would play out in various behaviours. Overeating, using food for comfort, using food for disconnection, and being overweight in general are often, to me, merely the behavioural results of faulty mindsets of need, want and lack. These people want a thinner body, their emotional needs for themselves are not being met.

And like most people they seek meeting these needs from external sources. And of course the diet industry is only too happy to oblige and capitalize on this intense sense of desperation. Usually the more emotionally desperate the sense of need, want, and lack, the more desperate will be the diet attempt. In other words the diet will tend to be more extreme. Diets geared toward achieving thinness at the expense of wellness are diets that reflect faulty mindsets. I witness this extensively in the fitness arena as well. Any undertaking born out of the emotionally weak position of want, need, and lack, will inevitably fail. And industries that know this and market to manipulate that need, shamefully make billions of dollars by re-creating a circle of misery in people’s lives. It will only cease to be for the people who seize control of their own needy thinking process.

But shame on the industry that promises solutions in pre-packaged food, easy to swallow pills as remedies, and of course the fad diets solutions that compromise their own principles on a regular basis in order to sell more products to meet more desperate needs of it consumers. So Atkins, the decidedly ‘anti-carb’ diet, ends up marketing Atkins ‘breads’(isn't that a carb?)and Atkins meal replacement bars with sweet sounding names. And the marketing succeeds because no one holds these companies culpable for the mass manipulation. No, if a person fails a diet, and they will, then it only reinforces their sense of lack and failure and want and need within themselves.

There is in fact more diet recidivism than any other kind of consistently failed behaviours. People go from Jenny Craig, to Weight Watchers, to Nutrisystem, to Atkins, and on and on it goes. People continue to literally ‘buy into’ a fallacy that when their dream weight has been achieved, they will then ‘be’ their true selves. What a shame. And the bigger shame is that it continues. As one diet rebound leads to further and greater weight gain, another attempt at diet solutions begins. And yet the mindset of desperation does not change; therefore behaviour of dieting cannot be ‘won.’ Dieting is not a solution to want, need and lack. People fail to realize that they will never get beyond the barriers of their own minds. And these are decidedly NOTdiet issues.

And here is how it plays out in the time course of a diet. Psychologically the diet begins because the overweight person seeks to change him/herself. Most of the interviews reflect a sense of want. They want to be thinner. They want to not be laughed at or ridiculed. They want to feel better. They want to look better. The want reflects the deeper sense of lack.

They think they lack, what thinner people have.

They lack validation for who they are. They lack the tools to change that. And then of course the sense of need forces the initiation to change oneself by changing the behaviour. And now, the new diet begins; usually in spite of the fact of previous miserable failures. But this time, faith is put into a new diet (the belief in externals), its no carbs, instead of no fats, its Jenny instead of LA; it’s South Beach instead of Ornish. And so it goes.

And the diet behavioural requirements all centre on an insistence of denial and deprivation. This is of course completely counter-intuitive. People are usually overweight because of spiritual self-denial and self-deprivation to begin with. These are THE problem. They cannot be part of the solution. And yet self-denial and self-deprivation requirements of diets are inviting to people with a need and want mentality. It is what they know and respond to. So the mindset that precludes being overweight is activated in the undertaking of the diet strategy. It is foolhardy; it is ridiculous; it is rationality.

So the diet begins with a firm commitment we call ‘motivation.’ Some call it willpower. I discuss in my book how both of these are fantasies. In the beginning there will be weight loss and success. But because the mindset of need and want has not changed, it merely reinserts itself at some point in the process. So it begins as a need and want to lose weight. After a certain amount of weight has been lost, and the discipline of diet takes a toll, the mindset of need and want merely changes attention. (the self-denial, and self-deprivation seeks release)

Now because weight has been lost and is being lost, the common sense assertion would be that this would fuel further success. Why is this not true of the history of dieting? It is not true because that mindset of need and want has not changed. It can be suppressed but a mindset will never be denied. So it just changes its focus. Now the need and want based in self-denial and self-deprivation switches to a want and need for the foods that have been denied. So if someone is on Atkins, then they ‘want’ and ‘need’ carbs. And so it goes.

What is being denied is now what is being wanted.

Behaviour begins again to reflect the mindset and before long all weight has been gained back and usually more. This leads to more self-denial in the form of self-recrimination. And once that begins to become unbearable the mindset of need and lack will once again seek out a diet, ‘to change’ and satisfy that endless need. Denial and deprivation mentalities will never work.

It is the mindset of ‘choice’ and free-will, rather than ‘will-power’ that will succeed long-term. The self, must always be engaged, not denied. And this is what the diet industry does not want its consumers to know and understand. Let’s examine this another way:

How thin should someone be? How much weight loss is enough to feel like that illusory true self that is being pursued? Often, movie stars and celebrities represent the ‘ideal body image.’ But do they? Jennifer Anniston for example is reportedly 5 ft 5 inches tall and weighs 110 lbs. That would make her BMI (Body Mass Index) 18.3. Sound good? Sound like a target identity to feel better about yourself? Well this BMI makes her underweight, not ideal weight. In fact less than 3.5 percent of American women meet that BMI range. In other words very few women are that thin. To think you can work to earn it is a part of a faulty mindset steeped in need and want and lack.

But this does not represent the total lunacy of vanity insanity. If we look instead at the pageant industry and use Miss America as the example, then even Jennifer Anniston is too ‘fat.’ Say what? The apparent ideal for Miss America according to one of their popular consultants is 5 ft 8 inches tall and 110 lbs. Within that industry many pageant queens collapse and are hospitalized seeking that ideal for competition. So how is that BMI attainable for the average person via behaviours rooted in self-denial and self-deprivation? Simply, it's not. And the same lunacy exists in the fitness arena as well where ‘achievable’ standards and ideals keep getting more and more absurd. For everyone that can attain these goals without consequence, there are hundreds of thousands forever damaged by seeking to do so.

And the double standard exists as well in the fact that it truly is a man’s world. Men tend to set the standards of women’s Body Image. Yet the demands on men are far less severe. Take Brad Pitt as an example: The quintessential male version of desirability and perfection. Reportedly Brad Pitt is 6 ft tall and weighs 160 lbs. This gives him a BMI of 21.6, very healthy and normal range by BMI standards. However, if Brad Pitt had the same BMI of Jennifer Anniston, at 18.3, he would weigh 135 lbs! Do any of you know any 6 ft tall males who weigh 135 lbs? The modern standard of ideal body image that keeps getting marketed to consumers also keeps getting more and more strict, and more and more ridiculous and narrow; usually also reinforced with some form of cosmetic enhancement.

By comparison, in 1904, the winner of the ‘world’s most perfectly formed women’, was almost 5 ft 5 inches tall and weighed 136 lbs. This would give her a normal and healthy BMI according to current BMI standards of health and wellness, and yet that look would now be considered ‘chubby’ if she decided to compete within any of the vanity industries.

By 1960 the ideal for a female was that of a pre-adolescent as the first supermodel of the era, Twiggy, was reportedly 5 ft 7 inches, and a waifish 91 lbs. Kate Moss, reportedly is 5 ft 7 inches and weighed or weighs 105 lbs. But the aspects to address are what is reasonable and achievable. Twiggy reportedly never dieted. She was just ‘thin’ as she reported it. Perhaps the modern pressures of diet and ideal are what push people like Kate Moss to their addictions to various drugs. After all certain fashion designers have stated publicly that they prefer models who would reflect what the clothes would look like draped on a hanger. No wonder anorexia is a pervasive problem in the vanity industries, and Binge Eating, particularly so in the fitness industry. I once had a pageant competitor who considered one stick of gum, ‘a meal.’ Once again, behaviour reflects the mindset.

Many people will respond, “but I don’t live in 1904, and I still want to lose weight.” And there is that word again, ‘want.’ People who want to really change themselves need to learn that self-denial, and ‘self-deprivation’ will NEVER lead to ‘self-expression.’ Self-expression is a form of comfort with self-identity. It does not seek to fulfill need, want, and lack. It is not the prevailing mindset.

Self-expression comes instead from a mindset of self-acceptance, self-respect, self-assuredness. If someone truly wants to meet weight loss goals and keep them, then it will require this mindset. The behaviour is merely incidental to that achievement. People who want to truly change their circumstances will have to face the fact to change their mindsets first. Undertaking a diet will not do that for them. Self-talk and exercises remain the key to success. What someone says to him/herself in the midst of difficulties will determine how long they stay in difficult situations. A mindset of need, and want, and lack, will only continue to reinforce itself. People must stop focusing on the problem and instead focus on the solution. If the problem is ‘overweight’, realize the solution is not in undertaking a diet. That merely reinforces a focus on the problem.

The mindset is what requires work; then the behaviour will follow.

And the behaviour then will not require self-denial, and self-deprivation. It will be instead behaviour based in real choice and self-expression. This is the true diet dilemma. People must start employing self-talk as a means to changing their situations, rather than describing their situations. The former is empowering the latter is enabling.

Thoughts and thinking strategy focused on abundance, favour, hope and value, are thoughts that lead to empowering behaviour. These types of thoughts replace the self-limitations of behaviour adherence based in self-denial, and self-deprivation. These are limitations of the self.

The successful mindset is positioned on possibilities that express the self, not limitations that deny the self. Hence, why dieting will never work!

And here is the diet dilemma that represents the falsehood of the diet industry. These diets, whether represented in books, like The South Beach Diet, or the Atkins Revolution, or in diet centres like Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, L.A. Weight Loss, or whatever, all lead the consumer to believe that behaviour is the solution to their diet dilemma.
It’s time to wake up to the truth.

The psychology of eating should not require support groups.

Again, as I began this Blog, IT’S NOT THE DIET !!!!

Some of you will get it, some of you will not.

I welcome your comments in the forums section of my website. Meantime, if you know someone trapped in ‘diet dogma’ please forward them this editorial. It is written with going on 3 decades of experience with people who ‘struggle’ for diet solutions for what are not diet issues.

It’s time to disarm the power of the diet industry and see if for what it is.