Dr. Steven Gundry is a renowned cardiac surgeon and researcher who has developed several surgical procedures and devices and authored numerous studies and scientific papers. In 2001 he shifted the focus of his attention to the way in which a diet based on principles of genetics can prevent disease and help people lose weight. His first diet book, Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution, was published in March 2008.
I’m going to use the example of a new patient, Cheryl (not her real name), who came to see me this week. I always start my meeting with any new patient with the question: “What are you doing here? What do you want?” Cheryl’s answer was straightforward; she wanted to weigh what she weighed when she was 13 years old. Cheryl currently tips the scale well above 200 pounds, but interestingly, Cheryl thought of herself as a 114-pound 13-year-old. In fact, most of my fat patients, including myself when I was obese, visually “see” themselves as the thin person they remember from the past. In fact, most cannot “see” the fat person in the mirror. Cheryl, much to the chagrin of her husband, refused to get rid of several skinny outfits that she had kept since her teenage years! Sound familiar? I did the same thing! Cheryl views herself as a skinny person trapped inside a fat body. Sadly, until Cheryl “sees” herself currently, she will not have a powerful tool to help herself. You must see who you are now.
How about Cheryl’s desire to weigh what she did when she was 13? In fact, Cheryl is spot-on in her request! Studies of centenarians (people who live over 100 years of age) show that invariably, they weigh about what they did when they were 12 or 13! In fact, if you need any motivation to lose weight, it is this: There are no overweight or obese very old people! Look around. Where are all the very old fat people? I’ll tell you where they are; they’re all dead! As demonstrated in my book, Dr Gundry’s Diet Evolution, the fat folks are actively weeded out by our genetic programming as bad examples that are taking more than their fair share of food. Ouch!
So Cheryl is absolutely right to have a goal to weigh 114 pounds. But the problem that most people who set a goal for a particular weight eventually run headlong into is the ultimate problem for all dieters or for anyone who has ever set a goal in anything: Once you reach that goal, what do you do now? Watch anyone who has set a weight goal (Oprah is a perfect example) and watch what happens when they reach it. Statistically, about 90 percent will then backslide and backslide severely.
What happened? I submit that weight loss as a goal is a mistake. But wait a minute, Dr. G; you just said that Cheryl’s goal of 114 pounds was a really good idea! Now you say it’s a mistake! What gives?
Here’s the real answer: What Cheryl really wants, and I’ll bet you do too, is to have vibrant good health for a very long time. Or as I put it: to die “young,” at a very old age! What Cheryl actually wants is to achieve that goal. So our job is to initiate behaviors that give us the best chance of achieving that. One factor shown in human and animal studies that promotes longevity is slow, progressive weight loss. Not sudden, not yo-yo, but slow, progressive weight loss. So Cheryl has, and you now have, the answer to my second question: What do you want?”
Okay, so far so good. But how do I do that? You do that by answering my first question: “Who are you?”
Most people dealing with lifestyle change issues get bogged down in the enormity of making changes in their eating patterns or choices. Yet most people do not realize how very strong they are in making choices in their daily lives that they really don’t want to make, but they do owing to the consequences of not doing those things.
Most of us set an alarm clock to get up, usually before we really want to get up. We arrive at work or school at a certain time; we make breakfast, lunches, and dinners for our kids and family. We do these things because there are tremendous negative (and positive) consequences for these actions — i.e., you have a job, a roof over your head, your kids go to college, etc. All of these actions define who you are.
Now, how about viewing your body as the only house you will ever live in. Guess what? Unless you are Shirley Maclaine, it is the only body you will ever occupy. Imagine if you took the power of the choices you make daily and applied them to your eating habits? In other words, just look at the things you do daily to take care of your home and family; now apply them to yourself.
In the next few blogs, I’ll expound on how you can do this. But for now, here’s the advice I gave to Cheryl and to all my patients; it comes straight from Yoda, of Star Wars. Young Luke Skywalker is trying to become a Jedi Knight, and he’s trying to get his light saber to work, and he’s trying to do four triple somersaults while battling 30 bad guys (you know, mundane stuff like that) and he’s failing miserably! So he goes and complains to Master Yoda that he’s trying very hard but it’s just not working! Yoda wags his finger at young Skywalker and says in Yoda speak: “Try not! Do or do not! There is no try!”
There in lies the key to your success. You don’t try to set the alarm clock; you set it. You don’t try to get to work at 9; you get there. To say you will “try” to do something gives yourself permission to fail. (“It’s okay, I really tried hard not to eat that whole bag of chips, but they were soooo good, I couldn’t help myself!”) But henceforth, you will not try to avoid certain foods; you will avoid them. You won’t try to eat certain foods; you will eat them. And the more you do this, the more you will become that person. Why? Because that’s who you are! There — you just learned the answer to the first question.
We’ll talk again soon. From now on, you are a doer, not a tryer!
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