Except for the small number of people who are overweight due to physiological reasons, most people who are overweight simply eat too much, often too much of the wrong food. They do this either because of learned experience from family or peers, or because they have low self-esteem and are depressed and eating is how they gratify themselves. When people go on diets it’s for two basic reasons. Either they want their image to change from “fat,” “obese,” “gross,” to something closer to the cultural ideal of an attractive person, or someone has convinced them that they have to lose weight for health reasons.
In the former instance, the person is not dieting because they really want to; they are dieting because they are trying to change their image to fit the media messages of our culture. They are trying to white-knuckle themselves into something other than what they are. And so when their opposite learned experience or depression gains the upper hand, they either fall off the diet, or if they achieved their goals, gain the weight back again. It’s an ongoing cycle caused by the conflicting messages in their learned experience. In the latter case, the person again is not dieting because they want to; someone has convinced them that they should. And so the same pattern exhibits itself that has just been described.
The problem here is not one of a lack of will-power. The problem is the learned experiences that they have accumulated and the cravings those experiences engender. Bottom line, as noted in my previous two posts, they are addicted to over-eating. That is why will-power has no relevance here. The only way out is the 12-step process suggested.
Someone walking the path who is overweight should, by following this 12-step process, be able to on the one hand truly accept themselves and their life for what it is right now and at the same time recognize that for health reasons they need to lose weight. Not because they are “fat” or “obese” or “ugly,” but because it isn’t healthy. In fact, when someone who previously had low self-esteem truly accepts themselves as they are and loves themselves unconditionally, the reason for their over-eating will in most cases cease and they will naturally start eating less and lose weight.
But of course, there will be some who, when they accept themselves for who they are and love themselves unconditionally, will be perfectly happy to remain overweight. And while that may not be healthy, if they are happy and at peace and approach their weight with equanimity, then that’s ok. Walking the path is about not judging oneself or others; it is living without labels.
Another lesson in practical Buddhism.