The Centers for Disease Control came out with yet another report, which estimates that 35 percent of all adult Americans and 17 percent of American children are obese. I’m sure it’s not new news to anyone since the CDC has been giving us statistics on how fat America is for decades now.
The CDC and the media call it an epidemic and a national crisis. We point the finger at our public health policies, our school lunch programs, fast food and our busy yet sedentary lives. All those issues contribute to the obesity epidemic are but are just the sugary glaze on top of a Krispy Kreme donut because the problem is really much deeper.
Author Geneen Roth in her book, Women Food And God says, “The way you eat is inseparable from your core beliefs about being alive. No matter how sophisticated or wise or enlightened you believe you are, how you eat tells all. The world is on your plate. When you begin to understand what prompts you to use food as a way to numb or distract yourself, the process takes you deeper into realms of spirit and to the bright center of your own life.”
We need to look at what’s prompting us to use food to stuff our emotions down. We medicate our uncomfortable feelings with copious amounts of Big Mac’s, Mountain Dew and Little Debbie Snack Cakes. That is the reason as a nation we’re obese and stay that way despite new government programs and the plethora of organic living products.
I will also venture to say that our over-eating is also a spiritual problem. The Dalai Lama says in his book, The Art of Happiness, “true happiness relates more to the mind and heart. Happiness that depends mainly on physical pleasure is unattainable; one day it’s there, the next day it may not be.” In other words you will feel quick satisfaction from eating a pint of Ben and Jerry’s but once the Chunky Monkey is consumed the pleasure goes away and what you’re left with is the negative consequences of your actions.
Happiness and spiritual fulfillment come from developing good human qualities such as warmth, kindness and compassion. When we develop these qualities our lives will have more meaning and we will be peaceful. We won’t seek outside pleasures to make us happy any longer.
Large corporations like Nestle, Pepsi Co, McDonalds and Kraft prey on this food is pleasure principle. We’ve all seen the commercials of a woman eating chocolate and basically having an orgasm or seeing an elated child overly happy about his Happy Meal.
I’m guilty of emotional eating. In the past I’ve talked to many a chocolate cake about my problems. Which leads me to the next part of the vicious over-eating cycle…dieting.
Diet programs are designed to fail so that you have to come back again and again. There is only a 5% success rate. The multi-billion dollar dieting preys on our fears of not being good enough and they have the cure and that’s being thin.
I bought into the lie that I would be magically transformed into a slim and happy human being in September of 2011 when I joined Jenny Craig. I lost about twenty pounds in under a year but started to feel sick about nine months in. Ten months in I’m being wheeled into emergency surgery from the ER to take out my gallbladder, which had over 1,000 stones in it.
The stones had traveled and were cutting off the ducts to my liver, small intestine and pancreas. I was literally yellow. Two months prior to starting Jenny Craig I had a full physical including blood tests and MRI’s before my fibroid surgery. I was perfectly healthy (besides the uterine fibroids).
When I got out of the hospital I learned that in 1994 there was a class action lawsuit against Jenny Craig – 360,000 people claimed they got gallbladder disease from eating their food. Had I been informed of the gallbladder problems that may result from their diet, I would never have signed up.
The trauma of having to have emergency surgery gave me a new relationship with food and with myself. I finally dealt with the emotions that caused me to over-eat. The experience also taught me to fight back when I see injustices, which is why I sued Jenny Craig.
I wish the answer to the obesity epidemic was to just eat healthy and exercise. Don’t get me wrong, I advocate fresh foods over processed fare but it’s only putting a Band-Aid on a gaping internal wound.
Effective change comes from the inside out. The solution is that we need to retrain our minds to think positively about ourselves and to seek long-term happiness instead of instant pleasure. We need to learn to become more compassionate and emotionally tolerant people. The discussion has to turn from what we’re eating to what’s eating us.