Navigating the Intersection of Work and Mental Health
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Working Better and Stressing Less

Ideas on work and mental health

The diet (and shame) roller coaster: Disembark!

I specialize in work and anxiety counseling, yet almost every client I have ever worked with has issues with food, dieting, fitness, body image, or weight. All of them and me too. I'm 20 pounds heavier than before I had children and I wouldn't characterize myself as entirely positive about it. 

So for both professional and personal reasons, I found the articles this week about the TV program, "The Biggest Loser," to be so validating. The premise of coverage on the study is that each of our individual bodies has a "set point" and when we disrupt that set point with extreme weight loss, the body fights back to return. The New York Times covered it. The Washington Post disagreed a bit. The fact is, it's complex.

It's all true. Individuals have some control over what they eat and how much they move. Personal metabolic factors are highly influential on how much fat a person stores, how hungry they are, and how that weight is distributed. Factors like socioeconomic status, career paths, family choices, geography, and ethnicity all influence weight. And mantras like, "just eat less and move more," have both truth and significant assumptions and shame associated with them. 

It's not all "garbage in, garbage out." Some people are hungrier than others. Some people hold on to weight more than others. And while we all would do well to follow Michael Pollan's advice, "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants," diets don't work. 

What does work? According to the NYT article, mindful eating "works." Perhaps it doesn't magically take off lots of pounds to allow people to be unnaturally thin. But really enjoying and experiencing food from selection through preparation and finally, in the eating process (and preferably with good company) seems to be nourishing to the body and the mind. 

If we nourish body and mind and stop thinking of food as good or bad or those 20 pounds as something that must be gotten rid of, we may find a "set point" that is even happier.