Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “Oprah Winfrey”

The “addiction model” versus eternal suffering…I know which I pick…Duh.

In my post last week, I wrote about Oprah and Weight Watchers. You can read it here. I was inspired to write about it because of an article I had read that morning that basically said that if Oprah, with all of her money and power, can’t lose weight, why would you think you can? (In his defense, his point was to love yourself the way you are right now, which I FULLY support!) In response, a friend of mine wrote to him and said that if you want the success stories, look in 12 step rooms. And another reader responded that the people who succeed are the people who are giving up addictive foods like sugar.

The backlash in the comments section was very interesting (and a little unsettling) to me. So I did a little internet snooping. People, for reasons I do not comprehend, are very angry about “the addiction model.” I do not know what it is about addiction and the idea of addiction that gets people furious. They are practically screaming through the computer, “NOT EVERYONE IS AN ADDICT!”

Okay. I got it. Not everyone is an addict. But why so much anger about it?

I understand that there is not a lot of scientific evidence that the “addiction model” works. I have read articles on it. One claims that the addiction model of treatment has “shockingly low success rates.” Another claims “compelling support for effectiveness.”But I don’t do what I do because science tells me it is effective or not. I do it because it is effective for me.

So, I am not claiming anything scientific at all. I am saying that by identifying as an addict and giving up my addictive substance, I have had my weight and eating under control for 10 years now. 10 years. And I personally know people who have maintained huge weight loss for 20+ and even 30+ years. Not a person. I can think of 10 people right now who have maintained a weight loss for over 20 years. Most studies about long-term weight loss use 2-5 years as the benchmark for “long-term.” I can literally (and I mean literally literally, not figuratively) think of 60 people off the top of my head who would be considered successful. (No, really. I took a moment to tick them off on my fingers.) From all racial, religious, and socio-economic backgrounds. From all over the U.S. and the world. And that’s just the ones I can think of right now.

And yes, I can think of even more people who tried the “addiction model” and it didn’t work for them. I can think of people who tried and quit. I can think of people who struggle and have struggled for years. I can think of people who used the “addiction model” and lost huge amounts of weight and then put it right back on, like any other diet or weight loss program. And that is just the people I can remember. I have no scientific evidence that says what I do is effective in general. I don’t know what that success rate percentage is. It may well be “shockingly low.” Sometimes it feels like a revolving door. Perhaps for every person like me there are 100 who fail. Perhaps it’s closer to 1,000. But I am looking at 70+ people who have lost weight and maintained that weight loss. Each of those 70 people is a human being who feels like they have been set free.

Here’s the other thing that I find fascinating. Study findings (actual science) in 2011 said that maintaining weight loss was “nearly impossible.” The human body flooded with hormones that made people hungry and kept very low levels of hormones that suppressed hunger and increased metabolism. In other words, your body was going to make you suffer, and unless you were willing to suffer for the rest of your life to maintain what you had done, you were destined to gain back your weight.

Suffer? For the rest of my life? Seriously? If you think that I could do that, you don’t know me very well…I don’t know why my experience is different than this 2011 study. And I don’t care. All I am is grateful.

I got it. People don’t like the addiction model. Anecdotal evidence is not science. I hear ya. But why are these people so angry that the only treatment is “addiction treatment?” Maybe it’s because they are waiting for science to come up with an answer for them, and all it can offer is eternal suffering. (What? You guys aren’t going to jump on that?)

Let me be very clear here: I believe in science, technology, and medicine. I believe in facts. I do not believe in “praying” your cancer away. I believe in chemotherapy. I believe in vaccines and antibiotics. In fact, I think that people who don’t believe in science should have their technology taken away. (Do they really not see the irony of “liking” anti-science propaganda on Facebook with their smartphones? Ahem, I digress…) I absolutely believe in medical treatment. But I also believe that not every problem is a problem for science. Just like I don’t believe science has a cure for your crappy relationship with your brother, I don’t think it has a cure for your crappy relationship with food or your body.

I believe in attraction, not promotion. If you look at me and see that I have maintained a 150 lb weight loss for over 10 years, and not only am I not suffering eternally, but am truly happy, joyous and free, then you should maybe try a totally unscientific “addiction model” for yourself. And if you can’t get over the word addiction, or the idea of giving up cake forever, or anything else about what I do, then you do you.

I’m not mad about it all…


Oprah, Weight Watchers, and the burden of being fancy.

I’m going to do it. I’m going to talk about Oprah’s weight. Not because I give a shit about Oprah’s weight. Seriously, I don’t. But this is an eating disorder blog, and she’s Oprah with a new commitment to (and stake in) Weight Watchers. She’s one of the most successful humans to exist in the history of the world. And she has trouble controlling her weight. And, because she is who she is, all of the rest of humanity has a front row seat to watch, judge and ridicule Oprah’s body. (*shudder* Note to self: Never get that famous.)

I don’t know about you, but I really hate that new Weight Watchers commercial. It is the same “inspirational” music, and Oprah is using that same, low, soothing voice usually reserved for charity ads that begin “for just 70 cents a day…”

She says “Every time I tried and failed, and every time I tried again, and every time I tried again, has brought me to this most powerful moment to say, If not now, when?”

Do you know why I hate it so much? Because I don’t believe her. Not because I think she is a liar. I don’t. I think that Oprah has become as powerful as she has by being authentic. But I can see the fear. I can see the resignation. She looks to me like she is essentially saying, “This time I really mean it!” And I don’t know who she is trying to convince, us, or herself.

Behind that “I mean it” is the assumption that willpower is what she needs. That this time she is going to be committed. As if she weren’t committed every time before that. But we all know that’s bullshit. Of course she meant it every time. Not being able to be in a socially acceptable body is humiliating. Even for those of us who are not scrutinized daily on the world stage. It is one of the hardest things I, personally, have ever dealt with emotionally and spiritually. I meant it “every time.” But if I went walking in to my next weight loss experiment with the food obsession still there, and no experience that it could be any other way, I walked in defeated before I even started. The fear of being broken was still there. It wasn’t until I experienced a sense of relief, the possibility of sanctuary from the obsession, that I first believed that there was a solution at all. (I didn’t experience that relief until I surrendered to both giving up sugar and carbs all together and putting boundaries around my eating.) And more, I have seen women and men who still continue to struggle with their eating, even after they have had a glimpse of sanctuary. This disease of compulsive eating is no joke. And I do not see that telltale glimpse of sanctuary in Oprah’s eyes in her Weight Watcher’s commercial.

You may have the assumption that Oprah’s wealth and influence would make her weight loss journey easier. But from personal experience, I will tell you why I believe the opposite.

I have a very close friend who has boundaries around her eating, and has for over a decade. She is a very gifted singer and performer. She is a world traveller. She has friends in high places. She’s fancy. Now, she’s always fancy, but I have found that when she is feeling fancy, that is generally the most dangerous thing she can do for her food boundaries.

Because it takes a level of humility to say that you cannot control yourself around food. For Oprah Winfrey, it would mean the woman who flouted the conventions of race and gender and overcame a difficult childhood of abuse, would have to say that she couldn’t stop eating. She had power to change the world, but not enough power to step away from the chocolate cake. (Hey, Oprah, I don’t know anything about building a 3 Billion dollar empire, but seriously, it can’t be nearly as hard as stepping away from the cake.)

I don’t know Oprah at all, obviously. Not even a little bit. But I am going to guess that she does not have a “weight problem.” I am going to bet she has a food problem. And I am going to bet she is addicted to sugar and carbs. Because seriously, think about how many pounds of fruits and vegetables you have to eat to be overweight. And what’s more, how could a woman with enough money to buy several small countries not buy everything necessary to maintain a healthy weight? Personal trainers, cooks, dudes in suits and sunglasses with earpieces to guard the refrigerator, the freezer, and the cupboards where the cookies are kept. OF COURSE SHE CAN! But who is going to stop Oprah Winfrey from eating the cookie? I don’t care how crisp your suit is. If Oprah tells you to stand aside and get out of the way of the white chocolate macadamias, you are going to damn well do it. Because she is Oprah. Duh.

My point is that nobody is going to humble Oprah except Oprah. And if you were arguably the most powerful woman in the world, it might be a little scary to humble yourself. I am going to guess that she did not get where she is today by giving up her power. But I know first hand that power, or willpower, isn’t enough when it comes to eating. I know that it doesn’t matter how stubborn, strong, or committed you are. When the cookies and the cake are calling, if you have never experienced the possibility of peace around food, there is no escaping.

I wish Oprah the best. But I don’t expect Weight Watchers to be the cure for what is ailing her. And I hope that she can experience for herself the paradox of humility as power. Because if there is anyone who can lead by example and help people (especially women) be free and peaceful around food and weight, it’s Oprah. Duh.

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