Oprah, Weight Watchers & Playing “Games”

Yup – it’s January. Like many in the weight-loss and wellness industry, I have been fielding a higher-than-normal volume of inquires regarding my services. And based on all these conversations I’m having with people, two things are abundantly clear.

First, there is an underlying assumption in the air that says this: If you are overweight (or not the size you’d like to be) you are at best unmotivated or undisciplined – or at worst, you are lazy or stupid – because to lose weight you must take in fewer calories than you burn away – everyone knows this. This is a major underlying theme – whether people are consciously aware of it or not. I hear it clearly through their words, through their anxiety, through their pain and their shame.

The second thing that is abundantly clear is that none of my potential clients are unmotivated, undisciplined, lazy or stupid. They have done the diets and hired the personal trainers. And… they have done a lot of personal work to address the “underlying causes” of their weight and body issues.

Lack of work ethic or stupidity are definitely not problems. In fact, the problem is that many of these people are very committed and too smart! They have become very educated in all of their psychological, emotional, spiritual issues – believing that if they can somehow discover and heal some deep-seated block, they will be able to maintain a lifestyle that produces results. They will be able to eat less (take in fewer calories) and move more (burn calories away).

Case in point: I recently saw a Weight Watchers commercial featuring Oprah Winfrey as the spokesperson. The essence of the ad is this: Oprah connects with our deepest selves to tell us that we all know there is emotional and personal stuff that affects our weight – it’s not just calories in and exercise out. And we would believe Oprah, right? We’ve witnessed her very public weight battles, and she often addressed the psychological and emotional aspects of weight-loss on her show. And then, as the commercial continues, she goes on to say that it’s not about counting calories – with Weight Watchers, you count points and…you can turn it into a game!!

Excuse me – does anyone else see a red flag? How exactly is counting points any different than counting calories??

Now Oprah is committed to her Weight Watchers program (she does, after all own 10% of the company). And I’m sure she will find success. But I wonder how long she will be able to maintain it…

The problem that Oprah will face is the same problem that all of the people seeking my help face. It doesn’t matter if you are counting points (and turning it into a game) or counting calories. Following any diet – by its very nature and definition – means that you are not following the wisdom and guidance of your own incredibly smart, miraculously intelligent body.

What Oprah and my potential clients really need is to focus on building a strong, stable and nurturing relationship with their bodies. And this does take work. This is where all those personal growth and personal development skills come into play. The power of healing your emotional and spiritual issues is not that it will help you stick to a diet and exercise program. The power of healing your emotional and spiritual issues lies in helping you build a strong, highly functional and loving relationship with your body!

And yes, food is very important. Food is important because your food choices are an expression of the relationship you have with your body. And exercise is also important. Exercise is important because it is an expression of the relationship you have with your body. Moreover, exercise teaches you how to feel your body and how to listen to it. And when you are adept at listening to your body, you will know what to eat – and how much.

When you come from the perspective of a relationship with your body, you align and harmonize all the aspects of yourself – your body, mind and spirit. And when your actions come from a place of authenticity and congruency, your results come more easily, more enjoyably and are sustainable in the long term. Now that’s the game I want to play.