#35in365 - Book 2 Review
When You Open the Fridge,
What Are you Really Hungry For?
BOOK A Course in Weight Loss, by Marianne Williamson
First off, this book needs some context. Williamson is most famous for writing "A Return to Love, A Reflection on the Principles of a Course in Miracles." Williamson’s book is a summation, as the author understands it, of the famous work ‘A Course in Miracles,’ transcribed by Dr. Helen Schuchman in the mid-sixties as it was dictated by a higher ‘voice’. A spiritual self-help classic, the book aims to guide its readers toward inner peace through surrender to love, the purest and truest of all things.
Williamson explains that there are two main emotions from which all thoughts and actions originate: love and fear. She explains that because we have lost touch with love, the purest thing that exists, we have succumbed to fear, which manifests itself namely as ego. Psychic pain stems from fear and fear is the absence of love. When faced with adversity, whether an emotional crisis or day to day issues, Williamson says that one should ask for a miracle from God, the miracle of changed perception, in order to be released from fear and be able to return to love. Finding inner peace consists of surrendering to love (God) and having the humility to ask for a miracle, i.e. the trust to place oneself in God’s hands.
Note: Now, if like me, you’re not very receptive to any kind of religious dogma, please suspend your skepticism until the end of this blog post. You’ll see that the tenets of this book are much more universal than its Christian terminology leads you to believe.
Now that we've laid the foundation, let's dive into the book at hand. In the early 2000s, Williamson was interviewed by Oprah who, as we know, has been very open throughout her life about her struggles with weight. After their conversation, Oprah asked Williamson to write a book about weight loss and that's how A Course in Weight Loss came to be. The book uses the principles of the first book and applies them to weight.
Williamson explains that overeating is a symptom of self-hate, or at least, the absence of self-love. She explains that struggling with weight is an ongoing battle between what she calls 'thin you' (your truest self who doesn't want to overeat) and 'not thin you' (your negative subconscious thoughts that are driven by fear and push you to overeat). For Williamson, weight loss happens in the mind, and shedding the physical pounds is only an effect of having healed the mind. Williamson says that we must first make peace with 'not thin you' 's presence, accept her and love her, in order to make her disappear into our true self. In short, we must accept and love ourselves in order to overcome compulsions to overeat. Williamson then provides some unique and often helpful tips to facilitate that process. These include
Having your meal without any distractions, i.e. computer, phone TV, etc.
Removing all trigger foods from one’s kitchen and treating the kitchen as a sacred space
Purchasing a new plate, cutlery, and cloth napkin to mark the beginning of new eating habits focused on self-respect and respect for the meals that will be consumed with these new ‘tools’
- "When you're eating wisely, you're expressing love for yourself. When you're eating excessively, you're expressing fear."
How do we express fear by overeating? Overeating can stem from a variety of psychological issues. A few recurring ones I’ve heard or witnessed over the years: fear of running out of food (if food insecurity was experienced earlier in life), fear of loneliness, fear of social rejection, fear of professional failure. In short, when we eat excessively, we’re putting a bandage on a deeper issue that’s just crying out to be confronted.
“To judge an aspect of yourself as ugly is to abuse yourself and then you might respond to your hurt by….let’s say...grabbing something to eat.”
In this quote, Williamson sums up succinctly a vicious cycle that many people experience. We judge ourselves for failing. We feel awful about failing. We then distract ourselves from our perceived failure by eating. And the cycle begins again. Williamson explains that it is only by learning to love all of ourselves unconditionally (i.e. even those extra pounds), that we can begin to break the cycle of emotional eating.
“What you do not love, you do not understand. And with what you do not understand, you cannot negotiate.”
This one rings true the most. If we do not understand something, i.e. if we’re not willing to open ourselves up to that perspective, then we cannot approach it with love. And what we approach with fear, we inevitably lose at. So, if you do not take the time to peel back the layer of your overeating to understand your true motivations, then you cannot approach your weight loss journey with self-love and therefore are setting yourself up for failure.
"I eat in a way that supports my being of service to love."
Now, for many (including myself), this may feel too metaphysical to be of any help in the real world. Rather, I would modify this statement to say, "I eat in a way that supports my being in service to what I love." This makes the statement much more precise, and the advice more actionable. 'What you love' can be anything or anyone: your children, your spouse, your work, a sport or hobby. Anything. The point is, you want to eat in a way that enables you to show up for these people and/or activities in the best way possible. To have the energy to play with your kids. To have the stamina to deliver that great presentation. To have the motivation to get up and exercise. Whatever drives you, eat in a way that will make you feel your best and help you deliver. In other words, zero in on your ‘why.’
...And a few more excerpts worth noting:
“You are a being both created by love and at home in love. Your deepest desire is not for food, but for the experience of home. Your deepest desire is not for food, but for love.”
- “One of the ways you love yourself is by permitting yourself to want what you want. [...] Overeating is an act of spiritual starvation, and one of the things the overeater often starves herself of is the natural right to dream. Invoking the real you begins with expanding your imagination, allowing yourself to want what you want.”
"For that is what foods is: the body's support system. It maintains health and keeps the body alive. To abuse it is to abuse your body, and to abuse your body is to abuse yourself."
“A new way of eating, one that fundamentally and permanently transforms you, can only be created within the context of a new way of being. Your desire to eat differently is a sacred calling to take your entire life to a deeper level.”
“Perhaps you throw out chemically processed foods, replacing them with fresh fruits and vegetables - the point is not the food specifically. The point is that you are dropping dead energy, lifeless food, lifeless anything. You are choosing the aliveness and vitality of whole, natural foods because you are choosing the aliveness and vitality of a new you. You are making the choice to be happy. Losing weight is a by-product of choosing to live a happier life.”
“This is path you’ll walk for the rest of your life - not just to manage your food issues, but in order to find and life the truest version of yourself. Your work will be, every day, to vigilantly monitor your thoughts - so you won’t have to monitor your eating so vigilantly. The lighter your thoughts are, the lighter will be your appetite. As mental and emotional obesity fall to the wayside, then so will their physical counterpart. You will become, throughout all dimensions of your being, your ‘light-filled’ self.”
Worth reading if
You’re interested in spirituality and/or feel that deeper psychological issues around food are standing in the way of your health goals.
Skip it if
You’re looking for more concrete/measurable weight loss tools.
My big take-away
When you’re not actually hungry but reach for food, stop and ask yourself “What am I actually hungry for?”
This book most likely won’t bring on a massive shift in your approach to your health goals, but one thing I’d suggest is copying some of the above quotes that you found inspiring and sticking them in a visible spot that can help reinforce positive thoughts and habits on a daily basis.
My next pick by the same author:
Enchanted Love, the Mystical Power of Intimate Relationships