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23 Jul
2012
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Overweight – Then It Must Be Your Fault, Mustn’t It?

Blame is one of the big failings of society. This is the idea that if something is wrong, then there just has to be somebody to point the finger at. We seem to need someone to carry the can and take the blame.

It’s nonsense of course, but the whole structure of society and its justice system (which I prefer to think of as a legalised revenge system) is based around the idea that we are responsible for our actions.

I’ve watched myself, not even a little hungry, get up, go to the fridge, get out a couple of my favourite chocolate biscuits, thoroughly enjoy them and then feel that bloated feeling that says I’ve eaten too much, with a consequent discomfort that followed for several hours. The problem is I know all this because this isn’t the first time in my life this has happened and it won’t be the last.

Was I responsible for the couple of ounces of fat those biscuits will have added to my waist?

Well that depends.

You see in a way I was and in a way I wasn’t. But there are times when that kind of thing can happen and there is no responsibility – no blame.

Before I explain about me, I want to digress a little.

There are two types of behaviour: conscious and unconscious. Let me give you an example that, if you are a driver, you can probably relate to. If you drive a regular route, to work say, you have probably experienced, on occasion, suddenly finding yourself at a certain point in the journey, without any recollection of the part of the journey immediately preceding it.

On other occasions you may have intended to go to a particular place and find yourself missing the turn off and continuing along a more familiar route.

When this happens you are unconscious. Not in the strictly medical sense, but in a sense that you are not in conscious control of your actions.

What the brain is primarily designed for is survival. So it is very good at noticing threats in its immediate environment. Threat tends to come from something different. The stuff that’s around everyday hasn’t killed or damaged us yet so it’s probably ok. Now the brain needs fuel, it actually needs a lot of fuel, so it isn’t go to waste any unnecessarily by paying attention where it isn’t needed. One way it has of conserving its energy is to push into the background (unconsciousness) anything that it has decided poses no threat and can be safely ignored. If there is a clock ticking in a room you spend a lot of time in, you may have to work quite hard to hear that tick. The tick is switched out of conscious awareness.

Familiar routes pose no threat. Only when some idiot in another car threatens your safety will full awareness i.e. consciousness immediately switch back in so you can take the necessary avoiding action.

Of course because familiar routes are already programmed in if we have switched into unconscious driving mode when we pass the turning we need today, then we will drive straight past it.

Is that our fault for not paying attention?

No.

It’s the nature of our BodyMind that wants to take away the drudgery from our lives and leave us to concentrate on what’s important – like coming up with new and more efficient ways to catch dinner.

Back to the chocolate biscuits.

I was fully aware of what I was doing, but I have made a prior decision to allow myself to have what I want when I want it. But I have it fully aware of what I’m doing and the impact it will have on my waist. This is not an excuse, but I fully believe that resisting temptation just causes suffering and suffering causes over-eating. In the long run, allowing yourself, consciously, to have what you want, reduces desire and promotes health. Full awareness of the subsequent discomfort is an essential part of this process. I ate fully aware that I was being inconsistent with my intentions – but that’s okay too.

My intention is to make all eating fully conscious.

The vast majority of excess weight is born from unconscious eating. Research supports this idea, because dieters who keep a food diary and log everything they eat, lose more weight than those who don’t. People who are overweight, and don’t record what they eat, actually have the idea they are eating much less food than they actually do. The reason for this is unconscious, automatic eating behaviour. Like in the missing part of the car journey, we don’t remember what we do when we have switched into unconscious automatic behaviour.

It isn’t delusion.

It isn’t lying.

It isn’t deliberate.

It’s because we are human.

…and I just have to add that hypnosis is a great way to change unconscious behaviour.

Michael

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