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Wisdom and Weight

Being comfortable with your body at any size comes from practicing wisdom. And what’s that? Wisdom is a combination of discernment, valuing self, and utilizing cognitive skills—not your emotions—for problem-solving. Anyone can be wise.

Based on studies, experts tell us repeatedly that good health, not weight loss, is the most effective goal for achieving and maintaining healthy eating practices for life. Every single moment you think about shedding pounds takes you farther away from wisdom—and reaching eating goals. Though it’s true that when we eat well, we can't see our bodies growing healthier, we still can rejoice in how fine they feel when well nourished and bathe in the glow of pride that comes from taking good care of ourselves.

Growing healthier—how can that not happen when you’re eating more nutritious foods than you did before?—and feeling better about yourself are major achievements. Why not focus on them, on what you’re doing that works? Why ever would you focus on what hasn’t? That's like being voted "most likely to succeed" and "most intelligent" in high school and despairing that you weren’t crowned "most popular" as well. Then, again, perhaps you don’t feel deserving of feeling good about yourself, so instead you zero in on what makes you feel crummy, an old, sadly familiar feeling.

Psychology calls what we focus on “selective attention” which shapes our lives in myriad ways we don’t even realize. For instance, I had a writer friend in Boston who received almost unanimous praise and one minor criticism on a short story in a writing class we attended together. After class, I found her crying in the bathroom because of that one comment. She also posted rejection letters on her refrigerator. Is that wisdom?

Wisdom is remaining single-minded of purpose—to be healthy and fit. To whit, a friend just hired a health coach and has never felt better in his life, even though he put off a planned vacation to afford the coaching. Remember, wisdom is using thinking rather than feeling to make decisions. It’s about acquiring life skills, including not being angry when we don't reach our goals but, instead, engaging in rational problem-solving. Do you want a surgeon operating on your broken leg to be angry that you were hit by a drunk driver’s car or wise? Do you want a fire-fighter rescuing you from a burning building to feel vengeful toward the arsonist who set the fire or be guided by wisdom?

When are you going to wise up and stop focusing on your weight?