The FDA has just approved a “belly balloon” that will let people feel full so they won’t eat. Reminiscent of gastric bypass surgery (by the way, there is currently there is a longitudinal study being evaluated to assess the effectiveness of surgery), it’s another example of people taking radical steps to help them manage their weight. With dangers of belly fat looming and one third of American adults labelled obese (and 17% of teenagers), obesity has been looming as the greatest detractor to North American health.
I predict that device will not work. In the short-term yes, certainly. But long-term? The problem with obesity (and diet pills, and diets, generally) is that we don’t eat because we’re hungry.
Feeling full isn’t the problem.
Feeling is the problem.
We have all these emotions inside of us: fear, sadness, longing, regret. When they start to bubble up, we grab the cake, the pretzels, the cookies, the wine, the beer…in order to make the feelings go away. How much easier is it to have a glass of chardonnay than deal with loneliness? In the short-term, the sugar tactic works. We feel better! And then we’re hungover, sluggish…and the cycle starts again. And, speaking as a “skinny bitch,” I have often also used not eating as a control tactic. Buying into some idea that if I’m thin, I’ll be okay and the world will make sense.
Same feelings. Still food. Different tactic.
A acupuncturist friend of mine shared a nugget of wisdom from one of her teachers: “Sugar is to cover up feelings. Caffeine is to cover up feeling like we’re not enough.”
Look, it’s natural and important to use food to self-medicate. The beautiful tradition of Ayurveda is based in the philosophy that food is medicine. But let’s look a little deeper. The only way to find deep, inner health isn’t by imposing rules on ourselves; it’s to dare to courageously feel what’s inside of us. To breathe through our experience, feel what we’re feeling, and realize that we’re still here on the other side.
Ways to shift when we want to use food to dull out:
- phone a friend
- breathe – 1o long breaths
- go for a walk
- stretch, yawn
- put on some music and dance in your living room like a crazy person (yes, do it!)
Don’t try to change everything at once.
Maybe today we simply take three long breaths before eating the cookie/ drinking the wine. The seemingly simple act encapsulates a world of courage. Give yourself a virtual hug and tomorrow maybe it will be five. If there’s work to do, then get a therapist to support you in unearthing what’s driving the feelings. And remember – the work here may be slow. Two step forward, one step back. When we fall of the wagon (because we will!), let’s be kind rather than drowning our sorrows in pinot gris or a bag of potato chips.
You are not alone. All of humanity is in this one together.
One breath at a time – one feeing at a time – we just do our best.
Carroll, M., Flegal, K., Kit, Brian & Odgen, C. (2014). Prevalence of childhood and adult obesity in the United States, 2011-2012. Journal of the American Medical Association, 311(8):806-814. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.732
Preidt, R. (2015). FDA approves ‘Belly Balloon’ Weight Loss Device. WebMD. Retrieved from: http://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/20150729/fda-approves-belly-balloon-device-for-weight-loss
Wade, M. (2015). The Risks of belly fat – and how to beat them. WebMD. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/the-risks-of-belly-fat