Journey toward health – how to find your true self again?

20. June 2019.

While we may be the most comfortable and abundant generation in human history, we certainly are not the most happy, healthy and satisfied. Our longing for an effortless life, free from physical exertion and abundant in fast, energy–rich food comes with a high price tag. In the last four decades, the excess of calories consumed compared to calories expended has tripled overweight and obesity worldwide1, resulting in a sharp increase of related chronic illnesses, disabilities, and deaths.

Today, some 40% of deaths are caused by behavior patterns that could be modified by preventive interventions, such as diets, physical activity2, non-consumption of tobacco, alcohol etc3. Instead of taking action, however, most of us passively observe our own self-destruction. Even those few people who dare to try to change their lives toward better health, are putting themselves in an immediate action: how do we need to adjust our food? How much sport do I have to embark on in order to start losing my weight without dieting? And with dieting? What is the best food for my body?

Sure, nutrition and physiology are important factors, and educating ourselves in this area provides us with valuable guidance. The problem is that while wrong habits in terms of nutrition and exercise may be the cause for many chronic diseases, these habits themselves are only the symptoms of more deeply rooted issues which cause us to adopt this self-destructive behavior in the first place. The truth is that in designing ambitious plans for our personal nutrition and exercise, we keep fighting the symptoms of our problem without addressing its cause. Inevitably, this approach is going to be a constant struggle and, sooner or later, always leads to exhaustion and failure.

If we want to change our lifestyle for good, we have to start by understanding the deeper reasons for our self-destructive behavior. This is not a question of nutrition or physiology, but of how we think and feel about the world and, especially, about ourselves.

In essence, all our behavior, both constructive and destructive, mirrors our internal landscape. At first, when we were born into this world, we certainly did not feel there was anything wrong with us, or that we needed to prove that we were worthy of love and affection. But this being an imperfect world with lots of imperfect parents and imperfect cultures, societies, religions, and dogmas, our lives and self-perception were increasingly affected and we learned that love and, therefore, self-worth was conditional, that our own voices, hopes and dreams were not reliable. Instead, we were incessantly bombarded by “shoulds” and “should nots” and generated feelings of obligation and guilt, which over the years became an integral part of our own thoughts and emotions and started guiding our decisions and behaviour in daily life. Today, as adults, we often do not realize how much we are still living someone else’s life, a life in which we need to obey and perform in order to feel accepted and worthy of love, and how much we lost ourselves in the process.

So, in our pursuit of happiness, we checked all the boxes on someone else’s checklist: grades, education, achievements, career, car, house, marriage, children, dog – the more the better. Even when we start realizing that all of this won’t give us happiness, we generally don’t change our ways but become desperate and try even harder – increasingly haunted by fears, stress and anxieties. To suppress these feelings, we start reaching for antidepressants, sleeping pills, alcohol and other self-destructive behaviours. This is, of course, where the chocolate comes in, the junk food and excessive eating. Here, in the depths of our soul, we have once decided to fill our emotional void with food, to sooth our sadness with sugar, to insulate our fears with layers of fat.

But your soul knows the truth and it has not forgiven your betrayal. Your soul knows about the constant diet of neglect, duty, fear and shame, leaving you starving for love and acceptance. It knows about the self-destructive strategies you have developed to escape the pain, but it also knows the only true remedy to your problems and keeps screaming at you through your emotions. The only question is: when will you start to listen?

When will you start to understand that your negative feelings are all produced by your own mind in response to judgmental thoughts you inherited from your childhood environment? When will you start to realize that unconditional love and acceptance cannot come from food, drugs or other people, but must always come from within? When will you finally see that your own worth and dignity is not conditional on performance but is inherent in your very being and, therefore, can be neither earned nor lost? Your soul knows all of this, and it also knows everything else there is to know. So when will you start to listen?

Let us begin by being honest. What you need most in order to lose weight and achieve a healthy lifestyle is not knowledge about nutrition and physiology. What you need most is love. Love for yourself, your beautiful body and your wonderful soul, and your unique, brilliant self. Once you truly love yourself, will you keep stuffing your body with junk food and let it waste away on the couch without exercise, sunlight and fresh air? Once you truly love yourself, will you still have to suppress your unhappy feelings with drugs, food and alcohol? Once you truly love yourself, you will learn about nutrition and physiology with joy, you will cook, eat and exercise with pleasure, and your journey through life will be balanced, free and passionate – the wonderous experience it was always supposed to be.

Are you ready?

Dr. Katarina Melzer

A Serbian translation of this article was published in the June edition of Sensa Magazine.

References:

  1. WHO. Obesity and overweight. Key facts. www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/obesity-and-overweight
  2. Melzer et al. Physical activity outweigh the risk. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care.2004 Nov;7(6):641-7.
  3. McGinnis JM1, Williams-Russo P, Knickman JR. The case for more active policy attention to health promotion. Health Aff (Millwood). 2002 Mar-Apr;21(2):78-93.