The “War On Obesity”, “Shedding Pounds”, And The Body/Mind Disconnect

by Golda Poretsky, H.H.C. on March 14, 2011

by Golda Poretsky, HHC

Pacino as Shylock

Al Pacino Trying To Keep His Pound Of Flesh as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice

The term “weight loss” must not have the same zing that it used to.

There’s a new euphemism that diet pushers are pushing, and that euphemism is “shedding pounds.”

The real kind of shedding is a totally natural process, right? Dogs shed fur. Snakes shed their skins. Even people shed skin and hair (but on a slow enough basis that it’s not actually evident). But people don’t “shed pounds.” If you were shedding pounds of flesh or hair or skin you’d be really frightened and you would know that something was terribly wrong with you.

So why make a big deal out of a “figure of speech” as it were?

Because the words we use matter, and phrases like  “shedding pounds” are just evidence of how completely disconnected we are from our bodies.

You and your body are one thing. You are inextricably connected to your body. So how you envision it, how you treat it, and how you think about its processes will affect that connection. So it’s important to think about the words that you use to talk about your body and whether those words add to that connection between body and mind or detract from it.

It makes sense that people find it normal to talk about their bodies in a disconnected manner.  When you’re taught that your body is not okay just as it is, not acceptable to your family, to your peers, then your body is not a safe place.  When your body is not a safe place, it makes sense to disassociate from that body, to distinguish between “it” and “you” and to make choices about your body that can be harmful.

Similarly, rhetoric like the “war on obesity” and, even worse, the “war on childhood obesity” is so detached from the reality that obesity is not a thing that is separate from people.  There is no obesity without obese people, so what does the war on obesity really mean?  If it means that the war is with the person’s obesity, but not the person, then it just serves to further this mind-body separation that so many people feel.

So what do we do when so much of the rhetoric we hear supports a disconnect between mind and body?

First, let’s take back our words. Let’s take extra care when we use words to talk about our bodies. Let’s avoid words and phrases that make our bodies a thing that is somehow disconnected from who we are.  When we talk about our bodies, we want to do so with love and compassion, because we’re talking about ourselves.

And second, let’s engage in techniques and practices that connect mind and body. Practices like yoga, meditation, or a moving meditation (where you quiet your mind and engage with your sense as you go about your day) are great for reconnecting mind and body.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments section below.

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Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. To learn more about Golda and her work, click here.

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