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

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

  1. You really got me thinking. I absolutely LOVE Paula Deen. I think she is so warm, juicy, funny, cuddly, loving, relaxed with herself and the ppl around her. I love her and she is plump. I hate me cus I am plump. Makes no sense. What I can accept in others, I hate myself for.

  2. Love this post; it’s so important to be aware of our language, and isn’t it true that a whole new language is indeed being created to deal with fat? I mean, “War on obesity?” oh my gosh, how alarmist can you get? I think these words are created to permit a “last frontier” of acceptable prejudice and discrimination, myself. And it’s so heartbreaking who all swallows this and joins the movement. Why?

  3. Fantastic. The words we choose are essential and we need to look at why we use the terms we do–and, you know, “shedding pounds” had always bothered me because it brought to mind some image of a woman stepping out of a fat suit or something. But you really pinpointed why–it’s the mind-body disconnect, which is the last thing that people with food issues need to be focusing on.

  4. talking about weird phrases… like melting fat!
    what are we supposed to be candels? sugar? the witch of wizard of Oz?
    I think you are absolutely right mot of us are totally afraid to make a connection with the body we think is inappropriate so we kind of live outside our selves, not only we eat with out connecting our body sensations to our minds, and we make choices based on other kind of impulse, but we tend to use a language that separates us from our bodies, that minimizes the importance of our self in a body and our sensations, and words are really important to acknowledging the existence of someone or something, granting it or them importance otherwise we start thinking our body is an object, an object that is emotionally disconnected from us, as a stranger, in fact our body and mind and soul should be one part of us.
    as I see it part of the problem is our way of thinking this society tends to the division, the super-specialization, we are not used to an holistic approach, if we use our mind we think that is wrong to use our feelings.

  5. I think the only way for the current war on obesity to continue is for the fat and self to be totally disconnected. If people owned their fat as part of their body, there is no way there could be such a long sustained campaign toward hatred of it. That disconnect is essential to keeping the weight loss industry machine purring.

  6. Golda, you are so very right! How we talk about fat not only reveals our attitudes, but shapes our attitudes as well. I feel so strongly about it that I’m writing a book on that VERY topic!

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