The Weight Escape by Joseph Ciarrochi, Ann Bailey & Russ Harris
Penguin Australia RRP: $29.99; ebook from $16.99
Today I’m writing a post that combines two things that consume the bulk of my daily hours: reading books and worrying about my weight. In fact, those two things have filled a decent percentage of the days of my life thus far – for as long as I can remember. But at least books have provided me with some happy memories! The weight gain and loss rollercoaster has been nothing but a debilitating, frustrating, drain on my energy and hip pocket. Can anyone out there relate?
Enter The Weight Escape, a refreshing take on the psychology of weight loss written by a team of psychologists – clinicians and researchers – who hope to help us direct our energy away from relentless struggle and towards a healthier life. As the tag line says, ‘stop fad dieting, start losing weight and reshape your life’. Because the world really needs another diet book, right? But hear me out, this one is a little different.
A new approach to a healthier life
The Weight Escape takes a fresh view of the ‘struggle’ so many of us endure with weight loss, healthy living and generally being happy in our own skins. It posits that weight loss (amongst other pleasurable, joyful aspects of life) is more likely to be achieved using kindness and compassion, rather than rules and regulations.
- There are no meal plans here, and no rules about food deprivation.
- There is no bullying or berating you for having failed at previous plans, or for lacking willpower, or for not trying hard enough.
- There are no fatuous positive affirmations or patronising lectures from ‘experts’
- Once you’ve bought the book, the buck stops there (literally!) – no shakes, no pills, no organic gluten free mountain goat tears to source from the health store (unless you happen to love the taste of those – then go for it!)
Instead, it contains a well-researched and clearly explained analysis of why so many of us know what we need to do in order to live healthier lives and yet simply don’t do it; this includes in terms of weight loss, or any other health or life goals you may be striving towards. It unpacks the ways in which the ‘low fat’ food industry and the media have conditioned us to fail; and questions the logic of living perpetually in a life that starts tomorrow. Have you ever heard yourself say things like “I’ll be happy when I’ve lost another 5 kilos”?
While it’s absolutely fine, and necessary, to have goals, it’s important to see that life is happening now – it’s not on hold until you can fit into that smaller sized dress. The Weight Escape offers pathways towards getting greater satisfaction out of everyday living, which incorporates healthier choices without making WEIGHT LOSS (cue dramatic music) the overwhelming governing factor in the way you conduct your days.
A scientifically proven method
Unlike so, SO many fad diets, The Weight Escape backs up its methodology with solid research, along with plenty of personal anecdotes from the authors. It’s impossible to sum up a whole thesis on the psychology of weight loss in a blog post of course; and psychology, by its nature, is complex and unique to each individual. But, in short, this approach asks you to sit with your thoughts, feelings and urges and acknowledge them, rather than judging them as ‘weak’, ‘stupid’, ‘lazy’ or any of the other negative frameworks that infiltrate our thinking about health. It’s about being an observer of your thoughts and habits, rather than being controlled by them. The book encourages changing small aspects of The Great Struggle, one step at a time. For example, it considers the difference between hunger and cravings and helps us learn to manage the two in a thoughtful, measured way – with less of the impulsive behaviour that inevitably leads to binges or regret.
There’s a whole lot of data that suggests obesity, along with eating disorders, depression and other mental health problems, have been steadily rising since the advent of the diet industry. Now, sit with THAT for a moment. Ever since we started getting excited about low fat foods, gym memberships, self help books and sugar-free, carb-free, taste-free cooking, obesity levels have actually gone UP. Shouting at people about what they ‘should’ be doing is just not working! The Weight Escape makes an excellent case for individual responsibility guided by calm, kind, value-driven choices that have nothing to do with what your best friend, or your mother, or your favourite gossip magazine have to say. It puts you in control of the right choices FOR YOU, rather than forcing you to fit a mould created to sell magazines or diet pills.
But if it was that easy, then surely…
Yeah, well, there’s the rub. It’s not necessarily easy. You will not lose 10 kilos in a week with The Weight Escape as your guide (although you’re about 10 times more likely to keep weight off if and when you do lose it). This is about changing your whole way of thinking about weight loss; it will take time and practise, stumbling and getting back up again. But the main point is, that setting short term goals (like numbers on the scales), and torturing yourself about your inability to achieve them, may in fact just be setting you up for failure. And then repeated ‘failures’ lead to lower self esteem, making every new attempt just another difficult, depressing struggle. I say ENOUGH! And luckily so do these authors, who theorize that living each day according to your fundamental life values (which you can nut out with the help of the exercises in the book) can’t help but be a path to long term success. And success is defined as fulfilled living, rather than ditching the last 5kg.
What can you do TODAY to feel good about yourself and to live the life you want to be living?
So, what if we all stopped fighting obesity and instead started nurturing, supporting and enjoying good health? And what if we were doing that because living an active healthy life is a value we aspire to as balanced humans – not because our bodies are unacceptable, not because of guilt or shame or punishment, not because we’re conforming to the latest ‘research’ shouted at us by a very confusing and contradictory advertising industry. What would that look like?
I’m pretty interested in learning more, so expect a few more posts on this topic! Meanwhile, you can visit The Weight Escape website for more information about the book and the philosophies behind it. If you’re lucky, you can also attend a one-day workshop based on the book. These are held periodically throughout the year in cities around Australia. I’ve just attended one of these too and I’m now into Week 3 of the ‘bootcamp’ that follows on. But that’s a blog post for another day!
Tune in next time for The Weight Escape: The Bootcamp Edition!
For a change, I bought this book myself and this is not a sponsored post! I did receive a complimentary spot at the Brisbane workshop, which I’ll discuss later. All opinions are, as always, my own.