By Brian Clement, PhD, LN

Self-esteem, the most important attribute that anyone can possess, is not taught, acknowledged or often practiced. On the contrary, self-loathing seems to be the most popular human sport, resulting in a wide array of dysfunctional activities. As surface thinkers, one would believe that the reason we self-destruct on an anatomical level is merely from the foods we consume. This unfortunate façade is why diets do not work. Evaluating your own personal perception about your worthiness would be a far better measurement as to why you are harboring the disease of excess weight.

Let us focus on the number one destroyer of health — obesity. Body image generally reflects ones feeling about themselves. An anorexic is virtually holding a sign over their head saying “look at how little I like myself.” A plump person has the same sign. In our current world, we may be able to pick out the anorexic but overweight and even obese people now look normal in the human landscape. Not to oversimplify the discussion about self-esteem, but for this conversation, we are going to focus in on the concern of extra pounds.

When interviewing a guest here at Hippocrates 30 years ago, I will never forget their response when I asked why they were 200 lbs. overweight. They believed it was a way to protect themselves from hurt and sadness and the fear they carried from their childhood abuse. That day I believe I had my first real awakening to why they, others, and even I, worked hard to let ourselves go.

Years later, I remember speaking to a woman who was fatherless throughout her youth. She was a fanatic zealot when it came to dieting and exercise. That not being enough, plastic surgery was also consistently used to adorn her body. She told me she had to look good so somebody would love her. Recently, a 19-year-old girl who had plunged her body weight to 78 lbs. (at 5’ 10″) sat in my office and told the story about her brother, and the way he would sexually abuse her when she was just a baby. Although none of these stories may resonate with you, look at yourself in the mirror and unless you feel comfortable in your skin and capable of achieving anything you desire with your current body, the question is why have you harmed yourself?

Sad people do bad things to themselves and it is a resolution of the sadness that is essential for the necessary change. Dick Gregory, social activist and comedian, called me 35 years ago asking if Hippocrates and I could help with his new project in the Bahamas. He said, “We want to help some fat people, like I was, get skinny.” Unexpectedly, the first person he flew down to the island weighed more than one thousand pounds. This young man had literally sat in his NY apartment for years ordering food that he perpetually consumed. Unable to walk due to his extreme weight, he was made buoyant in the ocean water so he could mobilize and walk some of the pounds off during his daily six hour ocean encounter. One year later, on the Hippocrates diet and the Bahamian diet powder (plant based food supplement), he weighed less than 300 lbs. Looking good, feeling well and heading back to NYC, he was surely successful in his plunge to health. Unfortunately, there was not enough emotional and mental support for him so when his girlfriend abruptly left, he returned to his pattern of self-destruction. Eating and drugging his way up to 750 lbs, his heart finally gave out and he had to be buried in a Steinway piano container. This was the day that I recognized the necessity for counseling in severe cases of self-loathing.

Big is not better, and all broken can be fixed. No matter what possesses you, there is a way to resolve those emulsifiers of spirit. Simply said, your roadblocks to the highway of fulfillment are the unresolved issues from your past journeys. Like myself, many of us look at our history and say there has been nothing that caused us even the slightest concern. Unfortunately, it is rare that this is true. Even issues that may seem minor can reduce self-empowerment if left unresolved.

In my 30s and feeling good, healthy and well, a close friend had just received his PhD in psychotherapy with an emphasis on hypnosis. Relentlessly, he pursued me to let him try his craft. Of course, I said no. I felt like I had no problems and there would be no need to waste his time. Finally, I said, “You will be unable to hypnotize me, so let’s get this done in five minutes.” Two hours later I awoke soaking wet from tears and being told I had a remarkably good life except for that one time, at 16, when I perceived my father did not want to be friends with me and attend a Simon and Garfunkel concert. He explained to me that I had stepped up and asked my dad to accept me as a man and an equal but his busy work schedule would not allow him to join me for the show. I perceived this as a rejection rather than the innocent fact that my father was busier than I could have imagined. Little did I know that this had burdened me throughout my adult life until I was willing to let my inexperienced friend tamper with my past and thank God, release me, from a life altering experience.

Needless to say, between age 16 and 19, I had eaten my way into obesity. So often we believe that our problems come from some mystical faraway place, yet all of them stem from personal experiences that have been understood or perceived incorrectly. These little obstacles spin together to create the beginning of a formidable storm that quite often paralyzes our lives. Can you imagine how many of us are using our forks and knives to pacify the broken hearts that we harbor?

Drugs, including alcohol, are most often accused as being the antidote of unhappiness. “Food,” including sugar, is by far the universally pervasive substitute for happiness. When filling our mouths and bellies up with stuff, we deaden our hearts and minds so that we do not have to experience our joyless lives.

Sensual, social and sexual patterns surround food consumption. When burdened with brokenness, we divert our attention from the essential need for real food as fuel and think of eating as a recreational activity. Patterns create habitual activity that surrounds this process, which is apparently accepted as normal. When evaluating humanity’s current mindset concerning fare, it is grotesque without much connection to its nutritional heritage.

Orthomolecular medicine, founded by Linus Pauling, was the first science proving that all disease had a nutritional deficiency component. Psychological and spiritual pathways predispose us to weight concerns, and once we develop body image problems, the lack of nutrients from real food accelerates the vicious pattern of weight imbalance. We now know that chromium deficiencies, which are very common, lead to blood sugar concerns, sparking our desire to continually eat.

Heavy animal protein diets have proven inadequate to provide enough digestible protein, and also cause an unnatural pattern of gluttony. Easy to digest plant protein foods such as sprouts, algae, etc. all regulate amino acid distribution, curbing the craving. Sugar consumption, be it white sugar, orange juice or agave syrup (to name just a few), all explode the bodies desire to eat until dead. Addictive substances are not sought by the overwhelming majority, yet sugar is the one exception. If we are forced to name the largest “food” culprit in weight gain, hands down all forms of sugar and cooked complex carbohydrates that break down into sugar (breads, starchy potatoes, pastas) win.

As you see, there is a multitude of complex yet fixable concerns at the root of weight gain. With this said, I will leave you with three basic remedies:

  1. Find out what is eating you and discard it.
  2. Find what you love and do it.
  3. Consume only enriching food, not rich food.

Remain well by being happy and fulfilled.

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