During a run around the reservoir in Central Park this morning, I talked shop with one of my favorite doctors, Mary Wendt. Mary is the founder of Get Waisted, and deploys an awful lot of science and psychology in her quest to help people achieve a healthy weight.
At one point, she brought up the concept of guilt. We feel guilty about lots of things, she mused, but gluttony no longer seems to be one of them. Might restoring a little healthy guilt help us resist temptation and make better food choices?
That stopped me in my tracks. (Literally. My feet were killing me 😉
At first blush, I don't like guilt. Taken to an extreme, feeling guilt about food translates into using healthy food to punish ourselves for the unhealthy food. As in, “I'm going to eat a salad for dinner because I ordered the eclair at lunch.”
When we associate food with punishment, we're not real motivated to consume it. Which makes shifting our diets even harder. Who wants to reduce the amount of pleasure and increase the amount of displeasure in their life? Totally unsustainable.
There's something powerful in what Dr Mary said about gluttony no longer triggering guilt like it used to. The other six “deadly sins” (greed, lust, sloth, excessive pride, inordinate anger, and malicious envy) still evoke feelings of “badness” in most folks. Gluttony lacks that sting anymore. Now it's seen as weakness, as lack of self-control, as evidence of self-loathing.
What if we encouraged people to think of gluttony – overeating, or eating overly rich foods, or fetishizing hyper-palatable foods – as a moral issue?
Would it backfire? Would it empower? Would it change the conversation in a useful way?
Is guilt too dangerous and powerful to deploy in the service of positive change?
Or might a few metaphorical (or real) Hail Marys give people a tool for confronting their temptations in a more powerful way.
I haven't thought this through. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please share them in the comments section below.
Looking for Transformational Change?
You know how when you discovered plant-based eating, you basically went, “Holy shit, how come the entire healthcare system isn't totally embracing this as one of the most powerful keys to disease prevention and reversal!”?
That's how I feel now about a psychological approach to transformational change called “Memory Reconsolidation.” Few psychologists have heard about it, and when they do hear the radical transformations it can bring about in a very short time, they're often skeptical to the point of disbelief.
But I've added Memory Reconsolidation work to my own coaching, and can attest to its amazing efficacy. So much so, that I'm devoting the next year to mastering it, studying with the best clinicians and teachers in the world, and then introducing it into health coaching through my trainings.
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You CAN Change Other People!
Well, that's what Peter Bregman and I claim in our provocative book of that title.
What we really mean is, you can help the people around you make behavioral changes in their own best interests. If you think you're powerless to help people change, it's because you've been going about it the wrong way.
Discover our straightforward, replicable process here: You Can Change Other People.
Audiobook: Use the Weight to Lose the Weight
Listen to Josh LaJaunie and me narrate our latest audiobook, about how to start moving when you're obese.
It's $10, and Josh and I split it evenly 🙂
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The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians.
It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.
You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website, WillRidenour.com.
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