Expect miracles this year
January 13, 2009 · Updated 2:20 PM
Unless you’ve been stranded on a remote island without media access, you must have heard the bad news by now: Oprah Winfrey has gained weight again. How could she let this happen? She knows, of course, that it’s all her own fault, so the tabloids report, but millions of her fans empathize. How could they not? Many of them have been through this themselves, and probably more than once.
Well, the New Year is here and there is always time for another round of resolutions. Every year, it seems, it’s the same ritual: First the joyous holidays, then the great reckoning.
For us health counselors business is good right now, but it’s nothing to be giddy about. Especially for those who are dealing with weight problems, this can be a hard time of the year. People seek help and guidance like remorseful sinners willing to confess their misdeeds and receive their penance. You can detect a real sense of personal guilt. Many fault themselves for having failed their own expectations — and probably those of others. They blame themselves for being too weak and unable to muster the necessary will power and stamina — as if it were so simple.
In my own practice, I believe that challenging people to take responsibility for their actions is in principle a good thing. But I doubt that dispensing blame and stirring up guilt is the right approach to help them deal with their shortcomings. It may be rather counterproductive. Fear of failure itself may turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I’m aware that these are complex issues and that there are no simple answers. Nevertheless, for this year’s resolution season, I want to make a few suggestions for a new start:
First: No more negativity! Blaming yourself doesn’t get you anywhere. You don’t have to make excuses for your past actions (or inactions). But exposing yourself continuously to negative messages, whether they come from yourself or others, will only keep you from generating the energy you need to promote change. Instead, focus on the positive changes you can make from hereon in. Don’t start with a wait-and-see attitude. Be optimistic! What do you have to lose? There’s no reason why things can’t be different this time. Look to the future and expect good things. (And, while you’re at it, don’t let anyone else dash your hopes.)
Second: See the big picture! Health problems, and especially weight problems, can develop for reasons you’re not necessarily aware of. There may be a number of factors at play, some of which you may not be able to change or control right away. Perhaps you are dealing with stress issues. Stress, in particular, can be a major cause for weight gain. Also, your immediate environment and living conditions may not be conducive to certain lifestyle changes. Some ideas may be outright impractical or unaffordable at this point in time. Perhaps, there are family members, colleagues and friends involved who are affected by your actions and who may be less than supportive. Look realistically at your life’s situation, your surroundings, your habits. They all may contribute to the obstacles you’re facing in your struggle to make changes.
Third: Take the right action! If you have been unsuccessful with your efforts so far, try something different. Don’t take the same approach you tried before. It makes no sense to expect different results this time. Learn from your failed attempts. That way you are in a much better position to start anew and move in the right direction from hereon in.
So, this time around, I want you to expect that miracles will happen —or, better yet, that you will make them happen. Oprah calls that “self-empowerment.” A good attitude and high hopes for the future may help her and the millions of her fans to get their groove back too. Good luck and have a Happy New Year.
Timi Gustafson R.D. is a dietitian and author of “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun.” Her book is available in local bookstores, at www.amazon.com and at www.thehealthydiner.com. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org