What’s the Problem?

It used to make me really angry when I had no help around the house. I would seethe as I folded laundry and loaded the dishwasher. My anger was directed toward my husband, since I obviously didn’t expect my young children to help.

Once everything was clean, my anger dissipated. But it always returned when I had to do it all over again without any help.

I finally realized that I was only hurting myself by staying in a place of anger, so I started asking myself questions. Why does having no help make me so angry? Because I feel overloaded and no one notices. Why does it make me angry that no one notices? Because it makes me feel unappreciated. Why does feeling unappreciated upset me? Because it makes me feel like I’m not even here.

And then I finally figured out the real reason for my anger: feeling invisible made me feel disconnected from my husband.

It turns out my real problem was feeling disconnected. So instead of feeling rage every time he walked past me while I was breaking a sweat vacuuming, I started addressing the real problem. I told him I felt disconnected, and we came up with ways to feel more connected. All of a sudden, I felt less resentment cleaning and it became something that was less of a burden and that made me happy to do for my family.

When you constantly try to fix a symptom (no help around the house) of the real problem (feeling disconnected), you stay stuck. When you solve the real problem, the symptoms take care of themselves.

What does this have to do with losing weight? It means that the weight you keep trying to lose is not your real problem. It is only a symptom of it. And as long as you keep trying to get rid of the weight, you will stay stuck.

But sometimes the real problem is not obvious. You have to get past the surface and to the true source to change things. How do you do this? You keep asking questions until there are none left to ask.

Here’s what that may look like (my actual scenario):

Why am I overweight?
Because I binge eat.
Why do I binge eat?
Because it makes me feel better.
When do I eat to make myself feel better?
When I’m stressed out or bored.
When did this start?
When I was a teenager.
Why did it start?
Because if made me feel less alone.

When I dug down to the source, I figured out that my binge eating was a means of self-medication. Understanding this meant that I could eliminate shame from the equation.

This is critically important, because you can’t change anything when you feel shame. I think a lot of women carry tremendous shame about having excess weight on their bodies. You have to get to the real reason you are using food as a means of self-medication. When you do, you can understand yourself and stop feeling shame about your body and about how you eat.

Shame disempowers you. And if you feel powerless to change something you will be desperate for a solution, which in this case means dieting. Dieting reinforces shame, because it focuses you on the very thing you’re ashamed of — weight.

Once I uncovered my real problem, I started taking small steps and making progress. I figured out how to fix my triggers of boredom, loneliness, and stress. I did something fun when I was bored, I called a friend when I felt lonely, and I worked on eliminating stress from my life. Once I did these things, I felt better and more in control, therefore less likely to binge eat. And the weight came off by itself.

Keep asking yourself questions until you get to the root of your problem (which is not the weight). Break the shame cycle that dieting perpetuates and empower yourself. Start making steady, incremental changes that build on themselves and compound.

The allure of a quick fix by crash dieting to get rid of the weight is powerful — but it never works. It takes inner work on the front end to make true progress, and this takes patience.

Remember what Albert Einstein said: “If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute solving it.”