We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Monday, February 25, 2013

Weight Loss as Cultural Change

One key reason that it is so difficult to lose weight permanently is that it requires the losers of weight to go through a change of their eating preferences, habits, attitudes, and values, all of which taken together amounts to a significant change in a key part of their culture.  Those of us who have lived for significant periods of time in another culture understand that personal cultural change is not easy even when we are living in another culture where all of the cues around us encourage and sustain that change.  Trying to change our eating culture in the midst of the culture of obesity that we encounter every day is considerably more difficult.  Our culture encourages us to eat the way we always did, the way that massively encourages us to put on the pounds we want to shed.

It is not "natural" for us to moderate our eating habits.  It is not "natural" to avoid refined sugar and refrain from consuming it.  It is not "natural" to eat things like pine nuts and drink things like green tea while not eating quantities of  "natural things" like breads, cheeses, and pizzas.  We grew up with soft drinks.  Most of us didn't drink tea until we were adults, if we do now.  What makes it so difficult to change is that all around us society goes on consuming what we should not consume and encouraging us to do so in many different ways from advertising to coffee hour at church.

Medical science may yet come up with a way for us to lose weight without giving up our culturally driven bad eating habits—probably will.  But, until that time comes, we best be working on changing our eating culture collectively.  We need the same cultural changes in attitudes and behaviors that have transformed smoking from desired to disgusting.  Amen.