As I scan the New York Times Bestseller’s list week after week, it kills me to notice how many bestselling books are about yet another diet or exercise regimen guaranteed to help you lose weight so you will finally be thin enough/ pretty enough/ good enough/ [insert your deepest insecurity] enough. Blech! No wonder so many people struggle with weight control when the weight loss and beauty industries focus on teaching you to hate yourself thin.
As much as I resent the weight loss industry for pressuring people into eating disorders, triggering their self-loathing, and leading to unhealthy yo yo diet habits that don’t benefit the health of the body, mind, or spirit, when I read Jessica Ortner’s The Tapping Solution For Weight Loss & Body Confidence, my soul let out a resounding, “Hell yeah!” As a physician fully aware of the many health benefits of maintaining a healthy weight, I’ve long been on the lookout for a book I could recommend to patients who were ready to get off the dieting treadmill and really do the internal work necessary in order to achieve an optimally healthy weight. Look no further. The Tapping Solution For Weight Loss is exactly that book.
Mind Over Weight Loss
As the author of Mind Over Medicine, I’ve joked that I might one day write a book called Mind Over Weight Loss, because the research I’ve done has led me to believe that our minds play a much greater role in our weight than what we eat or how much we exercise. Now I don’t need to write that book. Jessica Ortner already has. I know it’s radical to suggest that the solution to weight loss might lie more in the realm of the mind than in the mouth, the stomach, or the gym. How could that be? I’ll give you one hint- the stress hormone cortisol.
You know how everyone seems to expect the holidays to be perfect? You may feel pressured to have the perfect presents under the tree (and lots of them). You may be expected to prepare the perfect holiday feast. Maybe you feel like you’re supposed to act perfectly happy and content, even though the holidays remind you of losing someone you loved or having your heart broken or not having someone you love to spend the holidays with. Maybe you think you’re supposed to look a certain way or dress a certain way. Maybe you feel pressured to stuff your feelings and overlook the way your family sometimes hurts you.
Sure, it’s a time to be grateful for what we have. But the holidays don’t have to be perfect. It’s WAY better when they’re just real.
But what does it mean to be real? Margery Williams says it best in The Velveteen Rabbit:
“’Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'
'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit.
'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.'
'Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he asked, 'or bit by bit?'
'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.’”
When my literary agent Michele read the first draft of my book Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself, she said, “Lissa, before I read your book, I honestly thought my body was none of my business. It was my doctor’s business. I thought my body was like my car. When my car breaks, I hand it over to my auto mechanic and expect my mechanic to fix it and hand it back to me. I expected the same from my doctor. But after reading Mind Over Medicine, I now know that my body is my business, that nobody knows my body better than me and that my health is my responsibility.”
In my decades of experience working with patients as a physician, Michele’s formerly passive approach to her health is not uncommon. Many patients take this auto mechanic approach to health, handing over their bodies to doctors they may not even screen as carefully as they choose their auto mechanics, never questioning what the doctor says, seeking clarity when they’re confused, asking for second opinions when they doubt the diagnosis or treatment plan of the doctor, or taking their bodies elsewhere when something doesn’t feel right.
Essentially these patients, especially the ones who have been labeled with a “chronic,” “incurable,” or “terminal” illness, have been programmed to believe that Western medicine has done all it can do and they are therefore at the mercy of doctors who can’t cure them. They often come to experience what physician and researcher Martin Seligman coins “learned helplessness.”
Recently, I was blessed to be able to spend an hour on the phone with my shero and mentor Brené Brown, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Daring Greatly. We had so much giddy fun on our teleclass about the intersection of vulnerability and health, how shame is lethal, and how daring greatly and practicing mind over medicine helps you heal. (If you missed the live call, you can get the free download here.)
I had an epiphany during our call that I want to share with you, so pull out your big highlighter. Brené says the most terrifying emotion we experience as humans is joy. We're so frightened of loss that we can't even allow ourselves to lean into those moments when we're standing over our children watching them sleep or when we're falling in love and it feels like our hearts will burst. The second most of us start to feel joy, instead of relishing the blessings, we tend to get swallowed by the fear that the other shoe is about to drop.
Brené said, “When we lose our tolerance for vulnerability, joy becomes foreboding." Instead of allowing ourselves to feel the vulnerability of how much joy we feel and how much hurt we would experience if we lost what we have, we dress rehearse tragedy so we can beat vulnerability to the punch. We look at our kids with so much love and then imagine them dying. We feel such tenderness for the person we're falling in love with that we fast forward straight to the day when we get our heart broken. If things are going well in our professional life, we imagine the day we get fired or lose all our money, power, and status. It's like, by trying to imagine the worst case scenario, we somehow think we're protecting ourselves from what we fear most.
But guess what? It doesn't work. If your child dies or the love of your life abandons you or you lose your job or you declare bankruptcy - or whatever tragedy you imagine might befall you happens - no dress rehearsal will protect you from loss and pain. And in the interim, you've missed your chance for effervescent joy, radical presence, true bliss - and the health benefits that accompany joy.
Positive psychology and New Age ideas about health and healing have flooded the internet and bookstore shelves in recent years. But as a doctor who wrote a science-based book about the physiology of the body’s natural healing process, it strikes me that some of what’s out there is giving the idea that the body can heal itself a bad rap.
Why do I say that? Well, there’s a lot of pseudo-science and quasi-psychology masquerading as real data, when people are hungry for truth. Here’s some help debunking popular myths that may confuse what’s real.
1. It’s “just the placebo effect.”
Just the placebo effect? Why do people say “placebo” as if it’s a four-letter word? Don’t they understand that the placebo effect is proof positive that the body is brilliantly equipped with natural self-repair mechanisms that can fix broken proteins, kill cancer cells, fight infectious agents, and retard aging? And don’t they realize that even if a clinical trial fails to demonstrate that a drug or surgery or alternative medicine treatment is better than a placebo, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t “work” when 18-80% of the time, the body heals itself when given a sugar pill or saline injection in a clinical trial. And that’s GREAT NEWS!
The placebo effect needs a major image overhaul. I suggest we call it the “self-healing effect” to remind ourselves that it’s just a measurable phenomena related to the body’s known self-repair mechanisms.
2. The placebo effect is all in your mind.
While thoughts, beliefs, and feelings originating in the mind can activate placebo-like “self-healing effects” in the body, the placebo effect doesn’t just make people feel better; it effects measurable outcomes in the body’s physiology. When patients are treated with sugar pills, saline injections, and fake surgeries, warts disappear. Colons become less inflamed. Bronchi dilate. Bald men even grow hair.
It’s not just in your mind. It’s in your body.
3. Placebo effects only happen to gullible people.