Thursday, February 16, 2006
Former Chico State University psychology professor to talk about 'body intelligence'
By DAN BARNETT
Ed Abramson retired from academic life in 2001 after three decades teaching in the Chico State University psychology department.
Now in private practice in Lafayette, Abramson is in Chico today to speak to a psychology group. He'll also be signing copies of his new book at Lyon Books, 121 W. 5th Street in Chico at 5 p.m. today. The public is invited.
The book is the fruit, if you will, of years of experience with those who want to lose pounds but who just can't seem to succeed. The missing ingredient is also the title of the book. "Body Intelligence: Lose Weight, Keep It Off, and Feel Great About Your Body Without Dieting!" ($21.95 in hardcover from McGraw-Hill) is the most sensible guide I've ever read about weight management.
In a nutshell, diets don't work because they're just about counting things (calories, portions, grams of fat) and not about counting on things (like healthy habits of eating and exercise). Once the right habits are established, dieting can become a thing of the past. Abramson describes "body intelligence" as the integration of "research on the psychology of eating and appetite, body image, and exercise to provide a more complete view of weight regulation." Diets are about restrictions; body intelligence is about, well, living!
Body intelligence is about coming to terms with food, body image, and exercise (each of which is covered in detail in the book): "Once you understand the different reasons for eating, and become aware of how you use food, you will find that some of these needs can be met without eating. As you develop alternative ways of meeting these needs, you will lose weight. When you have a realistic, but non-punitive view of your body, you will avoid much of the discouragement that has undermined your previous weight-loss efforts.
"A healthy body image will enable you to convert the new eating behaviors into permanent habits. Similarly, understanding the bad feelings associated with exercise will help you get past these feelings so you can develop a routine that is not painful and which actually may be enjoyable."
Some of Abramson's observations may sound counterintuitive. "As your body image improves," he says, "your willingness to get involved in physical activity will increase." But wait -- doesn't the motivation to exercise come because we feel bad about ourselves?
Maybe in the short term, but if we have developed habits of dissatisfaction with our bodies before exercising, we'll never be satisfied with them after exercising.
"Even after losing weight, you might still be unhappy with your thinner body. Instead of being preoccupied with fat, you might be dissatisfied with your stretch marks, wrinkles, the shape of your nose or some other less-than-perfect feature."
How about this one? "Never eat chocolate (or other craved food) while you're hungry."
What? Don't eat when we're hungry? Hunger is a complex phenomenon but what is clear is that we frequently say we are hungry not because of physical need but because of a whole array emotional states and external cues.
I was doing just fine until I passed the bakery with all those delicious smells. I ate and ate at a party because everyone else was eating. One day my wife asked if I was hungry. I couldn't tell until I had looked at my watch. Ouch!
Eating chocolate when we're "hungry" sends all the wrong habit-messages. What we might be more satisfied with, if we're physically hungry, is a nutritious meal (eating chocolate to get full doesn't work very well). Once we're physically satisfied, eating chocolate can be quite pleasurable (I'm told).
One more. If a person has "been fat for some time" (Abramson says "fat" is a perfectly good word) "other people may have difficulty adjusting to your new eating and exercise behaviors and may be uncomfortable with the weight loss that follows."
You'd think spouses and friends would be overjoyed that all the nagging has paid off, but think again. The person finally connecting with body intelligence changes old habitual relationships -- and that can be threatening.
"Body Intelligence" is written in a caring and sympathetic tone, with plenty of short case histories and brief surveys to make the ideas clear.
Abramson discusses the controversy over high carb diets, assesses surgical weight-loss solutions, and explains how parents can raise children with body intelligence.
Weigh to go!
Dan Barnett teaches philosophy at Butte College. To submit review copies of published books, please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2006 Chico Enterprise-Record. Used by permission.