Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Deep Thoughts

By Rabbi Neil Fleischmann (When I was born, my parents said, "He's cute - let's name him Rabbi... and...why not... let's give him Neil as a middle name).

I have an original theory. Would you like to hear it? Good. You know how people say, "No pun intended." I think that our mind gravitates toward words similar to the ideas we're talking about. Simple, yet I've never heard anyone point it out. Check it out next time you see this happen and I believe you'll see I'm right.

I also think that when people say, "Pun intended," it really wasn't intended. People just take credit for what their subconscious did for them. Our conscious minds don't work that quickly. h

We also go from one topic to another in seemingly random ways, but I believe that if we pay attention we'll find that various topics we speak about are usually related. Our subconscious navigates us from one statement to another in ways more telling than we realize. It's worth looking into this and seeing what connects seemingly unrelated things that we speak of.

I thought I had ended this post and then a funny (not ha ha) thing happened on the way to pushing publish. On a whim I searched "subconscious" in google images , to see if there was a relevant picture to add to the post. I came across the picture above and knew it was a keeper. Done. Now I am compelled to continue the post. Images always come from somewhere, and in google, as in life, context is key.

This brings us to another, more out there theory, of mine. We gravitate toward things, people,and places that interest us. Without willfully working at it we find them and they find us. It's a G-d thing; we couldn't understand.

This artist's rendering of the mind was included in an essay entitled Subconscious, Not Food, Causes Weight Gain. In a post, a month back, I asked, "What will losing weight get me? And then? And then? And then?" I lifted that question directly from a Weight Watchers leader, who is more psychologically inclined than your average WW employee. His theory was that people will only stick to losing weight and remaining in that state when they realize why it truly matters to them on a psychic level. Answers like health or fitting into clothes are incomplete. His theory is that whatever you give as your answer for why you want to lose weight needs to be addressed again with the question, "And then?" This needs to be done with each subsequent answer until you get to a place that is real, deep, true enough to get you to stay committed to the healthy eating.

It all started when a woman at the Weight Watchers meeting said she wanted to lose weight because she had sciatica and if she weighed less then it would be less painful. The leader respectfully suggested that that wasn't enough. I asked why health is not enough of a reason. His basic answer was that it's just not. Health is never the core of a person's weight issue, it's always something in the realm of emotions.

For the record, I'm dubious about the hypnosis thing suggested in the article this picture appeared with. But I agree with the idea that the subconscious holds the answer to why we won't let go of weight and other things that weigh us down. I think if work we can bring it to the conscious level and be divinely human by exercising more free will than our subconscious previously allowed us to do.

This post took a month to write. I know it was meaningful to one person. I hope someone besides me enjoys it too.


Blogger Pesach Sommer said...

Rabbi Dr. Twersky says that all weight issues are psychological. It sounds a bit extreme, but do I know enough to disagree? Personally, the initial push came from a desire not to die from the disease that killed my father. I suspect that there are other reasons as well however.

As for my comment the other day, I was just being insecure and needy. Somehow in my mind, responses to my posts tramslate as validation. I probably need to grow up.

On a separate note, I thought of you this morning during selichos. Usually, like many people, I usually struggle with selichos. Today it hit me that they are poetry and that assuming you can understand the words, they are literary and beautiful. The one about Avraham Avinu (in minhag Lita) resonated with me. Every time I have a moment of appreciation of poetry, I think of you.

Wishing you a meaningful day.

September 23, 2009 at 11:08 AM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

Thanks Pesach. I think it's always psychological/emotional. I think physical weight represents internal pain (although physical weight deficiency can also represent internal pain).

I can relate to the longing for comments, and I think you're pretty grown up. But it's actually not the way blogs work. Over the last few days (my reader count tells me) a lot of people have found my blog through googling Rabbi Pesach Orats' (Z"TL) name. They haven't commented , which makes sense and is OK. People often come to blogs to read not to speak up.

I am glad that I have been part of your increased appreciation of poetry. There's an akeidah one every day between R"H and Y"K, not sure if that's the one you mean.

Torah is a song
Not a doctoral thesis
Same goes for Slichot
And Kinot and Tehilim
And and and and and and

September 23, 2009 at 4:11 PM  
Blogger kishke said...

The idea that weight gain is psychological is popular among doctors and nutritionists, perhaps b/c it places the blame for obesity squarely upon the sufferer, who doesn't have the moral or psychological fiber to control his weight, and removes the blame from the supposed experts, whose advice doesn't seem to do much to help people lose weight. I'd like to see objective scientific tests that back up Rabbi Dr. Twerski's claim. I suspect he can produce none. I know from my own experience that one can lose substantial weight simply by avoiding certain foods (i.e. refined carbs) and eating others (i.e. protein, fats & some unrefined carbs). Before I embarked on this regimen, I weighed 35 pounds more than I do today. Nothing has changed in my psychological makeup in the interim. How would Dr. Twerski explain this?

September 29, 2009 at 2:36 PM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

What's changed is that you decided to do it a certain time and to keep it up for a period of X months. My theory is that the motivation to stick to whatever plan works for you for a lifetime only comes from a deep inner place.

September 29, 2009 at 3:06 PM  
Blogger kishke said...

But my decision was not due to any psychological or change. I simply was unaware of the evidence in favor of this approach before this point. Once I became aware of the evidence, it seemed worthwhile to give it a try. I'm not saying that there cannot be a psychological or emotional component to someone's weight issues, but to attribute all obesity to these factors seems foolish to me, especially considering that obesity has become an epidemic that affects huge swathes of the population. Do all the tens of millions of American men and women who put on considerable weight in middle age really suffer from psychological issues that cause them to gain weight? It seems unlikely. What seems far more likely is that most of us have become accustomed to a way of eating which causes us to gain weight, which implies that if the behavior can be unlearned, the weight can be lost.

September 29, 2009 at 3:56 PM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

My theory is that the motivation to stick to whatever plan works for you for a lifetime only comes from a deep inner place. I think the lack of motivation which is very common and human, comes from what I'd call psychological issues.

September 29, 2009 at 4:02 PM  
Blogger kishke said...

We all know people who were thin until they hit about age 30 and then suddenly began putting on weight. Many of us are those people. If weight gain is a psychological issue, why does it so often fail to manifest until age 30?

What seems more likely to me is that the inability to lose weight is more a behavioral issue than a psychological one. We are accustomed to a particular diet, and it is very difficult to change the deeply ingrained behaviors of many years duration.

September 29, 2009 at 4:53 PM  
Blogger rabbi neil fleischmann said...

I think the metabolism changes, many blood cells die, life gets busier/harder, one may start to eat more as a comfort than one did when younger (I did), and if you don't have the psychological motivation to fight it then the weight goes on. And for most people who find a diet and lose 30 or more pounds (I've done it) it comes back if you don't have a long term psychological motivation/approach to stay fit for life.

September 29, 2009 at 6:04 PM  
Blogger kishke said...

Absolutely, the metabolism changes etc. In other words, the weight gain is purely physical not psychological. Now when we can't get it off, it's suddenly psychological? It makes more sense to say it's behavioral for most people: i.e. we are used to eating a particular, fattening diet, and it's extremely difficult to change deep-rooted behavior. I'll grant that for some people the problem is probably psychological/emotional, but to say that "all weight issues are psychological," as R' Twerski was quoted saying, is unjustified, in my opinion.

September 29, 2009 at 7:42 PM  
Blogger kishke said...

Another point that should be made is that a huge part of the reason people find it difficult to stay on a diet is that they are constantly hungry, and at some point, you're going to break. Some of these diets are at calorie levels that were, in the past, considered to be semi-starvation diets. It has nothing to do with a lack of willpower or psychological issues; your body is crying out for food, in the form of hunger pangs, and there's just no way to ignore that in the long term. The great benefit of a low-carb diet is that you are never hungry. Fat and protein is extremely filling. You might have to fight some cravings in the beginning, but you're way ahead of the game, b/c you're not starving all the time.

September 29, 2009 at 11:45 PM  
Blogger Pesach Sommer said...


Please take a look at Rabbi Twerski's book. It is not one of his Jewish ones and is written without the title Rabbi. I can't recall the name.

Obviously, on some level losing weight is nothing more than taking in less calories than one expends. What Rabbi Twerski suggests is that the reason why people take in more then they need is for psychological reasons. That might be boredom, stress relief, fond associations of eating that food at grandma's house etc. I personally am not sure that he is correct, but I do know that in losing weight I had to relearn to eat and to treat food as fuel, not as boredom reducing, or stress relief. That made a huge difference. the second part is that it is not about a diet. I did Atkins and lost a lot of weight, but how long can you last on it. Two years ago, I lost 100 pounds. I did it not by starving myself but by using strategies that work. Finding out which foods are healthy AND filling. I did so by treating unhealthy foods as poison. You don't reward yourself with poison. You don't cheat with poison. A good book for strategies that work is "The End of Overeating". Finally, I must agree with the good Rabbi of this blog. The way to make it a lifetime commitment is to decide on a deep level that you can not and will not go back.

September 30, 2009 at 8:26 AM  
Blogger kishke said...

Pesach, I think that more important than any deep commitment is to learn a new set of behaviors. Habit will save you when commitment weakens, as it inevitably does.

September 30, 2009 at 2:02 PM  
Blogger Pesach Sommer said...

Kishke. Well said. I sit corrected.

October 1, 2009 at 10:39 AM  
Blogger kishke said...

Thank you. Just noticed that my last phrase is almost a haiku:

Habit will save you
When your commitment weakens

October 1, 2009 at 9:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would believe that there are medical conditions that cause obesity. Animal studies confirm that. There are almost always some psychological aspects to human obesity. This is demonstrated in the ability of dieters to stop eating whatever many times, while unable to remain stopped. Sometimes this is simple habitual, and old habits don't die too easily. Other times, there may be deeper seated issues.

When the goal is simply weight loss, the Weight Watcher's type of program makes perfect sense. It is about nothing more than eating habits and calorie balance. When there are other underlying issues, one needs to broach the subject of support groups and recovery as well as therapy.

October 6, 2009 at 9:43 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home