As I write this article in late December, the annual influx of television commercials and magazine ads for weight loss programs has begun. Supplements, frozen foods, points, meal cards, meal replacements, on-line calculators, exercise machines, videos, balls and bands. Some promote themselves using celebrities (You, too, can look like Mariah Carey, Jennifer Hudson, and Janet Jackson). Some just use us ordinary folk. All of them, however, send the same message - that our lives will be transformed by weight loss. T’is the season of the weight loss hype – after the season of holiday weight gain.

All of these commercials send a subtle and not so subtle message that we women can’t do it on our own, can’t find our own way to health and well-being. (Notice I said health and well- being – not body beautiful. And all of them send the message that changing our bodies will change our lives, when what really changes our lives is making ourselves a priority and taking good care of ourselves, every day, for the rest of our lives.

Did you know that we were born knowing how to eat? Just watch an infant and you will never doubt the innate wisdom of the body again. That baby signals mom when she is hungry and pushes away bottle or breast when she has had enough. If you’re a mom with more than one child, you’ve probably noticed that your children have different eating patterns and schedules. And as they got older, they had different food preferences, as well. And so it is with us.

What makes me mad about the commercials, the products, and the programs is that they imply that we can’t figure this weight management thing on our own. And they send the message that we have the appetites of out of control, wild beasts. What makes me the maddest is that we have come to believe, we’ve been brainwashed, that we have to turn our personal power over to someone else who knows our bodies and brains better than we do. If that were the case, why do we start diets and exercise programs and then stop them? Why do 95% of people who go on diets gain their weight back within two to five years? Because we’re wild beasts? Because we lack any degree of will power or self-control? Absolutely not! The majority of us can’t stay on a diet because it’s not our way, the way that works in harmony with our body’s natural rhythms and hunger cycles. Diets are based on calorie restriction and deprivation that may work for a while, but then our bodies rebel. Extreme exercise works for a while and then our bodies cannot sustain that energy expenditure – and we quit.

Am I giving us permission to eat nonstop without attention to nutrition? Am I giving us permission to ignore the knowledge and the wisdom that science now offers us. A resounding no! But if we’re really honest with ourselves and mindful of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, we know – we absolutely know - that certain foods make us feel energized and other ones make us feel ready for a nap. We know that our brains and bodies work better with appropriate amounts of restorative sleep and with exercise that we can sustain regularly. We also know when we’re eating to calm and soothe ourselves from the emotional stress of our busy and often chaotic lives rather than to fuel our bodies with nutritious foods. Take a guess? How many calories a day would we eliminate from our daily consumption if we ate only when we were truly hunger and we stopped when were comfortable?

In our heart of hearts we know that following the path to body beautiful makes us feel sad, deficient, and less than. And following the one toward health and well-being makes us feel alive. So I encourage each of you to find your own way. Certainly, allow the knowledge and wisdom of others to guide you, to instruct, to shine light down the path to health, both physical and mental. And please choose a way of eating and exercising that you can do for life. If you chose the right ones – the foods for you, the exercise regimen for you, you’ll know it. Your brain and body will sing in harmony. If not – well you’ll know that too.

Author's Bio: 

Ilene Leshinsky is a licensed clinical social worker with over 16 years of counseling experience. In her Plattsburgh-based private practice, she works with women who desire more joy and fulfillment in their lives. Ilene’s BodySense program is open to women of all ages who want freedom from food, weight, and body obsessions and who want to develop a peaceful relationship with themselves. Ilene can be reached at 518-570-6164,; or