Wellness blogger Sharon Atkins chats to Dr John Demartini in an interview.
Q. If you are overweight or obese or unhappy with your weight or want to lose weight, how or where do you start the process?
Dr John Demartini– When I see someone that has accumulated some pounds or kilograms, the first thing I do is I look for obvious profile shapes, because of my clinical background. I look for the way they are shaped because each hormone in the body reveals itself in the way you are putting distribution of weight. For instance, if you have very high testosterone you will have a narrow waist and broad shoulder. If you have high oestrogen you will have a narrow shoulder and a broad waist, your hips will go wider. If you have a lot of growth hormone you will grow tall. If you have excess cortisol your chest will get bigger and if your cortisol is deficient you will get thin.
If you have low thyroid you will look like a bowling pin and if you have high thyroid you will thin out and narrow at the bottom.
I would look at the distribution first to see if there are any obvious hormonal inductions and if so I will ask them the question, have they had their hormones checked? So, I would first rule out endocrinology sources. Then secondly, I would then look at their family, is there any history in the family, is everybody in the family obese because if so, sometimes there is a family need to fit into the family, a need to be large, a need to be “part of”. That is just the way they are structured.
I also look at their ankles, if their ankles are thick or thin. That tells me a lot about what their body has been accustomed to and what it is designed for genetically.
So, I rule out those factors and if I see no hormonal problems and I don’t see any family need to be big and I don’t see anatomical genetic reasons for largeness, once those are ruled out then I start looking psychologically and nutritionally.
I get a history of nutrition and make sure that they are not consuming large amounts of food, because if they are and they are exceeding their needs, then they are going to keep gaining weight.
I go through a step by step screening process to narrow it down. Then I look at psychology.
I know that if we are living in alignment and in congruently with our highest values and we really feel like our lives are designed the way we want them and we are living in our executive centre we have self-governance.
We won’t be overeating, we will be living not to eat but eating to live.
If we are not fulfilled and we are feeling empty inside because we are not filling our highest values, we will use food, because our amygdala comes on line and that is a consuming area, we will use food to fill our emptiness. And so overeating issues have a lot to do with that consumption because of the unfulfillment.
What we do in those cases is I do a value determination and I look at the ratio of what they are doing in a day that is meaningful and I look and see if they have anybody to delegate things to do. If they are feeling trapped and are doing things that are uninspiring to them and they feel that they hate their life then sometimes eating is a way to compensate to get glucose up to compensate for the depression and the unfulfillment.
So, I am looking for the psychology there, and then I try and get them back on their priorities because people who are living according to high priorities and are doing something that is extremely inspiring and meaningful will not overeat.
Let me give you an example, I know a woman that was quite overweight and she was about to get married and she had a goal to get into a certain dress.
And this lady literally dropped about 32 pounds in a very short period of time because she had something she was striving for that was meaningful to her and that was inspiring and she lost all the weight.
When people have something extremely meaningful to them they have incredible self-discipline and self-governance, but the second they have no more meaning left, their self-governance goes out the window. Their amygdala comes online and their addictive behaviour comes back on line.
And so, filling their day with high priority action that are extremely meaningful on a daily basis is one of the most important things to keep managing weight, to keep from gaining weight.
I find that when you have a full day, day after day, week by week that is extremely meaningful, why would you want to blow it by slugging yourself out with extra weight? So, I try to prioritize that and get them focused on what is really meaningful.
That is one of the most important things that I have found in managing weight gain and obesity.
Q. It could be thyroid and metabolism it doesn’t have to be emotional eating?
Dr John Demartini– With metabolism, I go one step further, the thyroid originates from the thyroglossal duct and it is derived from the tongue.
What the thyroid does is it increases metabolism and helps speech so if a person is repressing what they want to say they shut down the thyroid duct.
You will find that people that have ‘low thyroid’ have difficulty expressing themselves and they hold in a lot of what they are really feeling and people with ’hyper thyroid’ are tactless, they say whatever they want and they don’t care what people think about it.
There are things you can do for the thyroid, you can supplement it with glandular, but you can also dissolve the things that you are oppressing, the most common thyroid and obesity connections that I have seen is women who have kids.
They assume the husband was going to help them and they are feeling trapped doing stuff they don’t want to do and their husbands are having to work more, their husbands are not there and their thyroid is shutting down because they really want to scream at their husband saying why are you not helping me with the kids.
But they don’t because they are afraid they will lose their support financially if the guy leaves them.
So, they are in a trapped vicious cycle, this is a classical low thyroid. I used to see them in my office and this is common and the same pattern that I see over and over again.
I then look for other things and go through a check list, for instance if I see a woman and no matter what she does she can’t seem to lose weight, she has tried lots of diets, she may have a motive to keep her weight on and I look for things like pregnancies. If a woman has 2 or 3 kids and they don’t want to have another baby and they are keeping their weight on to keep their husbands from being attracted to them to protect themselves from having more kids.
Many times, I have seen that a woman will have a desire to keep weight on to protect themselves from having affairs so they don’t undermine their family.
I have seen others that the only time they got affection from their father or other people in their live was when they sat at the dinner table and ate, so if they don’t feel like they are getting affection from their husband they will eat to compensate and if they don’t see that their values are being met by their spouse or loved ones sometimes they will eat, to get a dopamine high to get the blood sugar back up because they are feeling down and depressed.
Because they have a fantasy about how life is supposed to be and I have to go in and clear those fantasies.
I have a check list and there are about a dozen things that I most commonly find with women that are obese.
Men have other reasons, sometimes they have to compete with a brother or sister who has dominance and control and they put weight on for that. Sometimes they have too much oestrogen and they will gain weight and fatty tissue.
Sometimes they will put on weight and eat because they are unfulfilled according to their priorities.
Q. Overweight kids, would it be the parent’s issues affecting this?
Dr John Demartini– I have seen it both ways with kids where they go into bulimia, anorexia and also obesity where the only thing that parents can’t control is their diet. They have dominating, controlling parents and have nowhere to be free from that domination and control so they’ll eat because the parents can’t control their eating.
Sometimes they will do it because it is a way of protecting themselves from people rejecting them or people hurting them.
Q. Is there something simple that someone might be able to do to help themselves?
Dr John Demartini– You don’t eat unless you have a reason for it. I have never seen an out of control person. I see a strategic unconscious motive.
Here is a story, I was doing a reality TV show at Universal Studios and we did 12 amazing stories of people with addictions. We had 2-hour sessions with those people, so the obese person walked in with a box full of food that would have fed someone for a week. She did nonstop grazing of food. She said I have to stop eating, look at me, it is killing me.
So, I said, I hear all that, but I don’t buy that because every decision you make is based on what you believe will give you the greatest advantage over disadvantage so you must be getting advantages or unconscious motives for doing this so let’s find out what they are.
Let’s bring the unconscious conscious.
So, I said what is the benefit you get out of eating?
She said there is no benefit. I said no, no, no, that is the bullshit story. What is the benefit you are getting out of eating?
And she looked at me and after fighting with me for about 5 minutes, she said, my whole family is overweight, everyone is obese, so if I don’t have weight on me I don’t feel like a part of the family.
And she realised that was true for her. Then she said, my sister is a very big girl and she used to push me around and pick on me and I swore I would never let her pick on me again, and now I am always bigger than my sister.
The third one for her was the biggest one. She said I went on a crash diet and I lost a lot of weight, 45 pounds, I started to have a bit of a shape and when I did a guy hit on me.
We went out and I thought the guy loved me and we were intimidate one night and I never saw him again. Then I found out I was pregnant weeks later. I was Catholic and with my Spanish descent I am now going to go to hell if I have an illegitimate child or if I have an abortion. I can’t win from this. I am going to hell. She believed this.
So, I said you put on an enormous amount of weight to make sure you were never attracted to a guy again because being with a guy was so painful that you said you would never lose weight again. She had made that commitment in her head. She associated losing weight with that pain.
Food was a way of overcoming the self-depreciation and the emptiness that she was living.
I said to her, go home and write down all the benefits that you experience and get out of being overweight and why you are keeping the weight on. She did 150 benefits of why she was keeping her weight on.
She came back the next morning and she said, I really don’t have any intention of losing weight do I and I said no, but we have steps that we can do to shift that if you want. So, she said what can I do? I said write down viable, alternative ways of getting all those benefits without having to eat to keep weight on. So, I sent her off on that journey.
Find viable alternatives ways of doing it and then link those to your highest values. You have to de-link eating from your highest values. You have to clear out the wounds that you have by doing the Demartini method on those wounds.
Read a previous interview Dr John Demartini on Understanding Women and Weight Issues and The Most Important Factors for Good Health
Dr John Demartini is a human behavioural specialist, educator, author and founder of the Demartini Institute.
Visit the Demartini Institute for more information.