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A few months ago, I saw a new patient who had a lot in common with many other patients I’ve seen. Although she knew that excess weight was doing her no good – and that it raised her risk of chronic diseases like breast cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, colon cancer, kidney and heart disease – she was unable to change her numbers. And she was really tired of doctors advising her to lose weight.

“Tell me something I don’t know,” she said.

So I did.

“You seem like a very smart person,” I said, “and smart people solve their problems.”

She sat up.

“Once you identify a problem, you look it up and down, left and right,” I said. “You think about it from all the angles, and then you get to work. You might try something that seems obvious, or something a bit more obscure. And if those don’t work, you come back around and try something new.”

She said, “I’ve already tried everything I can think of.”

“I’m sure you have,” I said. “Does it make any sense that you’ve already tried absolutely every-thing you can think of and nothing is working? Does it make any sense that you’ve simply given up? What else is like that for you?”

Not much, it turned out.

I told her when this happens to me, it’s time to reexamine the fundamentals. In other words, maybe I’m missing something. Maybe I believe something is true that actually is not. Like thinking that diets actually work.

The tragedy of this is that when people try to lose weight only to discover that they are, once again, unsuccessful, they usually think there’s something wrong with them. And not the diet. To be honest, this is the part that upsets me most. There’s nothing wrong with them. First, diets don’t work. And secondly, failure makes you feel bad, which further interferes with your honest efforts and perspective.

This was something of a relief for my patient. At least she knew I wasn’t going to tell her to try to lose weight. That’s because weight is not the problem. Yes, you read that right. Weight is a symptom of the problem. When you figure out how to fix the problem, your weight begins to change on its own.

What is the problem, then? The problem is that we are eating enormous quantities of products that do not really nourish us. And your brain knows the difference. So when you fill your belly with bankrupt calories, even ones you’ve been told are good, like commercial salad dressings or processed cereals with bran in them, you stay hungry.

At this point, she began to nod. She saw it.

She said, “I never thought about it like that.”

Then it was time to start talking about the difference between real food and manufactured calories. Real food nourishes; manufactured calories entertain. Don’t let the processed edibles industry tell you what nourishes you.

Next time, we’ll talk about the three pillars of wellness.

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