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The Dieting Mind – The Ghost in The Machine

Those of you who are regular readers of my articles here at HealthWise know that I am the creator of The Inner Diet.  Simply put, The Inner Diet addresses emotional eating and has been used by weight loss professionals for over 30 years now.  During that time span, I have gathered an abundance of information regarding the average weight loss client and today I would like to share one small piece of that information with you.  What I want to specifically share with you here is how the average male and female score on the six emotional eating triggers measured by The Inner Diet.  This information provides critical insight into the proverbial ghost in the dieter’s machine.  The machine being the dieter’s physical self and the ghost being the dieter’s mind – the manager of their behavior.

I subtitled this article The Ghost In The Machine because the key to helping someone lose weight and keep it off lies in understanding and managing that ghost.  As you may know, The ghost in the machine is a phrase used to describe the concept of dualism proposed by French philosopher Rene Descartes.  That concept proposes that humans are comprised of two different and distinct realms that he referred to as the physical and the nonphysical.  Or, as we most commonly refer to them, the body and the mind.  Today I’d like to offer you some information regarding what I have learned about the mind of the average dieter – the ghost in the machine.

The six issues measured and addressed by The Inner Diet are commitment, emotional discomfort, inner control, perfectionism, secondary gain and stress.  The 6 scores that each individual receives are generated by how they answer each of the 40 questions contained on the Inner Diet Questionnaire.  I should also mention that the creation of the questionnaire was the topic of a doctoral dissertation so please know that there is real science behind it and, as a result, it has been proven to be a statistically valid and reliable testing instrument.  If the individual answers the questions honestly, their results will be spot on, very revealing and incredibly useful to both the professional and the client.

With that said, what follows is the average score for males and females on the six issues measured by The Inner Diet.  The scores range from 0 to 100 and, after the individual receives their scores, they are then placed into one of four categories.  Those categories are: Low 0-24 | Medium 25-49 | High 50-74 | Very High 75-100.  The rule of thumb is simply this.  The higher the score the more intrusive that issue is in their daily life and the more it interferes with their weight loss effort.  In other words, the higher the score the more serious the problem.  Along with their scores, you will notice that I have also included what percent of each gender scores in the High or Very High ranges on each scale.  Again, the higher the score the more that issue interferes with their ability to succeed at weight loss.  Scores in the High and Very High ranges pose the most significant obstacles to dieting and long term weight loss success.   This information is intended to provide you with a little bit of insight regarding the ghost in the machine – the mind of the dieter.

  • Commitment – This scale measures the amount of motivation and commitment the individual feels towards a long-term change in lifestyle.

Average Score:     Male  39     Female  39

             % Scoring High or Very High:     Male  27%  Female  26%

  • Emotional Discomfort – This scale measures how emotionally uncomfortable dieting is. For high scorers on this scale, weight loss feels like emotional torture.

Average Score:     Male  50     Female  52

             % Scoring High or Very High:     Male  53%  Female  59%

  • Inner ControlThis scale is a measure of self-belief. It identifies how much personal control they believe they have over their weight and their eating.

Average Score:     Male  41     Female  48

             % Scoring High or Very High:     Male  28%  Female  43%

  • Perfectionism – This scale identifies those who expect the impossible of themselves – to be perfect. Once a perfectionist slips, even slightly, the diet is over.

Average Score:     Male  48     Female  48

             % Scoring High or Very High:     Male  46%  Female  47%

  • Secondary Gain – This scale identifies those who claim to have a reason not to lose weight. High scorers see some advantage or benefit to remaining overweight.

Average Score:     Male  25     Female  23

             % Scoring High or Very High:     Male  04%  Female 02%

  • Stress Eating – This scale identifies those who overeat in response to stress. High scorers use eating as a way to reduce tension and control their stress.

Average Score:     Male  52     Female  61

             % Scoring High or Very High:     Male  58%  Female  74%

% Scoring High or Very High means a score between 50 and 100

Due to the constraints of space and time, I have been very brief in this presentation.  I have, however, provided you with a quick glance at what interferes with the typical dieter’s ability to succeed at weight loss and healthy lifestyle change.  As you can see, there are some very clear similarities between the scores of men and women as well as some significant differences.  For example, take stress eating.  As you can see above, 74% of women and 58% of men score High or Very High on this issue.  That means that most dieting men and women engage in stress eating on a regular basis.  Just think about that for a moment.  74% of women score High or Very High on this issue.  That’s three out of every four women who enroll in your program.  If you are not helping these individuals learn how to better manage this emotional response to stress, their ability to succeed will be greatly compromised.  Or look at Emotional Discomfort.  My research reveals that 53% of men and 59% of women score High or Very High on this issue which means they do battle with this emotional diet buster constantly.  That’s a little more than one out of every two people who walk into your office looking for help.

I believe that having this type information about your client is like having an emotional x-ray of the dieter in front of you.  In turn, I believe you are in a better position to help them achieve their goal with this kind of knowledge.  The data that I have accumulated over the years clearly demonstrates that these issues are prevalent throughout the overweight population.  As a result, I propose that identifying and addressing them will make the dieter more mindful and less mindless about the health choices that they make.  Which, ultimately, will improve their potential for success.  Awareness is truly the key to change and this type of awareness will both help you better help them while, at the same time, help them help themselves.

Well I hope you found these few tidbits of information both interesting and enlightening.  I just think that the more insight you have about the person you are trying to help the better your ability to help them becomes.  And I think we can all agree that the key to successful weight loss demands that the dieter experiences some sort of awakening that creates real change…from the inside.  The simple truth can be found in the motto to my Inner Diet program – you can’t change your weight until you change your mind®.  When all is said and done, if you don’t engage the mind of the dieter in this emotional battle for weight loss and healthy living, they don’t have a ghost of a chance of succeeding.

Wishing You Great Health,
Dr. John H. Sklare
The Inner Diet – “You Can’t Change Your Weight, Until You Change Your Mind.”