Several years ago, we got up in the morning to many full-sized, extravagantly decorated posters tacked on road signs throughout our neighborhood.  They all attested “I LOVE JESSICA!!!!!”  Jessica’s admirer must have had help and been up half the night as there were dozens scattered over at least a 3-mile radius.  As I ran my morning errands and chatted with a neighbor or two when I got home, we all thought it was hilarious and a very public request for a prom date or a marriage proposal.  

Later in the day I found another set of the posters that told the full story:  “I love you and cannot live without you!” said one sign.  Soon came another into view: “The world is a cruel and lonely place without you!”  Within a short block were the next four, just like the old Burma Shave signs:  “Jessica, please ….”  then ….”I’m down on my knees ….” followed by “I’m begging you now to …” and I was expecting a marriage proposal when the last sign appeared, but it read “Come back to me!!!!!”

Ah-ha!  They’d broken up!  He was crushed and badly wanted her back.  I reflected on Jessica and her rejected boyfriend for several days.  Was this breakup a good or a bad thing?  Were they young or old?  Was this at any time a healthy, positive relationship?  Why did Jessica break-up with him in the first place?  Was this a relationship worth continuing?  Of course, since I don’t know either Jessica or the maker of the signs, I never found out.
My own lovely daughter is getting married on August 14 in the Provo Temple.  For both she and her husband to be, there has been, as there has been for most of us, a long road of many relationships and break-ups that finally led to finding each other.  That’s the story of life … and love.  Fortunes for songwriters and novelists have been made on this true fact:  love and its ups and downs makes the world go ‘round.

These strong feelings of attachment go to things other than people, of course.  We use the phrase “I love” to describe our passionate feelings about almost every inanimate thing possible, such as “I LOVE this skirt!” or “I LOVE the color purple!” “I love” is often used for favorite foods, as in “I love chocolate!”

Obviously a passion for inanimate objects is a one-sided relationship.  The gorgeous skirt that evokes these warm, fuzzy feelings has no way of returning our affection.   The color purple is simply that:  the color purple.  It is no different with chocolate or cookies.  No matter how much you “love” them, there will be nolove returned.  Maybe that’s why we “love” them – there are no strings attached, no obligations or expectations! How much easier it is to reach out for a cookie for an emotional lift – however false —  than to reach out and either resolve or learn to cope with the daily stresses and relationships that constitute our lives.  With a cookie, you know what you’ve got and there’s a quick – though fleeting – “good feeling” that we mentally equate with being happy and content, no matter how false, short-term, irrational and immature that is.

When I was a Weight Watcher Leader. one of my favorite meetings was “The Break-Up”  where I read a letter to a woman who had broken up with “Chip” — a chocolate cookie.

It brought the house down as I read her letter to him:

“Dear Chip,”

You and I have had such happy times together.  At least I thought so!  But recently I have learned that you don’t care, and never did!  The comfort I found in your company, the delight I found when you were near …. it hurts to know how wrong I was!  But things can change — and Chip … we’re through!  Oh, we may meet and briefly say hello at social gatherings, but there will be no more long, quiet evenings and late nights with you at my side ….”

If you’ve been following Dr. Gardner, we learned last week that it’s more than too many calories that hinders weight loss:  emotions and stress themselves play havoc with our bodies and cause inflammation that halts weight loss – no matter how healthfully we are eating and/or how many calories we are burning with exercise!

Simply said: life itself may be causing us to be overweight!  

This information is comforting and enlightening, and quite honestly, a little depressing.

   We’re all looking forward to his stress management articles.  We need them!

Poor Diet and Depression

Fitness author Jon Benson (who has overcome personal obesity) continues with Dr. Gardner’s perspective on weight and life management.  He says:  

“… studies have shown that people who struggle with their weight have specific thought patterns toward food, social activity, and their ability to manage their environment.

“Think about it. Have you ever met anyone whose only problem was that they could not control their weight? If you dig deeper, you will usually find patterns of thought that reveal themselves.

“A study published in the July 2006 issue of Archives of General Psychiatry found that depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders were about 25 percent more common in people who were obese.

“Now, the question we must ask is this: is the obesity causing the depression or vice-versa?  From a guy who went through the worst form of depression, I feel I can speak with some insight on this matter. I am beyond convinced that my obesity in my thirties vastly contributed to the onset and severity of my six-year battle with severe depression.

“I am not saying it was the only factor – merely the most important.
One of the reasons I feel this way is the fact that I’ve seen what a change of body and mind can do for a person with depression. Remember, the vast majority of diagnosed depression is referred to as ‘mild’ depression…yet it is becoming more and more common to treat even mild depression with drugs.

“About 3% of the population will experience a more severe form of depression known as dysthymia. Dysthymic depression can lead to “severe” depression, and at that point medication is usually demanded.

“Notice that there is usually (not always) a progression from mild, to dysthymic, to severe depression. This is the pattern I followed, and the pattern usually observed by therapists. Yet study after study shows a strong correlation to elevated blood sugar and mild to moderate depression.

“A Western diet can elevate blood sugar dramatically, as well as insulin (also connected to depression) and serotonin (a ”mood“ neurotransmitter.) So, we see some cause and effect: a poor diet can set up the biological conditions that will foster the onset of depression in those genetically susceptible to it. Even in those without such predispositions, poor diet and lack of exercise alone can cause serious depression. “ (Jon Benson, author of “Fit Over 40”)

Did you read that?  Poor diet and lack of exercise can cause serious depression … So we’re tired and cranky – even mildly depressed, and reach for a cookie.  Which causes us to be even more tired and cranky, and reach for another cookie, or bag of chips … and the cycle continues.

A Conscious Decision

If bells are ringing that this is true for you, then what is the answer?  

This summer I have had the blessing of being a substitute teacher for our Stake Institute program.  We were asked to prayerfully select past conference talks for our lessons.  As I browsed through several years worth of talks to make my choices, one title caught my heart and has stayed with me: “True Happiness: A Conscious Decision.”  (See Ensign, November 2005 p. 31)  A short, but powerful address by Elder Benjamin de Hoyos tells us that “Happiness comes as a result of our obedience and our courage in always doing the will of God, even in the most difficult of circumstances.” In other words, happiness and peace come not by chance, but by choice!

One does not think of happiness as being a “decision.”  Yet, it is a choice to turn to the source of peace, i.e, the Saviour’s atonement, prayer and scriptures, or to flail in despair and depression on our own. In the exact same way,  it is a choice to employ non-food stress-relief strategies to help us cope and rise above our moods and circumstances, and to literally “break-up” with the foods that lock us (and our weight and moods) in their grip.

As I presented this material to a group of 12 extraordinary young adults at our Institue class and asked them how they manage their own stress, almost verbatim they chimed in with the things that Dr.

Gardner outlines:

 a walk in nature,

They added citing a favourite scripture, a nap, singing a happy song and mentally distancing themselves from the negative people around them.

As I mentioned above, composers and authors have made fortunes talking or singing about “breaking up” – but few add the abundant positive proof everywhere that people have been and are able to depart from the circumstances, people and foods that hold us in their grips to live happier,  easier lives.

How do they do it?  Some take on a “cold turkey” approach.  Others choose a day or a special event that these treats are A-OK.  For me, several years ago I took on an obsession with ice cream.  From early adolescence I was not able to manage an open container of ice cream at home.  One small bowl became several small bowls that evolved into more than I care to mention.  This happened time after time, year after year throughout my youth and adult life.

After a holiday at the beach where I was sluggish and out of sorts nearly the whole time from too much sugar – especially ice cream – I went to the Lord in prayer.  He helped me determine that I would never say “never” but that ice cream would be for extremely special occasions:  My birthday and our annual trip to the beach.  I went “cold turkey” for the time being, and the next Fast Sunday, I made this commitment to him.  I did “forget” a few times, wondering why ice cream did not “feel” right while I was eating it.  Then I would remember and stop. After just a few times, I had no problem remembering.  

I missed it for a time, then got over it. When my birthday came nine months later, we purchased my favourite flavor and I enjoyed it for the day.  I had a stomach ache the next day, but it was worth it.  I did the same when we went on our annual holiday to the beach.  I need far less than the year before to feel pampered.

That was five or six  years ago.  It’s a blessing and a relief to know that ice cream no longer screams my name.  I attribute this alone to one way I keep my weight about the same year after year.  It’s interesting that when I tamed my ice cream beast, the rest of the family – without my saying or doing anything – also pretty much stopped eating ice cream.  Although I occasionally purchased it for teenagers, it just sat in the freezer.  I realized that it had probably been me eating it more than anyone else all along, or that when it stopped being a focus for me, it was for them as well.  Now I no longer purchase it at all.  Once in a blue moon they will purchase a small container themselves, but  even that is often left unfinished.

Of course, I have other foods that I’m working on (butter cream frosting and chocolate chips), but eliminating one beast at a time has made a difference in my mood and my weight.

You may want to consider writing a letter like the one above to “Dear Chip”
outlining the past pleasures, and your plan to say good-bye to an inappropriate dependence.

They say that breaking up is hard to do, and it’s true.  But worth it?  Sing it with me my friend, “Oh, yeah!”

Carolyn Allen is the author of “60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success” and an internet marketer.  She is the mother of five and has been providing weight loss encouragement both online and in community classes in the Washington, DC area for ten years.  Visit her at her website, and get a free download of her book when you try her health tonic at