Monday, September 28, 2009

Who's Your Real Friend Baby?

 By Pat Barone, CPCC, PCC
“America’s Weight Loss Catalyst”

I’ve decided food is overrated
as a caretaker;
exercise underrated as friend.

I tweeted that message on twitter last week and got quite a remarkable response to it!

For many of us, food has evolved into a common caretaker for feelings, an alternative response to difficult situations.  Encounters with unwanted or uncomfortable feelings can send us hurtling towards a bag of chips, to the nearest bakery or through a drive-thru.


In our abundant society, we use food for many reasons other than its intended purpose.  When I ask my seminar audiences to name the ONLY legitimate use for food, it’s not unusual to see them blankly stare back at me.  In a world using food for medicinal purposes, reward, entertainment, distraction and a container to hold uncomfortable feelings, it’s easy to forget there’s only one purpose for food: FUEL!

So, how did food evolve to best friend/caretaker status?

Definition of “Friend”: 

patron; supporter; comrade; chum; crony; confidant;
backer; advocate; ally; associate;
one who assists, helps and is attached to another
by feelings of affection or personal regard.

Food can masquerade as friend since it is easily accessible, ever-available, and supremely controllable when much of life is out of control.  Unlike flesh-and-blood friends, who might not agree with us, who lose patience, or simply aren’t available 24/7, food doesn’t talk back or tell us to “shape up”!

This might seem like powerful evidence it works!  Take Lisa, who tweeted me with this response:

Food is the only thing that’s always been there for me. 
It never lets me down!

While I understand and empathize with Lisa’s attachment to food as friend, my job as a coach is to look beneath the surface for truth.

Is food really taking care of her?  As many of my clients realize when they look deeper, food doesn’t taking care of anything you can’t handle better yourself.  In fact, food robs us of the ability to truly care for ourselves with its façade of friendship.  It also destroys (yes, destroys!) our bodies and our health.  If it’s a friend, it’s the friend who robs you blind behind your back.  Or the bully who speaks kindly to your face, then cuts you down viciously when your back is turned.

None of us would accept the things food does to us from a human friend!

Food is no friend.  It cannot care for us.  Food can’t do anything more than distract us from reality, and increase the numbers on the scale.  What’s friendly about that?  Food eaten to soothe emotions actually takes us away from ourselves and what’s present in our lives at the moment.

The irony is that we all desire the nurturing that comes from deep connection in our lives – to ourselves and others - and food consistently prevents that from happening.

Here’s the truth…
Food deceives.
It lies.
Excess food always diminishes us, our emotions, our health and our future.

It also leaves us with excess body fat, which is a forecaster of every major illness and all cancers on the planet.  Some friend, eh?

On the other hand, there’s exercise…

Although I remember being the ultimate excuse maker in gym class as a teenager, my relationship with exercise has evolved through the years.

Exercise goes the distance… unlike using food as a friend, exercise offers incredible positive perks and really takes care of a body.

Exercise can soothe jangled nerves and ease stress – not momentarily but for good - research shows aerobic exercise is the ONLY thing that actually rids the body stress hormones and toxins.  (Use food for stress and you’ve got more problems and triple the stress you had before you overate!  For example, you’ve (1) still got the problem you originally had; (2) stress increases with guilt over the eating behavior; and (3) the body is now negatively impacted as it has to digest and make fat of the excess food.)

Exercise builds us up, as any good friend would, by giving us strength, courage, patience and confidence. 

Never underestimate the self-reliance that comes with being strong.  In fact, the entire time I was losing over 70 lbs., my entire focus was on the word “strong.”

I love being strong.  Once, when I was 46 years old, I asked a guy in the gym to spot me because I was bench pressing 165 lbs.  “Oh,” he said apologetically, “You better ask one of the big guys to do that.  I don’t know if I can handle that much weight and I don’t want you to get hurt.”  I could feel my face freeze into an “Oh-you-poor-guy!” mask.

Even funnier, he came back the next week and told me, “I told all my friends about you!  I told them there was a lady at my gym who had to be 35 years old and she can out-bench press me!”

Muscle not only gives you curves (it’s a myth that is bulks women up), it slows the aging process.  Notice, my friend in the gym thought I was 35 when I was 46! 

Strength has many hidden perks too.  Muscle controls the metabolism, which determines how many calories the body burns every moment of every day, even when we’re not moving at all.  It powers all the fun things in life, helps fight off disease by boosting the immunity system, and promotes flexibility. 

As we age, strength and flexibility are two of the most important factors that determine quality of life.  Most falls occur because of lack of leg and hip strength.  Aging results from lack of muscle tone and flexibility.  Those bent backs and stooped shoulders you see among the elderly?  That’s the result of muscles not properly strengthened, exercised and stretched throughout the years.  Muscle atrophy starts around age 40 and ages the body quickly.  Wrinkles and sagging skin are the result of loss of muscle tone beneath the skin as well as loss of skin elasticity.

Muscle is also protective.  I can’t tell you how many times my big dog Dusty has taken me on a sled-less skid on the Wisconsin ice.  Not a problem for me!  My muscle protects my bones and joints and gives me the endurance to do just what I want to do in life.

Exercise is a good friend in terms of confidence too.  A true friend always builds us up and truly supports us from within.  Feeling strong boosts confidence and people who exercise report happier lives, better friendships and are more satisfied sexually. 

Other health advantages include lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and more balanced blood sugar levels.  Regular exercisers breathe more deeply and distribute oxygen better throughout their bodies.  They also put less stress on their hearts.  In addition, nothing takes care of the blues quicker than exercise.

Taking all this into consideration, exercise clearly supports greater well-being, happiness and health.
I don’t know about you, but that’s what I demand of a friend.

Pat Barone earned her title "America's Weight Loss Catalyst" by coaching thousands of clients toward permanent weight loss.  Her status as an expert is heightened by her own personal weight loss success (minus 70+ lbs. over 9 years ago).  She's a well-known speaker throughout the U.S. and teaches permanent weight loss worldwide through her intensive teleseminar "enLIGHTen Your Life!"  Learn more at

1 comment:

  1. This article was fabulous. You've helped me look at food and exercise in a different way. Thanks - will look for your blogs in the future.