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What is ‘celebrity psychosis’?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of psychosis is , ‘… a serious mental illness (such as schizophrenia) characterized by defective or lost contact with reality often with hallucinations or delusions’.

While it is possible that people who suffer from serious mental disorders may be classified in this way, I believe that there are a large number who have been deluded into thinking that they should aspire to having the body shape or figure similar to that of some or other celebrity. It could be argued, a bit tongue in cheek,  then not only have we been deluded, but we may also have ‘lost contact with reality’, which fits nicely with an accepted definition of psychosis.

Thinking ‘outside-in’

If we suffer from ‘celebrity psychosis’, then we do so largely because we have taken what I call an ‘outside-in’ approach to body shape and weightloss. We have let something that is on the outside of us determine what is going on in the inside, namely, our thoughts, attitudes and behaviours. The problem is further compounded when we try to change behaviour, e.g. go on a diet or start to exercise, without thinking about the problem and its solution in sufficient depth. We don’t ‘ready, aim and fire’. At best, we often just ‘aim and fire’; although if the truth be told, most of us ‘Monday morning dieters’ just ‘fire’.  Taking an outside-inn approach to behavioural change results, at best, in superficial, i.e. temporary change. Often though, we simply ‘crash and burn’.

Think ‘inside-out’

Long-term sustainable behavioural change requires an inside-out approach that addresses ALL the elements that go to making us human; the physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual parts of who we are. Inside-out change in weightloss should begin with us asking ourselves the ‘Why’ question: ‘Why do I want to lose weight?’ Only after answering this question, which may take a bit of introspection as the real reason beneath the reason is often quite difficult to flesh out and confront, should we move on to the ‘What’ questions: ‘What do I need to change; what help do I need etc.?’. 

The Stages of Change Model: key in effecting sustainable behavioural change

The ‘Why’ question is part and parcel of the ‘Contemplation’ stage of the well-accepted behavioural change model known as the Stages of Change (or Transtheoretical) Model. Asking ‘why’ forces us to think and reflect on the reason beneath the reason. The next stage in the behavioural change model is the ‘Preparation’ stage. This is a crucial stage as it helps us to answer the ‘What’ questions. Furthermore the ‘Preparation’ stage sets the foundation for the rest of the behavioural change process or structure. Just as with most structures that are designed to bear weight, the ‘Preparation’ stage bears the weight of the remaining stages of the model, namely ‘Action’ and ‘Maintenance’.    

If the ‘Preparation’ stage is ill-conceived, cursory or poorly executed, then it is likely that the ‘Action’ stage will quickly reveal cracks, which ultimately result in regression and failure to change behaviour. We end up back where we started or even worse off. Because the outside-in approach to behavioural change relies on external rather than on intrinsic motivating factors, the inside or intrinsic core is easily fractured revealing the cracks that undermine our desired behaviour and which ultimately lead to failure to change weightloss behaviours. It’s a repeat of ‘I know what to do but don’t’ do it.’

Forget celebrities: think your vision for your health

I decided to write this post about the failure of the outside-in approach to foster the behavioural change that marks weightloss as ‘celebrity psychosis’ because I’m aware that many people allow external influences such as the body shape of an idolised celebrity to influence their perception of what they believe they should look like. If the outside-in shoe fits, then I want to encourage you to stop listening to these messages. Reject all outside-in influences that may side-track or even harm you; physically, intellectually, emotionally, socially or spiritually.

If you are overweight and want to lose weight start by asking yourself the ‘Why’ question and plumb the depths of this question. Be honest with yourself and confront the reason beneath the reason. Having done this, you are ready to tackle the ‘What’ question; ‘what must I do?’ Here you may need some help. Do the research – it’s an essential part of preparing to take action. Make sure that whatever is it you chose to do that your action plan is aligned with your life values and your vision for your health. And always remember God loves you no matter what shape you’re in!

I’m Dr Peter Hill for UpForIt