By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator

The triggers can come at any time … after fighting with the spouse or looking for something quick to eat with a carload of kids, blowing a work presentation, sinking into the coach and tuning in a favorite channel or while rooting for the Tigers, Jaguars or Saints during game time with friends and family. But no matter the situation, when one gives into the temptation to overeat, he or she can be weighed down bodily as well as mentally and spiritually with guilt. Through Beneath the Weight, sponsored by the non-profit organization Self-Care Health Initiatives, people can address overeating in response to stress, moods and emotions. Workshops are conducted throughout Southeast Louisiana civil parishes in public libraries, as well as for faith-based organizations, such as Rosaryville Spirit Life Center in Ponchatoula, which focuses on Bible verses and meditations. Beneath the Weight was started by psychologist Dr. Lynn Brayton, Paul Waldman and nutritionist Danielle Paciera. The program does not have lectures, prescribed diets, exercises or services. “We looked at the power of human interaction and discovered that human interaction needed to be a primary consideration in our program,” said Waldman. “We looked at the concept of what creates change in a person. We looked at it from the standpoint that if you tell someone what to do, no matter how wise it may be – it’s not as strong as when a person realizes themselves what needs to be changed and what needs to be done to address the change.” The workshops are centered around the idea that everyone has the ability to reach their desired weight, but there is something going on in their mind that stops them from getting there. “We wanted to help people find the switch in their brains that allows a natural process for eating and lifestyle change,” said Waldman. He said the workshops are meant to be fun, which includes dividing people into groups of 6-10 to talk about their eating issues. “And it’s the interactions of the people that create the realizations, thoughts, emotions and sharing that can lead to change,” Waldman said. The Rosaryville program begins with the participants looking at themselves and who they are before God. One of the meditations is taken from the book “Sadhana, A Way to God: Christian Exercises in Easter Form,” by Father Daniel de Mello SJ. In the meditative exercise, participants are to imagine looking at a statue that a sculptor was commissioned to make of them that is ready for public viewing. They are encouraged to think about what their first impression is, then say something to the statue. The people are then guided to imagine that they have become the statue and how it feels to be the statue. Lastly, they imagine that Jesus walks into the room and looks at it and they dialogue. In another mediation, participants are encouraged to take deep breaths, express their appreciation to God, talk to him about weight challenges they will face that day and ask Jesus and the Holy Spirit to guide them through their journey to their right weight. “We encourage them to see God as a source of strength and guidance and a partner for this high mountain of challenge of losing a substantial amount of weight,” Waldman said. In between activities, there are Bible verse discussions which address using food as a coping strategy (focusing on Jos 1:9); guided meditations to right weight (focusing on Zep 3:17); danger zones and core issues (featuring Is 41:10); and planning a healthy weight lifestyle (focusing on Ps(s) 32:8). “The Scriptures are used to help to get them through the difficulty of this self-awareness project and be inspired,” said Waldman. And there can be some painful self-awareness as people check off items from a list of danger zones and stress points that indicate their weaknesses concerning overeating. But through honest self-evaluations, sharing them in group discussions and learning how to envision positive outcomes to negative or vulnerable situations, they are given the tools to create a concrete plan of action, such as what specific foods they will add or eliminate within the next 24 hours and how they can be prepared for those “trigger point” moments. And particularly in the faithbased programs, the emphasis is helping them to see that God can help them turn the key to becoming their right weight self. “I hope they come away with, ‘I have the most powerful force/ partner and all I have to do is ask,’ ” said Waldman. For more information about Beneath the Weight and future workshops, including one that will be held at Rosaryville on Saturday, Oct. 20, visit beneath theweight.org.