- Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Willamson has attracted attention for her eccentric sound bites and New Age ideas.
- She wrote a weight-loss book in 2010 based on spiritual principles.
- Here are some of her (almost entirely unscientific) ideas.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.
Presidential candidate Marianne Williamson has made waves by promising to “harness love for political purposes” and telling Buzzfeed that antidepressants are overprescribed for “normal human despair.”
The 66-year-old self-help author, lecturer, and Texas native has not only become a trending meme, but people combing through her Twitter archives have found ample material for ridicule, including her thoughts on fixing an oil spill, relationship advice, and her undying love of Avatar.
But mostly untapped in the scrutiny is her 2010 book, “A Course in Weight Loss: Spiritual Lessons for Surrendering Your Weight.” Here are some of the shocking and almost entirely non-scientific takeaways.
The core principle of Williamson’s book is “surrendering your weight forever” by deferring to a higher power.
Williamson’s approach has some similarities to 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Overeaters Anonymous, the latter of which “offers physical, emotional, and spiritual recovery for those who suffer from compulsive eating.”
The book suggests that the “natural” state of the body is fat-free.
The book also insists losing weight is the key to becoming “more your true self” and that by praying enough you can achieve the spiritual and physical svelteness God wants you to have.
Of course, human bodies need to fat to survive, and even the medically agreed upon “healthy range” is flawed.
Williamson doesn’t dictate what readers should and shouldn’t eat, but she does compare a hot fudge sundae to crystal meth.
Williamson mostly assumes readers know what healthy eating looks like (more kale, less pizza), but does demonize certain foods.
She doesn’t address many factors involved in weight loss and gain, like genetics, access to healthy food, mobility, and more.
Williamson believes “you subconsciously make your body a large size to contain your large problems.”
Williamson repeatedly refers to weight gain, and anything that causes it, as “abuse” to your own body. She also presents her theory that many people (implicitly women) gain weight in response to sexual trauma because they want to “hide behind a wall of weight.”
While there are links between disordered eating and trauma, sexual or otherwise, Williamson’s theory seems to suggest that being fat is always indicative of some deeper flaw or dysfunction.
Williamson suggests readers write a letter to themselves beginning, “Dear Fat -ss…”
Williamson also demands that you “undress in front of a mirror, take a good look at yourself. There you will see the scars of war” as proof that you need to lose weight … for spiritual and health reasons.
Williamson approves of putting a picture of a supermodel, but with your face on the model’s body, on your fridge as inspiration.
“It’s not a false value, a superficial or shallow image created by fashion magazines just to taunt you,” Williamson insists. “You’re simply allowing your heart to own what it really wants.”
Called “thinspiration” or “thinspo” for short, this behaviour has been linked to eating disorders and can be damaging for people’s ability to cultivate a healthy and realistic body image.
Williamson recommends sage cleansing your kitchen to launch your weight-loss journey.
Williamson offers a classic co-opting of the Native American tradition of smudging. “Along with prayer, this herbal ritual will help clear out year dysfunctional appetites,” she says, and “purify the room of compulsive energies still hanging in the air.”
Smudging has been recently called out in popular culture as a form of appropriation, especially when it’s commercialized.
Extra body fat is made from negative thoughts, according to Williamson.
“Excess fat is not just inert cellular tissue. It is a repository of twisted, distorted thoughts and feelings that didn’t have anywhere else to go,” Williamson writes.
In science, body fat is “loose connective tissue” that stores energy, and cushions and insulates the body.
Williamson recommends giving yourself a “spiritual surgery,” or visualising God cutting away flesh from your body.
“The more you identify with the light of your being, the lighter you will feel,” she writes.
While weight-loss surgeries can be effective for some people, they involve surgeons (not purely visualisation), and come with risks.
Williamson does offer some standard weight-loss advice, like filling your kitchen with “colourful, nutritious foods,” and enlisting your family and friends for support.
Several chapters of the book focus on cultivating healthy eating habits similar to practices of mindful eating, which is grounded in strong research and an understanding of the human body. Focus on “love and gratitude that food nourishes and sustains you,” Williamson writes, and create a ritual of enjoying your food to create positive habits.
She takes a similar view of exercise, recommending that “10 minutes of exercise you enjoy is better than an hour of exercise you hate,” and emphasising the importance of listening to your body.
Williamson also advises the reader not to think less about food, or losing weight, but rather to focus more on something positive. Research has shown that reframing thought patterns to focus on positive results, not the negative behaviour you’re trying to avoid, can boost success in everything from weight loss to mathematical ability.