Note: no plot lines were spoilt in the making of this blog post

What has The film¬†Dallas Buyers’ Club got to do with weight loss? On the surface, not that much. But look a little deeper and you’ll see that it does actually have a lot to tell us about empowered shapeshifting and dismantling compulsive eating.

The film is about Ron Woodruff, who in 1985 is told by a doctor that not only has he got HIV, but that he has an estimated 30 days to live.

What happens next is extraordinary, but the point I want to make is how we as the audience relate to Woodruff, played by an unrecognisable and highly emancipated Matthew Mconaughey. Our first impulse is to feel massive relief that we don’t have this death sentence hanging over us.

But look a little deeper and there’s so much more to this.

Do you remember the millennium bug? Throughout 1999, a kind of mild – or not so mild – hysteria swept Britain. The fear was that all the electronic infrastructure that underpinned society would cut out at midnight on 31.12.99, because the clocks in the computers had not been designed to adapt to twenty first century time. Chaos and mass destruction were just months away.

I remember in spring 1999 having a conversation with a friend. Say the paranoia was actually justified, and in the worst case scenario we really did have 9 months to live, what would we do with that time?

What pointless pursuits would we drop right then? What would we make a priority?

This conversation that put things into perspective came back to me as I was watching Dallas Buyers’ Club.

Of course it’s great to think “Wow, I’m so lucky I haven’t got disease X”, but this is not half as powerful as as the following question:

What would I do if I knew my my time was limited? Not in a 30-day-trolley-dash-of-life-extreme-experience-fest kind of way, but in a more expansive, how-am-I-wasting-my-lifeforce? way.

What about you? How would you answer this question?

One of the things I help clients do is uncover these pointless pursuits. The hours fretting over the scales. The inadequacy they inflict upon themselves via comparisons to others who have more muscle tone/willpower/money/friends etc etc. Any train of thought that starts with the two most pointless words in the English language: if only.

I’m not saying these fears should be ignored, that we should all plaster a big happy smile all over our faces and be happy with what we’ve got. On the contrary, they are very important.

…But not in the way you think.

Many people assume that if they can just get the externals right (lose the weight) then life will be a bed of roses. The truth is that, as I and my clients experience it, these dissatisfactions are signposts pointing to far deeper shifts inside that we need to make.

Harriet Morris is an eating psychology coach.

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