The following interview appeared in
The Business Journal
Portland Oregon, December 26, 2003 .
Small Business Dossier
Business: More Than Just Weight Loss
Owner: Mari Paulus
What we do: Offer an alternative to conventional weight loss philosophies–one that focuses on the emotional/psychological relationship with food rather than the physical relationship.
Why this location: It’s near my home. I like to spend as little time as possible commuting and adding to the traffic and environmental problems.
Reason for startup: Demand. In spite of the abundance of weight loss programs and approaches available, obesity has become an epidemic. My approach to weight loss treats the core of the issue, not the symptoms, and empowers people rather than treating them as though they are helpless against the problem. Seeing that so many people feel desperate enough that they are turning to radical, dangerous and extremely expensive procedures such as gastric bypass surgery, inspired me too. Reading the suicide statistics on obese children also caught my attention. If we can get parents to understand and overcome their addictive relationships with food, the children are likely to follow.
Best business plan advice: Estimate your operating expenses, then triple that number to reflect reality!
Smartest networking move: Connecting with a friend who is a human resources consultant. This will help raise awareness with human resources directors and employee assistant personnel, that obesity is not simply caused by sedentary lifestyles, slow metabolism or exposure to ‘fast food.’ They need to offer something more than dieting and exercise options to employees, because these options are futile for people who have an addictive relationship with food. I’ve offered one 50% scholarship to a number of Portland employers to establish win-win relationships.
Main source of start-up help: My own hard work and savings.
What set you back on track: Confidence in what I teach and understanding how important local support and individual attention are in overcoming the deeply ingrained patterns of compulsive overeating. Also, I read Dr. Phil’s book myself, and while it contains important insights, it’s missing a few critical ‘keys’ that my program addresses.
Customer base: Anyone who is interested in establishing a long-term healthy relationship with food. All people who struggle with overeating can benefit from my program, regardless of their size, age or gender. No one is hopeless–they are more likely just misunderstood. I’m also very interested in offering my services to teenagers who struggle with overeating.
Greatest profit: Genuinely grateful students, that come to understand that there is hope. That they do have the power to overcome this problem that has burdened them for most of their lives.
Most important lesson learned: Letting go. Even though I’ve witnessed time and again the impact my program can have for people, not everyone is willing to take on the responsibility of accepting some of the realities involved in this process. I need to focus my energy on those who are willing to focus their own energy on resolving this problem.
Best advice ignored: Paint day-glow signs on your storefront windows!
Most influential business book: Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
What works: The rational, honest, and reality based concepts of the program I teach.
What needs work: Raising awareness and creating a paradigm shift in our society
regarding the obesity epidemic.
How big I’ll get: Currently, I am the only person teaching my program. I hope that as my students grow to understand and appreciate it’s effectiveness in dealing with compulsive overeating, that I will find a few who are inspired to be trained to teach. I would love to expand in order to make the program available to more people, but not everyone is willing to take on this work. Although I have been working with compulsive behaviors for 16 years, I still find that at times I come across addictive thinking that is so convoluted, that I find it necessary to consult with the two people who originally taught me the concepts of the program. It’s a continuous learning experience.
Who’ll design my office: Me! My second love is working with color and design. I enjoy creating spaces that make people feel comfortable and at ease.
How you’ll balance personal philosophy with business: That one is easy for me. I have applied the concepts I teach regarding making choices, in literally every aspect of my own life.
Most yearned for customer: People who feel like they’ve been on a dieting roller coaster and are ready to find a permanent solution to what may seem like an unresolvable problem. People who want to “Think Outside the Diet!” (This is my registered trademark.)
Most admired local businessperson: Patricia Allison, author of Hooked–But Not Helpless, Ending Your Love/Hate Relationship with Nicotine and founder of the BreatheFree Stop Smoking Program and The Allison Charitable Foundation.
What you offer that no one else could/would: An opportunity for compulsive overeaters to learn why diets don’t work and how diets can actually be instrumental in perpetuating weight problems. And, a safe environment where they can come to terms with their addictive behavior with food, feel empowered and good about while they’re doing it.
The following article appeared in
The Portland Tribune
Tuesday, August 23, 2005:
Weigh the Facts Before Surgery
The obesity problem is being called the greatest epidemic facing mankind. This extreme situation is frustrating to the people who live with it and to the professionals who are trying to remedy it. Success statistics confirm that we haven’t found a viable solution.
According to the article “Procedure Helps Those with Everything to Lose,” in the July 19 Portland Tribune, the Legacy Good Samaritan Obesity Institute “aggressively promotes and advertisers several variations of bariatric surgery.” The center performs as many as 30 stomach-shrinking surgeries a month, and its director, Dr. Emma Patterson, states she expects that number to double in the next year.
That might be good business for the hospital, but it’s a telling statement about people throwing in the towel on controlling their weight. Major surgery has become an acceptable form of obesity treatment, which not only confirms the level of frustration, but also the desperation of finding an answer.
I work with compulsive behaviors, and my specialty is compulsive eating. In my 20 years experience dealing with this problem, I consistently see that people who struggle with food issues are in a state of “learned helplessness,” that they are helpless and/or unable to make intelligent decisions for themselves.
Many believe that they are unable to face and overcome the desire to overeat and that the decision needs to be taken out of their hands. Bariatric surgery confirms this inaccurate perception. It is yet another attempt to wrest control from the very person who ultimately will need to make the decision to achieve long-term freedom from this problem.
Physically altering the stomach initially causes increased discomfort if a person chooses to overeat, but as Patterson acknowledges, the intestine expands after surgery, letting the patient eat more, even to the point of putting weight back on. This confirms that bariatric surgery is only a temporary deterrent and that, ultimately, the responsibility for eating rationally lands back in the hands of the patient.
I would suggest from my experience working with hundreds of clients—that the desire to eat compulsively is driven by the mind, not the stomach. The stomach is simply a passive participant in this deadly, compulsive behavior. Even after experiencing this radical, invasive procedure, the desire to eat compulsively still exists. Just as people are taught that they have no control, they can be taught that they do. Compulsive eaters can learn to address the problem by correcting the thinking they have related to it.
While the emotional discomfort related to this problem is significant, nothing trumps failing after choosing the most radical option available. I deal with the broken spirits of people with unsuccessful results of bariatric surgery. They come to the hard-core realization that it’s not because their stomach is too big that they overeat—it’s because their brain demands the temporary emotional relief they experience when the overeat. When they attempt to deal with a psychologically and emotionally driven behavior by altering their anatomy—confirming that they are unable to take responsibility for their own actions—they are left emotionally bankrupt.
I have had several clients tell me that they’ve attended seminars for bariatric surgery, were under the weight limit and actually considered gaining weight to qualify for the procedure. While bariatric surgery may have its place as an extreme attempt in emergency situations, there’s a danger that some prospective patients could perceive this as a cure-all.
May I suggest that unless the thinking behind this problem is addressed, the chance of long-term success is extremely limited. One of the greatest thinkers of our time, Albert Einstein, says it best, “You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it.”