A SPIRITUAL SOLUTION TO EXCESS WEIGHT: A Review of Marianne Williamson’s “A Course in Weight Loss”

Reviewed by Celia Hales.  Published in September/October 2011 issue of Miracles (publisher Jon Mundy).  To order, visit Marianne’s web site at http://www.marianne.com and click on “Books and Audio.”  Also available in bookstores internationally.

Title:  A Course in Weight Loss
Subtitle:  21 Spiritual Lessons for Surrendering Your Weight Forever
Author:  Marianne Williamson
Publisher:  Hay House, Inc.

Marianne Williamson’s A Course in Weight Loss is a magnificent contribution to the wrenching problem of being overweight in our society.  I see this book primarily as a loving instigator of a miraculous solution for the many who suffer from excessive eating and/or food addiction.  Weight Loss is affectionately dedicated to Oprah (Winfrey), who inspired it as a personal friend of Marianne’s and someone who herself has often spoken of problems with weight.  Marianne writes in the dedication of the book to Oprah, “To any reader who might feel that this book is a gift, please know that it was a gift from her.”

It is Marianne who writes of the solution, though, and her ideas are phenomenal.  We will appreciate that they are frequently, though far from exclusively, based on A Course in Miracles.  There is a solution to the never-ending cycle of overeating and dieting, Marianne says, and it is a spiritual solution.  She notes that if anything other than a spiritual solution had worked, those with a weight problem would be cured already.  She goes on to say that the problem originates in the mind, and this is what she calls the “fear-mind.”  (Here we see Marianne’s indebtedness to A Course in Miracles, though she uses a slightly different term.)  We need to turn to Divine Mind (again, a variation on terms from ACIM) for healing.  Nothing less than a full surrender to Love, or God, will solve the problem.

But we pray for a miracle, and Marianne herself has known one, and so she knows whereof she speaks.  Years ago she had a food problem, in that she would eat excessively and then starve herself to regain her slender frame.  Once she began working intensively with A Course in Miracles, and healed some of the neurosis that was causing her problems, she looked down at her body one day, and surprisingly, noticed that it was slim–and had become so without her starving herself.  She had not asked for a miracle, because she had not recognized that this was an area which she should surrender.  But God answered her.  And she says that He can do the same for any of us.  Indeed, none will know a permanent solution to weight loss until one does experience that miracle that only God can give.

We do prepare ourselves for a miracle, though, and Marianne’s book details a comprehensive program for a way to view ourselves differently, and thus invite the miracle for which we ask.  She includes exercises (especially writing letters to and from one’s “not-thin” and thin selves); rituals  (such as a ceremonial oil treatment for the body that will promote a love, rather than hate, for one’s body, and the buying of a single piece of fruit, a healthy food choice); ceremonies (in which we invite friends–an “inspirer” and a “permitter”–to help us along the journey); new cues in the environment (such as a home altar and a special table setting that, along with the other items that are meaningful to our journey toward weight loss, go on the altar, until these items are ready for use).

Marianne never tells us how rapidly to go through the 21 lessons.  Perhaps she realizes that the one driven to find a solution will read through the whole very quickly.  But then those with a weight problem will return to study the solution that she recommends.

She explains repeatedly that the mind is what must be healed, before the body will respond.  We are trying to find solutions to our distress in food, and food is not a good place to go.  The self-loathing of the compulsive overeater is described throughout this book; it is the body to which these emotions are attached, but the body is not the real culprit.  The body is only the place where these unprocessed emotions have been played out.  These unprocessed emotions are from a past that has had its share of pain, whether in traumatic events (such as rape or sexual abuse), or the word of our culture that the blossoming body of the adolescent girl is no longer appreciated by some with whom the girl has been most closely associated, such as her father (who is not accustomed to dealing with his little girl as a woman).  We should not underestimate the power of these emotions in dealing with weight gain.  We “hide out” in a big body to escape the pain of living in a thin one; we are afraid of being thin.  Marianne says that the fear of being thin is actually what keeps the compulsive overeating in place.

She stresses the importance of healthy food choices, recognizing that many with a food problem, paradoxically, do not appreciate food enough, but too little.  We are eating for comfort, to quiet the demons inside, but we are not truly tasting what we eat.  She counsels easing into healthy choices, giving an example of her love affair with grapes, which satisfied her longing for sugar gradually, as she also sometimes ate cake.  She emphasizes, in a comforting way and the way of one who knows whereof she speaks, that our best days with food are ahead of, not behind us.

A Course in Weight Loss is carefully written.  One can tell that much time and energy went into its compilation.  This is not an intuitive book; this is one that has been reasoned out for the maximal effect upon its desperate readers.  And those with a weight problem will not come away disappointed.  There are many who read everything that Marianne writes.  She is, in fact, often described as the one whose name is most recognized as a student/teacher of A Course in Miracles.  Marianne, once again, has come through in this book with an illuminating contribution to her canon and to her large audience of returning readers.

The book is both inspired and inspiring.  Weight Loss is first recommended to those with weight issues, but is also recommended to others who love Marianne and/or want to read some very practical applications of A Course in Miracles to the problems in our lives (regardless of how much we might weigh).  My secondary recommendation to everyone is not the intent of Marianne, though.  Her words of wisdom never leave the central thrust of helping those who have obsessive, compulsive eating habits.  In reading between the lines, though, we find gems that can help us all.

We can be sure that A Course in Weight Loss will be, and, indeed, has already been,  received enthusiastically and gratefully by individuals in our society with both weight issues and other urgent needs.

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