100 million dieters and a $20billion diet industry according to this ABC news article. Wow!
According to Dr. Martha Beck, life coach and columnist for O, the Oprah Magazine, has many best selling books and the one I'm reading now is called 'The Four Day Win. End Your Diet War and Achieve Thinner Peace." (again a diet book). I don't do any of the known diets. They didn't really work well for me. Too much restriction and hand holding for my liking. I don't even know why I picked it up. The words thinner peace caught my eye. I'm very much into peace these days. Now that I've read it, I'm glad I did.
You maybe wondering why I'm focusing on these two experts on weight loss and the psychology behind it? And what is the 'P' word? And what does it have to do with horses?
Well... I mentioned in a previous article on common horse behaviour problems that I was going to address the difficult and probably taboo topic of punishment. a.k.a. The P Word.
What does it have to do with dieting you ask? Well.... I wanted to find a fresh perspective to talk about punishment. So here goes...
Famine brain causes our body to go into fat storing mode even with the slightest, remote hint of restriction. It all about the anxiety. We comfort ourselves with food when we are anxious.
Martha's answer is to have more self-compassion. I encourage you to read this book if you want to know how to never, ever go into starvation mode. She is such a lovely, funny lady. The humour in the book is great!
In a couple chapters of the book, Martha talks about horse whispering, which is cool. She also talks about round pen work with a horse named Nute and desensitizing Nute to a plastic bag. Again. Cool. Anyone in effective horsemanship knows all about this. She talks about how, as dieters, we have to be use body whispering, and how this work with horses works well for people who have relapses with weight gain. Can you see why I like this book?
We need more self-compassion and also with horses. I believe that working with horses will teach us more about self-compassion. I'm now totally into fruits and veggies (ie. grasses) like horses. Well... most of the time, anyway.
Disciplining Horses is Like Loosing Weight for Some People
In Martha's book that relates to punishment and horses, is the actual method she suggests to learn the skill of how to loose weight and keep it off permanently. And no, I'm not talking about adopting it to horses (though it would work). I liken this to how people, horse handlers find it hard to discipline their horses. Even if it means they risk their safety. They just don't want to risk loosing love from the horse. I get it. Compassion for the horse.
I've had clients think that slightly raising your voice above normal was too harsh and believe or not, I've seen a lot of horse handlers not discipline their horses. Period. Ever. They just put up with it, like a bad undisciplined kid. Have you ever been around one of those! I don't stick around long myself. Too hard on the nerves.
I've had some horse people tell me that everything was punishment as far as they were concerned. I, personally, hardly ever use the word. It rarely happens here. I use corrections (small discomforts).
To me, punishment, is when a horse has to have a severe correction because they are going to jeopardize the safety of a human (and possibly themselves) such as biting, rearing, striking, charging, bucking. Nasty. Not good. I don't believe in just ignoring it and selling the problem to someone else. I think that's unethical. And I get this too. Some horse people don't know how to discipline their horse. They were never taught just like we weren't taught how to properly stay permanently thin.
Martha does mention that dieters do need to experience a short temporary discomfort of medium hunger for 3 days. That's it. Before it goes away. So similarly, I would say that a horse handler does need to experience the discomfort of learning how to discipline or correct a horse (not punish) using the same 4-day win strategy as Martha has developed.
The results are the same. Take it in small, turtle steps as Martha calls it and you will learn how to discipline your horse slowly but surely for your safety's sake.
Putting my spin on The 4-Day Win and Punishment. Oh, and weight loss.