Saturday, January 08, 2011

Review: A Course in Weight Loss

Note: Another unsolicited, uncompensated review.

I decided to use my credit this month for the audio version of A Course In Weight Loss: 21 Spiritual Lessons for Surrendering Your Weight ForeverI read an excerpt of it in a recent O magazine issue, and the book itself was chosen as one of Oprah's "Ultimate Favorite Things."  In the forward to the book, Marianne Williamson gives much of the credit for the spirit and the direction of the book to Oprah.

I really found the main message of the book to be very powerful, that excess weight is a result of a spiritual problem, and that a spiritual solution is necessary to solve it.  Williamson has some powerful insights and suggestions on how to reach out for divine help for a problem you haven't been able to solve on your own. For those in 12-step programs, nothing here will be particularly new, but it is spoken in a fresh voice. For anyone familiar with Marianne Williamson's previous work, the ideas here are similar, though her voice is not as fresh as in Being In the Light, which is available free for download for people who have purchased A Course in Weight Loss if they go to Williamson's book site and register, along with some other free gifts.  I tried to use the coupon there, but realized that the $15 I was saving was almost completely cancelled out by the high shipping charges levied by Hay House.  I would suggest that people buy Williamson's books and CDs through Amazon, where the prices and shipping are more reasonable. Or better yet, go support your local bookstore if you still have one.

I can see Oprah's influence in the section of the book where Williamson insists that you need to go out and buy "a beautiful napkin," "a beautiful plate," "a beautiful spoon," "a beautiful bowl," etc. to be able to move forward in your weight-loss efforts, because you cannot use the old tools you have in service of the new you. But, oddly, you should also have candles in candlesticks, and it's okay to use your old candlesticks. It seems very Oprah to suggest that problems can be solved most easily by shopping for something new, but I think that they realized there was a limit to how many new beautiful things people were willing to go buy. After all, we'd still be eating at our old table and in our old house (hopefully transformation doesn't require a new house).

I would have found it more authentic if Williamson had told readers to create their own rituals for turning their problems over to a higher power, rather than insisting that hers were the only possible ones. In earlier works like A Return to Love, Williamson always seemed suspicious of dogma.  In this book, she introduces some of her own dogma about what foods are good and what foods are bad.  I also found her wording a little formulaic at times.  It seemed like somewhere along the way, someone told her that contrasting opposites made her sound wise, so over and over again she uses the construction "not only... but...." "not only on the outside, but on the inside too," etc.  I don't think I would have noticed this in the print version as much as I did in the audio version.  Another audio-specific comment: At times Williamson reads very fast.  At those times, her voice reminded me of something, and it took me a long time to place it.  Then I realized she sounded just like Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Those comments aside, I do think there is serious, real help here, so much that I think I would like to get the print version so that I can go through the exercises more carefully (though I'm not sure I'm ready to buy all new dinnerware).  This is the book that I was hoping Geneen Roth's Women, Food, and God would be (in fact, that book had very little to say about God, Roth just seemed to think it was a title that would sell books).  Other than a few places where she focuses on weird rituals, Williamson doesn't focus as much on what listeners need to do with food as on how they need to live their lives so they don't need food to fill in the empty spaces.  

I realized that one thing that has changed since the times when I felt relaxed and at peace with my weight is that I have lost some of my connection to my spiritual life. I let myself believe that I was responsible for my successes by myself, which was a bad thing because I could then blow it all by myself.  I sort of woke up to this after listening to an episode of "Balanced Life Weekly" where Cliff shared a similar insight about his own struggles.  When I was doing well, I was letting go more of the day-to-day and listening to my intuition about what I needed to do next. Then I started to feel arrogant and selfish for thinking that God or any other power would help me with my problems when there was so much suffering in the world.  Something I heard on an old Marianne Williamson recording helped me realize what the missing step was -- I wasn't being led to live a better life just for my own selfish purposes, but so that I could have more to give to the world.  I need to keep that in mind when I start to feel that I have to handle everything by myself.


  1. I didn't care for Women, Food, and God either. I think she was on the right track (that weight issues are about emotions not food) but stopped short of really delving into it. Perhaps that's because she's not a therapist. Anyway, it wasn't what I hoped either.

    But I do like Marianne Williamson. Thanks for your review of this one. It's one I want to get soon. I just picked up her book called "The Gift of Change" from the library today and look forward to reading it.

  2. Wow Jen, I love the way you write reviews. This one is so thought-provoking and balanced.I read that excerpt too and wondered if I might get more out if than WFG which didn't really sing to me. might try the non-Linus paper version though :)

  3. What a great review, I loved reading it. You write so well. The topic also reminded me of my drifting away from the spiritual connection that helped me live a life with freedom from the food conflict. Even if I don't read the book, I feel I am being pointed back in the right direction. Thanks


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07