Systems Thinking 101: Part 1

Systems theory is a way of looking at the world that sees things in terms of the whole picture rather than isolated parts, or just the sum of its parts. Systems theory sees things from multiple perspectives, not just one.  The Mindful Life Weight Loss Plan is based on systems theory.

Your lifestyle can be considered a “system.” A system is defined as an entity comprised of parts that operate in relationship to each other. These parts produce a “whole” that is your lifestyle. Your life cannot simply be reduced to the sum of its parts. Most weight loss programs try to do this by reducing weight loss to diet or exercise. However, diet and exercise cannot be taken out of context, and must be viewed in relationship to all of the parts of your life. This is essential.

You are more than just your weight. And your weight is about more than just food.

This is one key reason why diets don’t work. You go on a diet, you lose the weight. Great! Then, you gain it back again. It is like playing the game “Whack-a-mole.” What happened was that the system (your lifestyle) exerted a force known as “homeostasis.”

Homeostasis is a term that describes the tendency of any system to resist change. If you make a change in one area, there will be a pull to resist that change and revert to what the system feels is normal.

A diet takes a simplistic solution (eat less) and applies it to one part of the problem (food). This is what is described as a “first order change:” a band aid or quick fix that does not address things in a lasting way. This is precisely why we have the phenomenon of “yo-yo dieting.” Many of the weight loss solutions out there—from supplements to diets to workout regimens—are first order changes. Additionally, a diet is time-limited. You lose weight when you are on the diet, but when the diet is over the system returns to business as usual.

Weight loss is really about the whole system—your whole life—and the interrelationship between the parts of your life. See “Systems Thinking 101: Part 2” for more.

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