McVictim – to eat or not to eat?

Travelling recently I came across the following article in the LA Times by David Gratzer which I thought was fascinating and a great example of the NLP principle Cause and Effect at work. The story, entitled Weighing up the causes of obesity, talks about what Gratzer calls the McVictim syndrome:


'America’s policymakers all seem to be working overtime these days to find scapegoats for the nation’s obesity epidemic. David Kessler, the former health official, blames the addictive qualities of modern food; in his book, he describes how he was once incapable of stopping himself eating a biscuit. Researchers at the University of Illinois recently concluded that the real culprit was urban sprawl, while another study suggested that “fine-particle air pollution” was to blame for the rise in obesity. Former Carter advisor Amitai Etzioni has gone so far as to suggest that the battle is unwinnable: Americans should give up trying to slim and focus on saving the next generation. This is ridiculous. Sometimes the simplest explanation is the right one – Americans just eat too much. Public policy can improve habits, but in the end people have to take responsibility for their diet. This won’t happen as long as “McVictimisation teaches Americans to think that obesity is someone else’s fault – and therefore, someone else’s problem to solve”'.


Personally I think that the issue may be a little more complex than Gratzer suggests and there may be a few more psychological issues at play but in my experience he is right that responsibility is a precursor to any change. In NLP we call this ‘being At Cause’. I guess the McVictim example would be: is it McDonalds that made you fat, or was it putting the Big Mac in your mouth and chewing (or deciding to ‘go large’) that added on the extra pounds? From a psychological perspective the critical point is where is the locus of control? Is the power to change within you (I can stop the behaviour – eating the burgers etc)? Or outside of you (I can’t lose weight until McDonalds stops selling these pesky burgers)? One gives you the power to change; the other keeps you a victim and prevents you taking the steps necessary to move forward powerfully – in this case to move closer to your ideal weight.

Of course this issue isn’t only about weight loss, the blame game of being ‘At Effect’ is rife throughout society and business – “the government needs to do something about this”, “it’s my boss’ responsibility to promote me”, “the traffic was really bad this morning, sorry I’m late”, “there are no jobs available”. I’m not getting on my high horse here, shit does happen and circumstances are not always favourable – that’s why we’re called WHATEVER LIFE THROWS after all – but in my experience one of the key determinates of success is how you respond when stuff does hit the fan, and the level to which you take responsibility for where you are at that moment, see your part in getting there, and take responsibility for moving forward in a constructive way.

Cause and Effect is probably the coaching distinction that I use more than any other. We’ve just produced a new free feature article in the ‘downloads’ section of this site in which we go into much more detail and offer some basic (but powerful) ways to start coaching yourself or others from Effect to Cause. I hope it is useful. As ever I’d love to hear the results you get or help to bring the distinctions to life for you.

Have a great week.

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