This article first appeared on drcarp.com.

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space, and in that space is our power to choose. In our response lies our growth and our freedom!”

This is a quote from Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist who made it through the holocaust. In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he talks about how he survived and how important it is to have an overarching will to live.

It’s very pertinent to what we’re talking about because I want everyone to get a clear understanding of what’s required to be able to make the decisions that you’re going to make in order to live the healthiest life possible. It’s one of those books that I would recommend to anyone.

I made a quick reference to this concept that we have this space. Imagine you’re driving down the road and someone cuts you off then you blare your horn. You know it all happens so fast, and there’s no really no free will involved in a sense. It’s not where you said, “Oh, now I’m going to blow the horn.” It’s all stimulus and automatic response. What he’s saying is there is a space, and in that space we have the freedom to choose. And that’s our freedom.

We have a lot a things in our life that are just stimulus response. The question now is how do we put in that space, that freedom to choose that Viktor Frankl was talking about? How do we inject that space? How do we learn to grow that space so that we have more free will and ability to make decisions that we want to make?

Because truth be told, if we were to say that we have true free will and we are in control of ourselves, we wouldn’t choose to be angry, upset, or depressed. We tend to blame outside factors for these, but the truth is we are capable of injecting that cause and being able to control ourselves in ways that maybe we haven’t actually experienced before. That’s really what I’m talking about here.

6 Diagnostic Questions Before Starting a Weight Loss or Health Program

There are 6 diagnostic questions that I go through with my patients that determine for me how ready they are and how successful they’ll be by answering these questions. Now keep in mind that you don’t have to have the right answer for all of these questions. Because we’ll be going through these questions over and over again as we go through the course.

These questions come from a very unusual source. The book is from Napoleon Hill, who wrote Think and Grow Rich. But these are from another book of his called, Grow Rich! With Peace of Mind.

  1. When circumstances require me to use my time in a way I did not plan it, do I, in that time, know my own mind and use it beneficially?

This is important because this process of gaining health requires that you become your own authority. Everyone has his 20% that’s going to affect his 80% of his results. That 20% can be our nutrition, our mental state, the environmental influences, or our activity level.

How do we determine this 20%? And that is to use the time that we are given when things don’t go our way, whether we’re stuck in line or we’re in the car, we should always have something around to further our growth in terms of overall health.

I’ve had people respond to me with this by saying that they actually feel selfish that they’re spending so much time going over things for their own health. But remember that there are people who love you and they want you around for as long as possible. And so it is important for you to become your own authority on your health. You’re fully capable of doing that. I’m certainly going to spend a lot time teaching you about that.

In the car, you can be listening to educational tapes. In line you can be reading books. When it comes to reading books about nutrition or whatever that 20% is for you or whatever pillar of health it is that makes the most difference for you, let’s discuss how to do that.

With books, my advice is don’t read diet books. Read nutrition books. When you go to Amazon, check out the categories and choose nutrition books. Diet books are just often fad-based books that promise you you’ll lose 20 lbs. in 30 days or whatever marketing formula they’ll come up with.

  1. Have I set up my schedule so I get my rest?

It’s a very simple question. If you’re not rested, you’re not capable of having clear thoughts. Your adrenal glands get stressed, and actually amazingly, this causes you to not be able to handle stress the same way. Take someone who’s tired and someone’s who’s stressed, you can see their stress reactions very clearly. People who are relaxed, things don’t stressed them as much. But people who haven’t gotten their rest and then they get stressed, it just pushes them over the hill.

Try to picture this: there are different people walking up the hill towards the cliff. Those who are tired and stressed go over the cliff. People who are down on the hill and are rested, they go up a little bit and they get tired too, but they don’t go over the cliff.

  1. When I find a way to express myself, do I do it even if others may disapprove?

This question and the next one are really the ones where a lot of people haven’t gotten to that level yet, where they’ll do something even if others will disapprove. That’s okay. But by being aware that we don’t have the strength to do things that other people disapprove of, it’s one step towards getting there.

The reason this is important when it comes to dieting is because when you start eating differently, people may say something. They may disapprove of it. It can make them uncomfortable. You need to be able to do something for your own health and not worry about what everyone else says.

  1. Have I freed myself of regional or cultural customs that hamper how I eat or exercise?

This is in a sense very similar to question no. 3. When I go to synagogues for example, I see a lot of cakes but I don’t eat them. At the synagogues I go to, people are aware that I eat healthy and my rabbi’s wife makes extra salads for me and such. We need to get to that point. We need to be able to say, “Okay, maybe this cultural food that I’m eating is not going to help me get where I want to be.” We need to acknowledge that.

This is why these questions are great because once we’re aware of them, the next time it happens that you’re at a cultural event and people are eating something that won’t be good for your health, you can be aware of it, inject that space and have that freedom to make a decision and say, “Okay, this is our regional cultural custom and I’m not going to partake in it.” You can tell them what you’re doing for your health and come up with other creative ways to tell them that you’re not going to eat specific foods, especially during the holidays.

  1. Am I willing to question the way others do things and never make an absolute guide out of “That’s the way it is done.”?

This one goes back to the idea of you becoming your own authority here. Even with what I say, you shouldn’t just take it and accept it. You should question it. Think about it through four difference levels of evaluation: physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. We’ll go through all these four levels as we go through the course. What’s important here is when someone presents you new information, you’ll go through them through these four levels.

Zig Ziglar, a motivational speaker, used to say, “I check things out physiologically, psychologically, and theologically.

The bible even says it better, “Every day I set before you life or death. Choose life.” And so we have to acknowledge that every single day we are presented with a life-affirming decision or a life-denying decision. At each level of evaluation, ask yourself before deciding if it’s life-affirming or life-denying.

With emotions, ultimately we don’t feel like we’re choosing our emotions, but that’s why we are injecting those spaces. We know there are certain life-affirming emotions like love, faith and hope, and there’s life-denying decisions like doubt, anger, and depression. We need to acknowledge these emotions and make the decision that we’re going to do things to make ourselves feel these positive emotions more than these negative emotions.

Intellectually, we should be choosing things that further our growth. When we decide what book or magazine to read or what movie to watch for example, whatever it is that we do intellectually, is it a life-affirming decision or a life-denying decision?

And then spiritually-speaking, is it affirming my faith? Is it increasing my faith? Or is it doing the opposite?

On all these four different levels, we can learn what is the idea of choosing life.

  1. Have I convinced myself that I am losing weight not only to look better, but for the new things and blessings I can appreciate when I am healthier than I am now?

The motivation of weight loss awakening is to move towards health and in the process of doing this, you will lose weight or you will get to what your genetic weight is supposed to be. As I mentioned, my patients with autoimmune disease, it was just to get healthier and in the process, they reached the weight that they gained.

Your Participation Counts

Zig Ziglar said, “You can get everything in life that you want if you help enough people get what they want.” I want us to all help each other in the Weight Loss Awakening Friendship Group, so we can create a supportive community where we’re helping each other, and as a result, that helps ourselves.

Which of these questions do you have the most difficulty with? For question number 4, what is your response going to be? I would also love to hear what it is that you’re going to do to become an authority in those times where you’d get stuck in the car or line. Let me know in the comments section.



(1) The questions in their original form are 1.  When circumstances require me to use my time in a way I did not plan to use it, do I in that time, know my own mind and use it beneficially? 2. Have I set up my work schedule so that I need not live in fear of work overwhelming me and stealing my hours of rest? 3.  When I find a way to express myself, and know it is socially unacceptable, do I continue to express myself in that manner even though others may find it strange? 4. Have I freed myself of any family or regional or cultural custom which has hampered my career or my personal life? 5. Am I willing to question the ways in which other people do things, and never make an absolute guide out of “That’s the way it is done?” 6.  Do I realize that I am not working for money, but for that which money can buy?

(2) Dietz WH, Scanlon, KS. 2012. Eliminating the Use of Partially Hydrogenated Oil in Food Production and Preparation. JAMA. 2012;308(2):143-144.

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