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Seminar to examine mental health’s effect on weight

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Dr. M., as he is known, tells a story about the time he met Rosa Parks.

It was here in Albuquerque, years ago, and the civil rights pioneer told him she didn’t know what all the fuss was about. She said she did nothing extraordinary that day in 1955 when she refused to move to the back of the bus in Montgomery, Ala. Why should she have moved? Parks asked. After all, she already had a seat.

Then she told Dr. M: “I’ve only done one thing. You do good things every day. You are the real hero. Let’s stay in touch, and if I can ever help with anything, please, just let me know.” She jotted her home phone number on a slip of paper and handed it to him.

A few years later, Dr. M., a psychotherapist and counselor in Albuquerque whose full name is Wayne Meyerowitz, had a teenage patient whose problem was very low self esteem. The doctor asked the girl to read several books about Rosa Parks. He then called Parks, told her about his patient, and asked if she would write back if the girl wrote to her. The response was “Of course!”

The girl was still reluctant. “Why would Rosa Parks write to me?” she asked. “I’m no one.”

But she wrote the letter, and Parks followed through. “And her whole life changed,” Meyerowitz says of his client.

Dr. M., as most people call him, uses a similar type of strategy in his work counseling people with weight issues, an interest of his for more than 30 years. “Eating is not the problem,” he says. “It’s what drives you to eat. It’s important to understand the impact of mental health – or lack of – on the body.”

On Wednesday, the University of New Mexico Continuing Education Center hosts a seminar called Weight Issues and Depression, sponsored by the Albuquerque Family Mental Health Clinic, which Meyerowitz founded and directs.

In addition to the doctor, speakers will include a diabetes educator and a dietitian/nutritionist. The speakers will look at the history, physical ramifications, treatment and prevention of weight problems. Types of weight-related depression will also be examined, along with prevention and treatment strategies.

Eating is such a major part of our culture and our lives, Meyerowitz says. Some people react to problems by undereating – “You’ve heard of anorexia?” – while others overeat.

He then tells another story, this one about a former patient who confided that she really didn’t want to lose 70 excess pounds because that would make her more attractive to men. She was relieved that “guys don’t look at me.”

The problem was not overeating, but an inability to relate to men.

What’s needed, says Dr. M, is a more direct and ultimately honest way of looking at underlying matters. His approach is to focus on solutions more than overt problems. “It’s all under your control, what you want,” he says. “Don’t say, ‘I can’t lose weight,’ but ask yourself, ‘How?’ ”

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