Saturday, December 7, 2013

Meet Dilia Suriel, Author

Dilia Suriel was trained as a scientist and majored in physics and mathematics. After undergraduate school, she pursued a master's degree first in electrical engineering, finally settling into computer science. For her entire professional career she has worked in the computer industry culminating at director-level at various international consulting engagements.

Dilia woke up one day knowing that she needed to use her talents to analyze the dieting hell that she endured for far too many years. She is the author of The Thin Woman's Brain: Re-wiring the Brain for Permanent Weight Loss, a book which has debuted to appreciative reviews on

Her vision for the book is to end the concept of dieting, as it is creating a culture that is detrimental to our country. Dilia goes on to articulate her mission statement as follows: "It is my belief that humanity will evolve because of female consciousness. Too much of our potential is squandered when so many women feel ashamed of their bodies. If just 2% of this wasted energy could be re-channeled toward positive activities, our entire race would be richly blessed."

1. What motivated you to write The Thin Woman's Brain: Re-wiring the Brain for Permanent Weight Loss?

Like many women, I had a long history of losing weight but was never able to keep it off for more than six months. I once again found myself at the stage where I was ready to go through the gauntlet of dieting, but I had a satori moment. I realized that if I continued doing what I had always done (new diets, lose weight, gain all of the weight back) without any understanding as to why that happened, I had no guarantee that this time it would be different. So, I asked a new question. I didn't ask, "Could this year's new diet help me lose the weight?" I already knew the answer to that one. I asked, "What makes me believe that this time the weight will stay off? What would be different this time after I lost the weight?"

I have lost weight 11 different times! Each and every time it was through hard work and white knuckle, Navy Seal willpower. But I gain the weight back within six months, most of the time even gaining more back than what I lost throughout the diet. I made up my mind that I needed to ask a different question. The question was NOT "How do I lose weight?" but INSTEAD "How can I keep the weight off after I lose it?" When I asked that question, I then noticed that there are women who do not diet, who do not struggle with weight issues, who eat whatever they want and who manage to stay thin without dieting. In my book, I call them "Naturally Thin Women." These women are not chronic dieters, and they maintain a healthy weight. Some of them exercise; many do not. Some of them are vegetarian or gluten intolerant, but many are meat and potato ladies. There is no pattern to the exercise or diet regimen for these Naturally Thin Women, but there are pronounced differences in terms of their relationship with food.

I then began researching studies that explain the brain level differences of Naturally Thin subjects, and I can now attest unequivocally that the thin woman's brain is different! That is what caused me to write the book.

2. I know your book is different than "diet books." Could you tell us more about what distinguishes it?

A diet book is about what you are supposed to eat and why it is that a eating certain food or avoiding specific food categories will help us lose the weight. Unfortunately, what scientists have demonstrated is that chronic diets have altered our brains to make us food-obsessed and eat compulsively. Once our brains are modified in this manner, food becomes an overpowering force in our lives, and additional diets plunge it deeper into those behaviors. Even when we make a pact with ourselves to stop overeating, we find that we can't control our behavior.

The Thin Woman's Brain speaks specifically to the dark side of chronic dieting and what it does to your brain: lower dopamine levels, cause food obsession, and result in compulsive overeating, to name a few. Essentially, we become addicted to food. The Thin Woman's Brain speaks to a protocol to restore the brain to a healthy relationship with food and to lose weight in a manner that doesn't plunge the brain into more severe levels of food addiction.

Most alcoholics stay away from bars and parties where alcohol is the main event. But, as you know, once we are addicted to food, we can't stop seeing it or eating it. What we must force is the restoration of a different and healthier relationship with food. The Thin Woman's Brain shows the scientific studies that demonstrate why dieting is actually not in your best interest if your long term objective is permanent weight loss. More importantly, the book provides a step-by-step program which leverages the advances in neuroplasticity to restore the brain back to a healthy relationship with food.

Also, a very important distinction is that the Thin Woman's protocol is not about strategies such as drinking massive amounts of water or using smaller plates, some of the behaviors that we observe naturally thin women do. There are already plenty of magazines about those behaviors. It's about rewiring the brain back to its healthy relationship with food.

3. How important are our emotions, thoughts and perceptions when it comes to losing weight?

Paramount! Let's start with emotions. Food is often how you suppress your emotions--not cope with, but suppress. Please note that it is extremely important to recognize that going on a date with Mr. Haagen Dazs when we are lonely doesn't make the loneliness go away. Instead, it makes us feel awful once the date is over.

So, if eating is how we handle emotional imbalance, our ability to be at a healthy weight is only a function of the periods of time when it is within your capacity to handle your emotions well. The moment that there are emotional challenges is the moment that emotional eaters gain weight. Not all food addicts are emotional overeaters; however, emotional imbalance is one of the major triggers for many overeaters. Learning how to address the real emotional need is part of the rewiring process.

Food obsessions are thoughts. It has now been scientifically proven that these types of thoughts produce dopamine, the neural transmitter associated with pleasure in humans. So, learning how to recognize, accept, and effectively process those thoughts is part of the rewiring process.

Perception and beliefs drive our actions, so if I believe that "healthy foods" are not worth the extra money, it is that belief that drives what foods I purchase. This is important as the studies have demonstrated that sugar and certain food-enhancers are highly addictive. The fact is that many over-processed, flavor-enhanced foods contribute to food addiction. Therefore, foods high in sugar are inherently addictive and a deterrent to our ability to maintain a healthy weight. Until I understood that there was no connection between "healthy foods" and food addiction, I was not willing to invest in these types of food. The irony is that by buying cheap foods that cause overeating, we typically spend more money than when we buy healthy foods in smaller quantities.

There is a powerful assumption in the belief that food can make us feel better. While it is true, it is only the case when our blood sugar level is low. However, when we start believing that food can be substituted for companionship or entertainment and provide solace, then that's where the belief is flawed. The fact is that after the few seconds of pleasure during the act of eating, we actually feel pretty bad about overeating.

So yes, emotions, thoughts, and perceptions do influence overeating and, depending on the level of addiction (which we can now measure), there are different degrees that will drive the overeating behaviors.

4. How did you incorporate your own experience when writing your book?

I believe that it was important to place my own personal experiences side by side with the scientific data that explained food fantasies, food obsession, and compulsive overeating. Readers keep writing me and asking me, "How did you know that about me? I have never, ever shared that I do that with another human being. How can you possibly know that is what I do?" This response just speaks to the fact that food addicts share very similar behaviors.

However, I don't personally care for the bleeding heart genre as there just too many of these. I was more interested in juxtaposing my own experience to provide a human side to the scientific studies. Otherwise, the book would read like a compilation of scientific studies and not the solution that I was interested in sharing.

5. Why does your book speak to women specifically, rather than to both men and women?

Several men have read the book and found it very useful. However, women have unique issues around weight that most men never experience related to body image, self-worth, and, for some, self-definition. These can be debilitating issues in many women's lives. In our culture, it is women who have been most affected by the "ideal" body image.

Also, by addressing the book to women, I felt comfortable selecting examples that I knew would speak strongly to women. When it came to sharing my experiences, it was easier to do it from a female perspective. Finally, while I'm not sure of how a man's brain actually works, I know that there is a substantial amount of documentation as to the biological differences.

And yes, I know that many men do have weight issues, but their personhood is not compromised as it is for many women when they are overweight. There is an interest in taking the documentation and Thin Cognitive Behavioral protocol and tweaking it for men. I will consider teaming up with male writers to produce a version for men. However, in the meantime, the men who have read it have still found it useful.

Thanks, Dilia!

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