Comparisons Are Odorous


The illustration shows what the Oxford University Press says about the word “odious,” which has over the centuries collected so many synonyms, you know it must be powerful. Probably the context most familiar to people today still dates back to the paraphrase of something written by John Lydgate in the mid-1400s — “Comparisons are odious.”

Shakespeare had fun with it, in one of his plays, twisting the line to “Comparisons are odorous.” As usual, he was correct. Comparisons stink.

Why do we think we not good enough, not beautiful enough, not thin enough, not smart enough, not successful enough, not happy enough — and just plain losers in every possible way? Because we compare ourselves to others. In the most basic sense, this is just fundamentally stupid. For starters, there is no proof that those fabulous others are really as good, beautiful, thin, smart, successful, or happy as they claim or appear to be.

The feeling of inadequacy engendered in us by their superiority might be based on nothing more than a construct of lies. But despite being founded on so much untruth, the perception that one’s self is inadequate leads to anxiety and depression. As it happens, anxiety and depression are two of the main roots of eating disorders.

Anxiety and depression

Professor of Behavioral Science Paul Dolan, based in the U.K., is one of the handful of experts who design happiness studies. What does he say about depression and anxiety?

[…] changing behavior and enhancing happiness is as much about withdrawing attention from the negative as it is about attending to the positive… The more a person is inclined to gratitude, the less likely he or she is to be depressed, anxious, lonely, envious, or neurotic.

In a perfect world, more psychiatrists would be dealing with obesity, but they have other things to do. Psychologists in the obesity field, says Dr. Pretlow, “seem to be treating only the psychological effects of being obese, rather than the psychological causes of obesity.”

In “What Else Can Non-Psychiatrists Do?” Childhood Obesity News talked about psychiatric nurse practitioners, one of the many varieties of mental health professionals who can help prevent and reverse obesity. In that same post we discussed the dangers of succumbing to “socially prescribed perfectionism,” or the mistaken belief that we are somehow obligated to live up to other people’s ideas about how we should look, act, believe, etc.

Fortunately, plenty of mental health professionals are trained to get rid of hangups, like the attachment to socially prescribed perfectionism. It doesn’t take a full-fledged psychiatrist — or even a credentialed psychologist — to help a person look inward instead of outward, and make better decisions about how to allocate the limited resource known as attention.

The skill of gratitude can be both taught and learned. So can the method of breaking down change into small, manageable increments or “baby steps,” as described by Chris Kresser.

Kresser also outlined the role of the health coach, who in his organization works along with a nutritionist to give a patient the intense and attentive support needed while adopting diet and lifestyle changes. He says:

They’re actually even going to take you shopping, they’re going to come to your house and clean out your pantry with you, and they’re going to give you recipes and meal plans and give you… Totally hold your hand…

There is room for, and need for, many types of professionals, because obviously this thing hasn’t yet been solved.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Happiness by Design: Change What You Do, Not How You Think,”, July 2015
Source: “RHR: A Three-Step Plan to Fix Conventional Healthcare,”, 11/07/17
Image: Google Books

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