Australian General Semantics Society Inc.




Seminar Summary - April 2017


"Introduction to GS for beginners"
General semantics principles applied to the problem of living a healthy lifestyle, particularly relating to "weight management"!
Led by David Hewson


Our seminar
at "Cifftop View" Bonnet Bay in Sydney was hosted as usual by Pauline and Gavan - Thank you both!


Sharing of triumphs and tragedies and miscellaneous yarns.


GS Diary
In the spirit of "applying general semantics principles" to our lives, as opposed to dwelling in theory, we considered members' accounts of observations and applications relating to the principles and formulations of our discipline.


After a brief introduction to Korzybski’s background and motivation we covered some “basic” formulations.

Korzybski wrote: "We need not blind ourselves with the old dogma that 'human nature cannot be changed', for we find that it can be changed, i.e. changing premises from P1 => P2

We discussed (inter alia):

GS Map-territory relations

  • The map is not ALL the territory it represents.  Hence uncertainty about territory. Non-absolutism.

  • The map is not the territory it represents.  The word is not the thing.  Hence dating.

  • Maps can be made of maps (self-reflexive) and the theory of types. Self-reflexiveness

  • The map should be structurally similar to the territory for a person.


  • Viewpoints affect what is seen e.g. relativity  (to me attitude)

  • Background /context effect on evaluating & meaning


  • Abstracting: leaving out details and adding in others (over/under defined terms.)

  • Solution to intensional problem: get more extensional.

  • Structural differential

  • Abstracting natural order: from event to, senses, object(non verbal), label(verbal), etc

  • Consciousness of abstracting and its implications

  • We watched a few visual illusions to show some of the abstracting processes.

Abstracting problems

  • Aristotle's other laws of thought.  Horizontal and vertical identity.

  • We conducted the three bowls of water experiment where A can be both B (warm) and not B (cool) when you have viewpoints and context.

  • Identification of orders of abstraction e.g. one name for many levels, e.g. "X is X".

  • Non identity A1<>A2   At1 <> At2
    as opposed to identity of A=A as absolute sameness and

  • Projection of properties onto reality I.e. IS of predication "a rose is red"

  • Extensional devices as a fix
     i.e. date, index, etc, “and then”, quote and hyphen

  • Degree orientation to replace Either/Or

  • Differences in similarities and similarities in differences. Rather than just similarities

  • Communication imperfect => expect miscommunication and index word meaning, e.g. “diets don’t’ work” which on further communication that “most people (95%) do not keep off the weight they lost in a short term diet.  Nearly 50% not only regain their old weight but put more on.”

  • How earlier input can affect our abstracting.

  • Then we discussed applying the formulations to living a healthy lifestyle.

Health Issues - Weight Control

  • To achieve weight loss, one needs to burn more calories than consumed. Nearly everyone knows this yet few achieve it.  95% of those who lose some weight put it back on a few years later.

  • How to solve the problem?  One needs to change ones behaviour.

  • We need motivation, knowledge and intelligent use of knowledge and motivation.

  • Knowledge alone won’t work, and motivation / willpower alone won’t work.  Examples were given of people failing.

  • Motivation to lose weight

Overweight risks:

  • BMI: body mass index = weight (kg) / height squared, eg 80kg / 2m^2 = 20.

  • 27+ gives a 3 to 5 times increased risk of diabetes and a doubled risk of heart attack.

  • Those with a BMI over 30 have over 300 times the risk of cancer compared to someone under BMI 25.

  • Every kilogram of weight when having a BMI over 25 gives a drop of 2 months of life, all other factors being equivalent.

  • The easiest diet is not to get fat in the first place, Or don't get fatter. 

  • Watch out for Yo-yo diets where starvation diets that lead to fast weight loss tend to bounce and gain weight at a fast rate once the diet has stopped. It’s better to have slow weight loss via a small reduction in calories consumed and an increase in exercise.  As your muscle mass goes up your BMR goes up.  Starvation makes your muscle mass go down.

  • It takes a change of lifestyle to stay at a healthy BMI.  Not a short term diet.

  • We viewed a video (BBC program “What’s the Right Diet for You?”  A horizon Special) that applied the formulation of indexing to weight loss.  Rather than one diet for all, they split the people up into three groups.  Constant cravers (who like eating “all” the time), emotional eaters (who eat after an emotional trigger like stress) and feasters (who once they start eating, find it hard to stop).  One of their dieting methods was the 5:2 regime where you eat a normal maintenance diet for 5 days a week and then on two separate days one has a low calorie fast.  It also talked about how to cope with breaking the diet.

Muscle loss:

When you lose weight and keep your exercise level the same, you tend to lose muscle as well as fat. e.g. a lady lost 20 kg comprising of 16 kg fat & 4 kg muscle.  I.e. 25% of weight  lost is muscle.  On starvation diets this goes higher 30 - 50%.  1 kg of muscle can burn up 50 calories a day even without exercise.  So 4 kg = 200 calorie a day which is about a kilogram weight gain a month on the old maintenance diet.  So exercise more to keep up muscle mass.

Optimal weight loss

This occurs at about 0.25 to 0.5 kg per week.  Slow and steady leads to an easier maintained weight than does a fast diet.  Also it gives the skin time to shrink flat. 

Keep the feeling of hunger at bay by controlling the size of your stomach.  An empty stomach can lead to hunger pangs but a full one will do this less. 

Research showed that after starving one is much more likely to eat high fat, high sugar foods and eat too much. 


  • Have a glass of water before and with the meal.

  • Slim down your stomach size by a third with 4 weeks of low volume/calorie eating.  And don't expand it again by having large meals.

  • Keep the meal sizes down by making breakfast, lunch and dinner about the same size,  i.e. get rid of the one huge meal a day pattern, as this just keeps your stomach large.  Also eat at reasonably spaced intervals.

  • Eat high fibre bulky foods, to give yourself a full feeling on low calories.  And move off the high fat, high sugar, high alcohol, calorie dense foods.  You can do this change of food habits in about two weeks. 


For more information on filing foods lookup the Satiety Index in the "European Journal of Clinical Nutrition" (1995).

The body needs a certain amount of protein a day. 


We read “Managing Your Weight Through GS” by Paul D Johnston in ETC Vol 52 No 1, and discussed changing our premises as a means of changing our behaviour.



We also discussed how eating and exercise affect Cancer


Cancer cell energy mechanisms work inefficiently compared to a normal cell, which can produce 19 times the amount of ATP from the same amount of glucose compared to a cancer cell. Therefore cancer cells need a lot more glucose to grow.  So starving a cancer is a good strategy, by having a low calorie diet and keeping the weight down under a BMI of 25 and at least 40 minutes exercise a day to burn up the food in the blood.  This slows the growth of cancers. 


Experiments show that exercise triggers the body’s natural killer cells that reduced tumour growth by 60-70%  in one experiment.

They found that exercise prompts the release of adrenaline. This stress hormone in turn stimulates the immune system to send its cancer-fighting natural killer cells into the bloodstream. A substance called interleukin-6, which is released by exercising muscles, then directs these killer cells to attack the tumours.



Business Meeting

We reflected on the year past and planned for the year ahead, in our usual style.

Next Meeting:

Sun 14 May
"GS Formulations"

We're pretty familiar with the concepts of "time binding", "consciousness of abstracting" and "The map is not the territory".  But is that "all" there is to GS?

Led by Robert James

Disclaimer: This "summary" is a collection of notes derived from our discussion by a number of means.  It is by no means a scholarly dissertation on the subject as presented.  It does not purport to be the "policy of AGS".  Comment and criticism (constructive or otherwise) is welcome.  If anyone has been misquoted, copyrights infringed or confidences betrayed, please Contact us.



Updated by RJ 10 April 2017

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