When I work with my private clients, we talk a lot about relationships. Not just relationships to other people, but to their bodies, their food, and themselves. I’ve learned from my beloved teachers in different ways that EVERYTHING is all about relationship. Nothing and no one is truly isolated. This applies from the macro perspective of the universe all the way down to a molecular level. Everything exists in relationship to something else. We’re not just wired that way, we’re part of a universe that operates by that principle
So when we start to think about this in regard to our food, well, things start to get real, don’t they? I was afraid of food for a long time, of my hunger, my need for food, and (what I thought was) my lack of control over it.
I remember thinking once when I was a teenager, if only people didn’t have to eat, then all the world’s problems would be solved.
I was convinced all MY problems would disappear if I just didn’t feel the need to eat. I was convinced that if I had the power not to eat, that I could eliminate present and future pain, fear, and anxiety.
How does a belief like this take hold? What was really happening?
I can see now that it had a lot to do with disconnection. From the world around me, from my own body, and from feeling. I thought I was succeeding at eliminating pain because I was so disconnected from it that it felt almost absent. But the impact of that pain was still very present.
When I began practicing yoga, I starting making my way home to my body. The unfamiliar movements brought awareness to internal landscapes that had been abandoned for a really long time. The stories and teachings of the yogic tradition shone a new light on my own thoughts and beliefs, and I started paying attention to EVERYTHING in a new way, including food and eating.
With hard work, courage, and willingness to challenge my old patterns and beliefs, I’ve come to truly believe that food isn’t something to be afraid of. Not only that, food is a powerful connector and a conduit of love. It connects us to the earth, to our body’s innate wisdom, and to each other.
Sometimes, so that we can get a clearer picture of our beliefs about something, it’s helpful to think of that thing not as an It, but as a She or He. For example, if I were to tell my story of food with Food as a character, it would sound like this:
Food and I had quite a falling out.
We were never super close, but there was a time when we weren’t friends at all. I would ignore her calls and secretly hope she’d never call again. She was pretty persistent, though, and we started talking again. But it was only for a while and I still felt resentful about it. Then I became obsessed with controlling her.
She was all I could think about! I had a list of hard rules we had to follow in order to hang out. She had to dress a certain way, show up only at certain times, and if we missed a date, we just missed it. I wouldn’t reschedule with her until at least the next day. Also, I didn’t want anyone to see us together! She was always really patient with me, though. She was always there, waiting for me to get my shit together so we could truly be friends.
It took a lot of work to be friends with her again. And really, it wasn’t her, it was me. It was definitely me. I used to think she was out to get me. Or that if I kept her away or controlled her, I could keep other things away, like Fear and Doubt and Pain. (Turns out they don’t really know each other.) Now I know she just loves me. That’s all. Just love. If I let her, she gives me everything I need, and I don’t have to be afraid of her or ashamed of being seen with her.
We’re closer now than ever, even though we still have our rough days.
She’s pretty amazing, actually. She has so many different personalities. Sometimes she’s super sweet and sometimes she’s really boring. Some days she’s all crunchy, too. It seems that she shows up exactly how I need her to be if I just let her. And I’m way better off when we’re friends than when we’re not.
Here’s a simple journal exercise for you to try.
Think about your food story. Go back as many or as few years as you want to. Begin writing about that period of time (maybe it’s now!) using these questions as guidelines.
- What did food mean?
- How did you treat your hunger?
- How did you perceive your body during that time?
- Imagine food as a personified character. What does He or She look like, dress like, sound like?
- If you treated your best friend the same way you treated food, what would happen?
- What do you wish your relationship with food looked like?
- What if you treated your best friend the way you treat food?
- What can you do, or what did you do, to repair or improve this relationship?
I recommend that you spend a minimum of 15 minutes on this exercise. If you stop at 5 minutes when you don’t know what else to write, you’ll never get down to the good stuff. Then put it away until the next day. Give yourself plenty of time to read and study. It’s likely you’ll be surprised by what is revealed.
Tell me about what you learn in the comments!
If this exercise resonates for you, I invite you to consider beginning 2018 with me in my 5-week program, Enough Already. No weight loss program, no diet plan, no fitness challenge. Instead, a combination of community support, online support, and weekly explorations to help you discover that your are already enough. Find out more or sign up here.