This morning, I was working with a client who has been struggling for years to lose weight.
She has learned a lot about how to eat healthier and how to exercise, but up until recently had not begun to face the real nub of her challenge: compulsive overeating.
If you are a food addict, you will be self medicating with food every time you feel angry, lonely, tired, bored or any other of 100 uncomfortable emotions that come up for you.
Overeating will be second nature or perhaps even an everyday activity.
That is why, even though as a nutritionist I have all the menu plans you could ever want in the most excruciating detail possible, I frequently don’t start there when working with food addicted clients. Knowing what to eat is often not their problem.
One of the many important steps in this particular healing journey is to learn to like your body.
Why is it so important to learn to like your body?
When you learn to like your body, you will be more likely to take good care of it – you know, get enough sleep, eat the food that actually gives you energy and makes you feel good as opposed to just tastes good, find a way to move that gives you joy, dress well in a way that makes you feel good about yourself.
When you like your body, you will be less likely to abuse it.
Many food addicted people never stop to comprehend the fact that when they are gorging or bingeing, they are actually causing major problems for their internal organs – just like an alcoholic damages their own liver and unbalances their own brain chemistry.
When you really understand how hard your body works every moment of every day to support you while you are walking in this lifetime on your spiritual path, you will be more likely to appreciate what goes on inside and take the steps necessary to support the process of feeling good.
You might could think of taking time to get hold of the way you eat as a mere matter of vanity.
After all, who really cares what size dress you wear or how much you weigh?
In fact, getting a hold of yourself and the way you eat may be the closest you ever come to true spiritual growth.
If you have a food addiction, that means that in the back of your mind you will be either consciously or subconsciously obsessed with food – what you are going to eat, scoring your binge, what you ate yesterday, what you aren’t going to eat today to make up for it, your guilt for overeating, your yearning for something different every time you look in the mirror.
You will not feel free on the inside – you will be enslaved.
I explained to my client that learning to like your body is actually a spiritual step.
Why is learning to like your body a spiritual endeavor?
When you learn to like your body, you will feel a certain sense of gratitude for whatever it is that God gave you. And that’s spiritual.
In qi gong, there is a very simple meditation that we do that involves smiling at each of your organs and visualizing that organ smiling back at you.
In this way, we can begin to show a small sense of appreciation for our physical body.
As women, the only messages that we receive that our body is not acceptable come from outside ourselves.
Where and when did you learn your body was not O.K.?
I can remember getting messages from my pediatrician, who talked about the ideal size of a woman’s rear end.
I can remember hearing messages from my father, who talked about caloric restriction and said that if I ate half as much food it wouldn’t really matter.
I can remember listening to my mother, who told me it was painful to be beautiful.
If we had grown up in a world without the mass media, without fashion magazines full of anorexic teenage girls, we might possibly wake up in the morning, feeling young and alive on the inside, and feel grateful for our body.
Do the math.
And it’s not counting your calories.
It’s the inner math of really getting a grip inside yourself to free yourself from obsession with food and learning to really like your body.
One year, I went to a coach every week and just focused entirely – ever week for an entire year – on my relationship to food and my relationship with my body.
Even though, as a woman I am not now nor will I ever feel perfect, I probably feel more free inside around food and about my body than any other woman I know.
What do you need to make a major change in this area?
Here are my suggestions:
- You need a mentor. A mentor is someone who has walked the path ahead of you. Many nutritionists I know will freely admit that they are also food addicts. You have to find someone who has found the inner path to freedom.
- You need to make an effort literally every day if you are to overcome a true addiction. These could be very small, very comfortable steps, such as taking five minutes to meditate, to bless your food, to fix a healthy dinner, to go to the grocery to have healthy snacks on hand so that when you walk in the door you don’t bolt for the chips.
- You need to make a major recommitment every week. This could be a session with me, your coach, to address the emotions that are currently holding you back.
- You have to do it for yourself, not for anybody else. Learn to like your body and in the process learn to free your mind. It’s not about losing weight to wear your bathing suit this summer. It’s not about dropping 20 lbs. to compete in the dating market. It’s about you getting more comfortable with yourself.
And that’s major, deep, truly meaningful spiritual work.