“We don’t want to eat hot fudge sundaes as much as we want our lives to be hot fudge sundaes.”
~ Geneen Roth, Women, Food and God
Among my female clients, there is a deep, palpable yearning to make peace with food. They are extremely motivated to end their struggles with food, to stop bingeing at night, and to feel pleasure and satisfaction in life when they are not eating, but their relationship to food has fallen out of harmony, and they have lost their enjoyment of eating.
No more dieting. Clothes that always fit. Maintaining a healthy weight without the need to weigh yourself every week. Making peace with food means that several hours pass when you are not hungry or thinking about food. Making peace with food means that when you are hungry, you take enjoyment in eating, and stop when you feel full. It means that you don’t obsess about food or count calories in order to decide if you can “afford” to eat or not.
Is peace with food possible? Yes. But in order to get there, you have to go beyond the food. And in order to do that, you need to look straight into something bigger, something that is a source of self-criticism, anxiety, even negativity.
In order to make peace with food, you must make peace with your life.
Why? Because the way we experience pleasure with food is a mirror of how we experience pleasure in life.
Many of our experiences of hunger are not hunger for food, but when we feel them, we mistakenly try to relieve them by eating. Instead of criticizing yourself, acknowlege that you simply went looking for happiness in the wrong place. Too often we use food as a band-aid, a quick-fix, a reactive habit pattern, for things that we are not willing (or are too fearful) to address directly: boredom, loneliness, fear, worry, difficult relationships, hurt, feeling stuck in a career you don’t love…
To address our struggles with food at their source, we must acknowledge that the problem is not in our food. Food is just food. It is neither good nor bad. The problem lies in our thinking minds and feeling hearts. And the only tool that will heal these beautiful organs is slowing down and paying deliberate attention to the many sensations, thoughts, and emotions that come up around eating, without judgment or critcism.
So, begin by engaging all parts of yourself – your bodies, minds, and hearts – in choosing, preparing, and eating food. Invite all your senses to your meals. Then stay here. And then keep coming back here. It’s in this state of complete mindfulness that you can look straight into your struggles with food, and over time, watch yourself relax into your body, career, fears and desires, and whatever else life presents to you. Not only will you reawaken your pleasure in eating, but you will reawaken your joy of living.