Maintenance – Calling all Compulsive Eaters

“Freedom from obsession (or compulsive eating) is not about something you do; it’s about knowing who you are.”

I recently read the New York Bestseller (thanks to Oprah) called “WOMEN, FOOD AND GOD” by Geneen Roth.

It is a fantastic book that delves into the reason why women are so obsessed with food.  She talks candidly about her own food demons, and discusses the stories of different women that have come to her counseling sessions.  I am not obese and I never have been; yet I can relate to so many of the stories in the book.  Not as much in a physical way, but in a truly emotional way.  I watch The Biggest Loser and I feel like I can totally relate to each contestant.  I feel like I have been battling my weight for almost 20 years.  But NO MORE!  It is no longer a battle….no more war zone.  No more euphoria of starting a new ‘fail-proof-plan’….no more disappointment of the scale.  No more obsessing….no more Mondays (oh you know the Mondays I’m talking about….we always want to start fresh on Mondays:).

This change has NOT come from my scale (in fact I bet I haven’t even lost a pound).  It hasn’t come from a reached goal or a dress size.  My change has come (and is still continuing) from realizing who I am and understanding my relationship with food.

I am not a psychologist, and I have not professional credentials (does Accountant count?).  But I am a women who has sought to have a good relationship with food.  A relationship that is true, and honest, and good, and wholesome.  A relationship that leaves me feeling edified rather than down trodden.  I have just barely begun this relationship, but I think I am at least headed down the right street.

I would say that this ‘proper’ relationship with food has begun for several reasons;

  • A deep desire to have it
  • A lot of reading…a lot.  Women, Food and God was tremendously helpful although I don’t agree with all of her Eating Guidelines (see below)
  • An INTENSE study of nutrition and the affects of food on the body, mind, and spirit
  • A strong, healthy, loving relationship with my Creator – this is HUGE HUGE HUGE
  • An awareness of myself and the absolute necessity of loving who I am
  • Yoga – it’s not a cliche – there is something power about connecting our body and our spirit together
  • A little quiet time everyday – call in meditation, prayer, or envisioning – but just a few minutes everyday to focus the thoughts and images in the brain can be very healing and powerful
  • A determination to no longer judge myself (or the people around me) – a piece of cheesecake will no longer send me the wrath of my own judgments

I am in a good place TODAY.  This is my goal.  I don’t always achieve it.  There are some days when I let the old voices in, but each day I want to at least WANT to be in a good place.

Our relationship with food is so complicated.  Unlike other addictions that we can try to completely forsake (alcohol, drugs, etc), we still need to eat!  Food will always be a part of our lives.  So we need to slowly evaluate the many different roles we allow food to have in our life – comforter, nourisher, cheerleader, companion, distracter, filler etc, etc.   The key to understanding is in awareness.  “Awareness and compulsion can’t co-exist.” Geneen Roth

The author of Women, Food and God points out that HOW we eat is just as important as WHAT we eat.  If we are standing in the kitchen where no one can see us, if we are hiding wrappers as if we didn’t consume, if we are taking licks bites and tastes instead of sitting down to an actual meal, if we resent ourselves after a meal ……all of these are clues into how we feel about ourselves and our right to eat.  She offers these Eating Guidelines:

1. Eat when you are hungry. (Truly hungry, body hungry not mind hungry) -do you even know what this feels like?

2. Eat sitting down in a calm environment. This does not include the car. -this was surprisingly hard for me for breakfast and lunch.

3.Eat without distractions. Distractions include radio, television, newspaper, books, intense or anxiety producing conversation and music.

4. Eat only what your body wants. (Big difference from what your MIND wants!)

5. Eat until you are satisfied. (This is different than full).

6. Eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others.

7. Eat with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure.

Overall these are a great start for the compulsive eater.  I tried to follow these guidelines for a few weeks.  I did gain weight.  I was a lot more relaxed and calm, having freed myself from so many restrictions.  But my body felt gross.  By energy levels went down.  My clarity of mind was waning.  WHY?

My biggest problem came from Guideline #4.  Eat what your body wants.  Well all I wanted was sugar.  In fact Geneen mentions that her first 3 weeks eating this way all she ate was chocolate chip cookies (all 3 meals a day).  When I have sugar, my body wants more….my body, not just my mind.  That is the power of this powdery white substance.  I know it, and the people that manufacture it know it.  Sugar is in almost everything these days (except whole foods).

That said, I think the key to #4 is first having a very solid knowledge of nutrition.  Understanding the damaging effects of processed foods, dairy, etc.  If all you have ever eaten in your life is french fries (this is true, I saw someone on Freaky Eaters that only are fries her whole life) then that is all you know.  Then when it comes time to ask yourself what you really want to eat, the answer is going to be french fries.  If you never have the pleasure of feeling fantastic after only eating fruits and vegetables for one day, then your body will never know that it wants to feel that way.

I do believe that part of the secret in having a good relationship with food and learning the powers of good nutrition.  The other secret is to try to always stay in a state of self-awareness.  We often eat to get rid of this state – all some people want is numbness, not awareness.  Then just start being aware of your numbness.  Ask why….a lot.  Why am I eating when I am not hungry?  Why am I feeling so crappy after lunch?  Why am I eating what I now know makes me feel crappy?  Not with judgment… more judgment….just with curiosity…with intention to learn…with hopes of improvement…but not with judgment.

I don’t have all the answers, but I have enough to keep asking questions.  To keep learning, and to keep hoping.  Never lose hope.  There is wisdom in growth and change.  Goals have a large role in growth and change.  You CAN love yourself and at the same time have visions of improvement!

Source: WFM 1-10

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