This week I’ve been preparing to give a Real Women… Real Bodies… Real Health workshop on Saturday, here in Raleigh, NC. As I’ve leaned into it, I’ve been revisiting the road I travelled, in healing my own relationship with food and my body.
The question that keeps coming up is, “If there were one point these women could take from the workshop, what would I want that to be?”
The answer has nothing to do with food. It’s not some diet or exercise plan, or nutritional information. Rather, it’s something that has served me in business, in relationships, in my own personal and spiritual growth, and throughout my life… far beyond the scope of healing my food and body image stuff.
Long ago, I recognized that food was simply my drug of choice.
It could as easily have been alcohol, drugs, codependent relationships, work, sex, creating crisis, shopping, religious/spiritual activity, etc.
For me, it just happened to be food.
As I recognized this… the focus comes off the food, and body image, and the drama I created around that. Every time I looked for a solution there, I came up empty handed. The answers I needed were not in the latest nutrition craze, or getting my carbs/proteins/fats balanced just right.
Of course there are unique ways I support myself with how I eat… but that’s the minor part.
The main thing for me has been embracing the reality that THIS is one of the recurring curriculums I have in my life. It’s not about getting the food right. It’s about acknowledging that when I pay attention to what’s happening behind the scenes with the food, it becomes the most direct path I have to my own growth and healing.
I remember when I began to experience healing here, I noticed that as I learned to take care of myself on a deeper level, the food stopped being an issue. And conversely, when I was struggling with the food – though it was sorely tempting to try and fix it in the arena of the food – I always did better when I backed up about 10 steps and looked around for what area in my life was talking to me.
The food was just there to get my attention. It has always been about my life.
So how does this work?
For me, the biggest step is the shift from criticizing my destructive behaviors, and seeing them as ‘the enemy’ that I need to fight, to wondering why I might be doing this thing?
What would happen if I gave myself permission to withhold judgment, and instead see my behavior as a coded message that has vital information about my life?
What if I allowed myself to get curious instead of feeling guilty or ashamed?
I’ll give you an example…
One of the things I have done for the past year to take care of myself, is to juice. I have a big mason jar of green juice every morning, to start my day, and this has felt wonderful to my body, to my mind, and to my emotions. It leaves me feeling clear, and expansive.
Well, for the past little while, I’ve not wanted to juice. I’ve done it occasionally, but it’s been more out of discipline rather than desire.
Instead, I found myself leaning towards fruits and carbs (which for me, is as close as I come to eating sugar).
This is usually NOT a good thing for my overall wellbeing.
So… the old pattern would be to either try and fight this, and force myself to juice, or to just beat up on myself internally for my choices.
Instead, I’ve been leaning into what this is about.
When I eat more ‘high vibration’ foods, I’m clearer. I’m able to feel more of my feelings, and be more aware of what’s happening inside me.
Well, what I feel into is that I’ve been wanting to squirm out of my feelings. I’ve been making food choices that have allowed me to take the edge off of them.
It’s not about what I’m eating… it’s about, ‘how can I nurture myself during a season of my life that has really strong emotions?’
Am I willing to feel my feelings fully in a safe setting, so I don’t have to numb them out?
Now understand… that seeing what’s going on, and being willing to address it are two separate things! There was a time when I would start beating myself up for not being willing to address what I saw right away. But the truth is – internal growth has it’s own timetable, and trying to shame or force ourselves into growing, isn’t particularly effective. What is more effective are the real life ramifications of not choosing growth. When we can side with ourselves, rather than against ourselves, it becomes easier to choose that scary new path of growth.
So I look at this with compassionate eyes, rather than judgmental ones. What I get to see, is that there are more strong feelings here than I realized. The food is the red flag that catches my attention, so I’m able to address it before I run myself off the rails over this. Like I said, it’s not about the food. It never was.
As I acknowledge the places that hurt, or are scared, I feel myself begin to unclench. At this point in my life, I feel safe with myself, and recognize the relief it is to be with my feelings fully, so I give myself space to do that. It wasn’t always the case… and if you’re new to this process, I encourage you to find someone to support you as you learn to go here. It can be a good friend, a partner, a coach, a mentor… so long as they understand that this isn’t about ‘fixing’ the problem, but about holding a safe space for you to explore what’s been difficult to decode.
The bottom line is this: The choices we make serve us in some way. When our behaviors seem to contradict our goals or values, rather than judging them, or shaming ourself, realize that there’s something here that’s trying to communicate to us. Start listening. Get help from someone who knows how to hold this space, and facilitate this process.
When we get curious about what the underlying message is, we’ve just accessed the fastest route to our own growth and healing.