May 28, 2010


One of the most rewarding shifts in consciousness I have experienced in recent years has to do with my relationship and perception of food, and what it means to relate to food in a healthy way.  

By connecting back to nature, I've come to associate food with healing and nourishment. In doing so, food has taken on a whole new meaning for me. This shift in consciousness is such a gift, because in my experience with emotional eating, I have found that many conventional approaches to emotional eating are somewhat negative and counter-productive.    

One such approach views emotional eating as an "eating disorder", where food has become the addiction. For treatment, one is encouraged to confront their compulsive behavior and come to terms with the disorder, or perhaps trace the behavior back to a childhood trauma, for example.  Although this may be true for some of us, who use food as a coping mechanism for unresolved issues, surely this isn't the case for all of us.  Besides, who wants to take on a "disorder" identity and feel like they're in therapy at every meal?

For many of us emotional eating may be nothing more than a learned behavior.  Remember being force fed as a child, or encouraged to finish your plate?  If this rings a bell, you may find it hard to identify real hunger, never having learned to properly regulate your appetite.   

How about being rewarded with sweets for good behavior, or as an incentive to stop crying?  This may have taught you to reward yourself with food, or seek emotional relief with food.  Mothers often comfort-nurse a child when they're not quite sure why the baby is crying.  And so from a very young age we begin to associate eating with comfort. 

Here's another common approach for overcoming emotional eating that I find to be counter-productive.  Its focus is on disassociating emotional attachment to food altogether.  This view states that food should be consumed strictly for caloric needs.  Food is perceived as nothing more than fuel for the body.  But seriously, who wants to live like that? 

Food is an inherent drive for pleasure built in as a biological mechanisms for survival.  It is nature’s way of reminding us not to forget to nourish our bodies.  We are called to eat through desire, and rewarded with pleasure to reinforces and encourages the behavior - ensuring survival. It is by biological design that we enjoy eating so much. With this understanding, why deny or suppress the pleasure of eating?  Why else would nature create such a variety of vibrant, delicious foods, if not to delight the senses?  Nature intended for us to enjoy and take pleasure in eating.  The key is not to engage in these behaviors in access or in a destructive manner.  If we give ourselves the freedom to enjoy these pleasures in moderation, is it really all that wrong?    

As long as the foods we indulge in are healthy, who says it is wrong to feel comforted?  Sure, pizza and chips doesn’t count, but a delicious comforting bowl of raw chili, minus the guilt, certainly does! If we can stay present to the experience, why not soak up the comfort?  It only turns destructive once we start eating out of boredom or to fill an emotional void.  Ideally, we should aim to create a balance between eating healthy foods that also satisfy our taste buds.   
In my own journey in overcoming emotional eating, I resisted taking on the identity of having a "eating disorder". If emotional eating wasn’t overwhelming enough, labeling it a disorder made the path of recovery seem nearly impossible.   

I equally resisted the idea of having to constantly fight my desire to experience pleasure from eating.  Who wants to live their life using food as fuel, denying their natural desire to enjoy eating?  As I began making peace with the reality that eating should be a pleasurable experience, a heavy burden was lifted. I parted with guilt, and gave myself permission and the freedom to enjoy my healthy cravings.  This new approach of eating for pleasure, or just for the fun and curiosity of discovering new healthy foods, liberated me!

This changed my perception of food into something exciting. A whole new world opened up; I was rediscovering nature! I fell in love with the joy of eating again, but in a healthy, natural way.   

The key is to give ourselves love and understanding every step of the way, rather than punishing ourselves with strict dietary rules and guidelines.  Overcoming emotional eating begins with loving ourselves and honoring our health on a deeper level, and shifting our consciousness to a healthy, positive association with food. When we love and honor ourselves, we nourish our bodies with only the purest foods nature provides us. On a path of self acceptance and positive association, we find that we have far less self-destructive tendencies expressed as emotional eating. 

May 8, 2010


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