Do you ever find yourself eating for reasons other than nutrition or hunger? Hmmm...
If you feel as if food has become about more than the "imbibing" of fresh, clean burning, deliciously satisfying but non-addictive fuel for you, then what follows might just offer a little guidance about how to steer your ship a little more in the direction of health, vitality and freedom by asking a few probing questions of yourself and your food choices. Feeling brave? Read on...
Of all the reasons we eat, perhaps the most overriding influence of all is our emotions. For all of us, and this goes for even the most “disciplined” among us, eating is mostly (if not all) about how we feel – either in the anticipation of, in the actual eating of, or experiencing the after effects of eating (or all three!). We eat to feel full, stronger, happier, busy, comforted, distracted, stimulated, rewarded, more grounded, to fight boredom or tiredness or for just about any other reason we can think of. Not many people eat solely to fulfil their nutritional requirements that’s for sure! Not unless their very life depends on it, and even then it can still be a struggle.
Yes, it is absolutely normal to have emotional issues around food – if you don’t you’re lucky and exceptional (and, based on modern research around eating habits and attitudes towards them, probably male!). If the latter sounds like you, congratulations! You will no doubt take to raw eating easier than most. But for those of you who have “stuff” around food: it’s okay, it’s fine, it’s so common as to be “completely normal” and the good news is it doesn’t have to stay this way.
In fact a lot of disordered or “unhelpful” eating habits can be automatically eradicated by eating more raw foods – not because of willpower or determination, but by the very fact that you’ll be eating foods that support you and your body’s ability to have a healthy (in every sense of the word) relationship with food, rather than with food that can hook you in and trigger addictive and compulsive tendencies that you’d really rather not have! Not only this, but in time, sometimes after not very long at all, you’ll feel much more free and confident around food generally – a trust and mutual respect develops, meaning that you can put food back in its rightful place – as fuel that supports you for the life you want to live, and not your best friend-worst enemy that is so very often the case. Fancy some of that?
How to deal with your “stuff”
When you start to eat more raw and once you’ve mastered the basics and have a fairly good idea of what to eat on a day-to-day basis and are doing it, THAT’S when it starts to become apparent how you have traditionally used and abused food in your life – mostly because you have run out of distractions and quite simply raw food just does not “medicate”!
When the emotions show up, it’s all too easy/comforting/attractive to either run off screaming to cooked and processed foods (usually the worst kind of junk, actually) or to overeat on raw foods to the point of discomfort (a.k.a. bingeing). What does this tell us? Only that we are using food inappropriately and it is time to face the underlying issues rather than continue throwing fuel onto the fire.
However, and as I know only too well from personal experience - knowing this is one thing, doing something about it is entirely another. If you have used food or drink for years to bury your feelings, stimulate or stifle yourself in some way (as 99% of the population apparently have done and still do), you’re not likely to get over this overnight.
So what to do?
Well I am personally a big fan of the slowly, slowly approach. I believe that for long-term results you need to back pedal one step at a time, and not anything more. When we suppress emotions we are dealing with “elastic energy” – that means that if you pull it too far away from its source and its usual comfort zone it has a massive tendency to TWANG, catapult back (often taking us to a “worse” place than when we started) and generally hit us twice as hard on the butt! So, start small and work back – your comfort zone can shrink accordingly, and if you do it this slow and simple way you'll hardly feel a thing!
There are so many aspects to emotional and disordered eating that it’s completely impossible to cover them in this one article, so for today I’m going to bring a few suggestions to the table that you can get started with when you feel good and ready, so that you can start to probe a little deeper into your own eating behaviour and know how to step things back slowly and deliberately as recommended.
Step 1: Start with the food
If your food’s been used “non-nutritionally” for a while then I recommend that you do not remove your favourite comfort foods entirely unless you are well supported to deal with the fallout! So seek still to “feed” your emotions, but less damagingly than before. Upgrade what you eat and make as much of it raw as possible. You may very well still overeat, for a while at least, but the quality of what you overeat on will make a big difference, on many levels. Positive change will then start to happen organically - with no real conscious effort on your part - trust me.
(A good example of this is when I wanted to give up bread, but not completely. So I switched to wholemeal, then organic wholemeal, then rye bread, then sprouted wheat bread. I hung out there for a good while, eventually ate less of it and then dropped it completely – but only when I felt good and ready.)
Simultaneously it’s super-important to learn how to “get creative” with raw foods - not so much for the sake of creation itself (although that’s a great offshoot in and of itself) but predominantly for the sake of making your journey to health emotionally and sensually fulfilling in every way – i.e. as rewarding as your current/previous eating habits, plus some. Because the bottom line is that unless you have a will of iron, in the early days especially, there’s just no way you will go raw or anywhere near it unless you LOVE the new food you are eating for how it tastes, looks, smells and makes you feel while eating it, as well as for the benefits you gain as a result of eating it – so this is all about fun, whole person/body improvement and benefits, benefits, benefits at every stage of the journey – as it should rightly be! Bottom line: Only eat food you love – but make it healthy!
Beyond this, work back to “neutral” - that is, being at peace with food and using it as a tool to support your health and life experience positively. As suggested, do this step-by-step using food less and less as an emotional crutch and finding more and more new ways to enjoy it and create more positive emotions before, during and after eating healthy foods.
Your ultimate goal is to reach the point where you are eating foods that feel really good to you at the deepest levels – right down to your cells, and eating mostly or only foods that help keep you centred and balanced, that you personally feel good about eating and that you only eat when hungry. This is mastery defined!
Step 2: Understand your drivers
In order to avoid any possible sense of “loss”, to bridge the gap between old and new successfully AND take you to even higher heights gastronomically and emotionally, it’s imperative for you to know exactly what it is about food and eating that turns you on. What foods (and drinks too) excite and stimulate you? Which ones comfort you? What just tastes plain good to you? What do your different “habit foods” (the ones you eat every day) do for you EXACTLY? What needs do they fulfil? What gaps in your world/experience do they plug up?
And the multi-million dollar question: What role/s is food playing in your life that might be better met through other means (such as a good cuddle, a weepy film, a hot bath, going to bed earlier or taking it all out on a punch bag?!). Is food your friend, enemy, mother, comforter or lover? Name your foods and name the roles they play. This will get help you start understanding your behaviour on a whole new level.
As well as identifying what it is about the food itself, it’s helpful to “hear” what all the different parts of you have to say about food. Which part of you asks for food the most often? Is it your taste buds, your body, your mind or your glad or sad heart? Which part of you calls the shots and why is that exactly? How can you heal or help that part of you without opening the fridge door?
With these questions answered you are infinitely better equipped to create a way of eating that fulfils all the criteria important to you (and more) and leaves you feeling satiated in body, mind and spirit - and not just with smiling happy taste buds!
Not only this, but facing your demons – however large or small – is just about the biggest gift you can give yourself for freeing up massive amounts of energy that you can put to much better use than allowing that “devil on your shoulder” to undermine your good intentions and keep you glued to the sofa with a cheese sandwich in hand!
If you can start asking and answering some of these questions, being really honest and compassionate with yourself, you’ll be well on your way to that peace I speak of. Isn’t a bit of self-enquiry and self-observation a price worth paying for feeling at peace with food and your body for the rest of your life?
© 2012 Karen Knowler WOULD YOU LIKE TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR ON YOUR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Karen Knowler, The Raw Food Coach publishes "Successfully Raw" - a free weekly eZine for raw food lovers everywhere. If you're ready to look good, feel great and create a raw life you love get your FREE tips, tools and recipes now at www.TheRawFoodCoach.com.