For people who have a love-hate relationship with food — you love eating it, but hate struggling to control it — the holidays magnify the conflict and fear you cope with all year long.
It’s autumn here in the Western hemisphere, so that means cooler weather, fall colors, and holidays. It also means…
Candy, and cookies, and pie! Oh my!
And stuffing, and gravy, and bread. Oh my!
And baking, and parties, and drinks. Oh my!
It reminds me of the classic story, the Wizard of Oz.
Are you following the Yellow Brick Road?
We are told that if we just follow the yellow brick road (the rules of various diets and plans) to the Emerald City, we will meet the Wizard of Oz and our wishes (for health, beauty, acceptance, and happiness) will be granted.
Along the road, we come across many others who also feel that they are missing something they need to be happy and whole. We skip along the narrow path together, carefully avoiding the lions, and tigers, and bears. Oh my!
If/when we reach the Wizard, he sets the bar even higher, requiring us to bring back the broom of the Wicked Witch (it wasn’t good enough just to get here, now we have to maintain the discipline and willpower indefinitely). We are so determined to reach our goals that we venture out again, despite the scary witches and flying monkeys we encounter (deprivation, cravings, overeating, bingeing, and guilt).
The entire Emerald City (Diet Culture) cheers us on while we battle wicked witches and flying monkeys. As our love-hate relationship with food grows more confusing, we become so focused on maintaining our willpower, avoiding all the “bad” foods we encounter, and counting and logging food and exercise, that we forget that our intention was never to be the very rare hero who conquers diet-land.
Our intention was to go home again.
At some point, most of us begin to suspect that the “wizard” is a sham and doesn’t really have any special powers. We also realize that the diets and plans we desperately followed don’t provide the lasting results we hoped for. And they certainly don’t take us home.
At first we blame ourselves, so the road becomes a frustrating, endless spiral—the never ending eat-repent-repeat cycle.
A surprising way to end your love-hate relationship with food
Like Dorothy, you may need to be reminded that you always had the power within you—the power to make decisions about your eating without rules and restriction—and that your heart’s desire was inside you all along!
Giving up the fantasy of finding a Yellow Brick Road that will finally solve all of your problems may sound scary, even impossible.
But remember in the story, Dorothy splashes the Wicked Witch with water and she simply melts away. In the mindful eating journey, this is the surprising effect that learning how to give up restriction has on your relationship with food!
What was once so scary—candy, and cookies, and pie—simply lose their power over you.
Going home again
What does home look and feel like? Home is where…
- you are in charge of your decisions instead of constantly trying to stay in control
- you feel connected to your body
- you know when your body needs fuel (and when it needs water, rest, comfort, pleasure, or hundreds of other needs)
- you almost effortlessly balance eating for nourishment with eating for pleasure
- you eat until you are comfortably satiated and content, rather than stuffed and miserable
- you know how to care for yourself
- you use your precious energy to live the vibrant life you crave
- you are able to meet your deepest needs without frequently turning to food
- you have unconditional acceptance for yourself and your beautiful imperfections
You don’t have to venture out alone!
Although this path isn’t for everyone, if you think you might be ready to go home again, I would like to invite you to join us on a very special journey!
- You’ll venture out with people like yourself who are done with dieting and finally ready to create a healthy relationship with food and their bodies.
- You’ll have all the support and tools you need to undo the damage that’s been done by diet culture.
- We will have plenty of opportunities to learn, make mistakes, and practice together. By the time New Years comes, instead of starting another diet, you’ll have laid the foundation to start a whole new life!
Learn more about our Mindful Eating Support Community!
(This article was originally published in 2018 and has been updated.)