“Do you love to eat?”
That is the first sentence in the introduction to Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat. The first time I read it, I answered with a resounding, “Yes! I absolutely love to eat, and that is the problem.”
I had no idea how much I would learn from the rest of the book about my eating behaviors and my relationship to food and my body. It has been an extraordinary journey of healing. And now I know that loving to eat is not the problem.
I’ve always loved to eat; I love the world of food. But, I didn’t really act like it. By age 15, I had picked up so many conflicting messages about food, eating, and dieting that confusion permeated my thoughts. I would eat and feel ashamed. I wouldn’t eat and I’d feel hungry and shaky. I’d eat the foods on the “good” list from whatever diet or magazine article I’d read and I felt deprived. I’d “indulge” in the foods on the “bad” list, but I couldn’t give myself permission to enjoy them because they were my enemies and I was supposed to learn to hate them. I remember that one of the diet books recommended picturing chocolate cake, or whatever was tempting me, covered in maggots so I wouldn’t want to eat it. Food had to become detestable in order for me to have the body and health that I wanted.
An eye-opening insight I’ve gained during my Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating journey is how deeply in denial I’d forced myself to become. When I overate, I compounded the pain with my disappointment in myself and my self-chastising words. But, that didn’t stop me from overeating. Instead, I numbed my feelings by pushing away the guilt and trying to block out the words. But now I know that when you numb your feelings, you don’t get to pick and choose. I numbed all of my feelings, so I didn’t experience pleasure either.
Mindful eating is the opposite. I no longer block the eating experience. I see the food on my plate. I hear any sizzle or crackle it makes. I smell the aroma. I taste it…really taste it. I feel the emotions. I notice what my internal voice is saying. I pay attention to my body. Rather than push away any part of the experience, I welcome it. I stay curious. Is this food delicious? Is it satisfying? Is it nurturing me? I’ve discovered so much. I now know which foods I really love and which foods make me feel physically better. I’ve also discovered what it feels like to love food with no remorse, even my favorites that are on a diet “bad” list somewhere.
I’ve learned that no matter what or how much I eat, it will never satisfy the pain of not feeling good enough, thin enough, or beautiful enough. Most importantly, I now know that I’ve always been and always will be good enough, thin enough, and beautiful enough. I now see clearly that each of those “enough” judgments are just perceptions, and that genuine self-love doesn’t have conditions.
I now know what it feels like to feel good about what I eat, feel good after I eat, and feel good, and safe, in a wonderful world of food. I also know that mindful eating is the most natural path to optimal health. Instead of banishing my feelings, it is denial and fear that have been banished.
“Do you love to eat?”
Now I can answer with a resounding, “Yes, I absolutely love to eat. And I’m so grateful to know that there is absolutely no problem with that.”