A Nutritious Tale
By Lisa Samuels
Food. You wouldn’t think of this as a word that holds so much power, but it does. Food is the basis for life. On its most basic level, it is meant to nourish us and give us energy. On a more complex level, it is a source of enjoyment, of relaxation, of unity. It is so deeply ingrained into who we are as people: our cultures, our celebrations, our downfalls, our momentous occasions, vacations, heartbreaks, and holidays are all almost always coupled with food.
Diet. Another word that holds quite a bit of weight in our culture (pun intended). Many people think it is synonymous with food, but in Western culture especially, that couldn’t be more wrong. The diet industry has a long and complicated history in the United States, and this post isn’t meant to go into all of that. But, it’s important to understand how deeply ingrained its ideals are in who we are as a society AND as individuals. Diet plays on our insecurities and has somehow become connected to our morality: we call ourselves “good” if we eat healthy foods, and “bad” if we eat unhealthy foods. It is not something that’s joyous or celebrated; diet enforces a culture of control and deprivation, and in doing so, creates so many more problems than there were in the first place.
Nowadays, it seems that many of us are walking around with the diet mentality. We almost live in fear of eating, terrified that any extra calorie will make us gain weight. We’re stressed out about what we eat. Food has lost its joyous and sensual qualities, and so has eating (though it can still enjoyable sometimes). Diet has taught us how to ignore our hunger and deprive ourselves. However, the desire to push our hunger aside, is really a metaphor for pushing ourselves aside. We’re ignoring our most basic wants and needs and we’re doing it out of dread. Our relationships with food arise because we are trying to fill a void that is left there when we close the door on our most basic needs and desires. We are blocking off our intuition where we intrinsically know what’s best for us.
Food teaches you how to eat WITH your body. It teaches you how to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. It wants us to eat what we like, and skip what we don’t, and most importantly, it wants us to ENJOY.
The more we ignore the food and lean towards the diet, the more we are ignoring ourselves at the most fundamental, cellular level. The body wants what it wants for a reason. And no, this doesn’t mean that we have a license to eat whatever we want, whenever we want, but it does mean that all foods can fit into anyone’s life. You have to trust that when you let go of the restrictive approach, the body will do what it’s designed to do, which is find a state balance and harmony. And letting go is much easier said than done. It takes work. It takes meeting yourself head on and being COMPLETELY HONEST; binging, restricting, chronic dieting, and other eating relationships can only be understood when you truly stop and ask what is driving this behavior? Are you lonely? Are you feeling out of control? Are you feeling deprived? Oftentimes, the picture is much larger than we may think. You just have to take the first step in re-opening the door for yourself again.
We need to deal with what’s being pushed down so that we can let it go, and let go of the ensuing behaviors that come with trying to cover it up. That will leave us feeling lighter than any diet can. And it will bring you into balance with not only with yourself or with food, but with the universe as well.