Ordinary or natural eating means eating when hungry and stopping when satisfied. It means eating enjoyable food that your body thrives on, and feeling free to eat openly in the company of others. Relatively few of us eat 100% like that.
All of us experience some challenges around food at times in our lives: we’re tempted to eat too much, perhaps then finding ourselves driven to dieting, often followed by equal and opposite overeating. Or we tend to eat too little and have the opposite challenge of trying to nourish ourselves.
But some of us find ourselves in deeper difficulty with food.The difficulty is never really about food but about feelings that seem unbearable. The problem manifests in the realm of food because we can control food: numbing out by binging (and having the food-is-love feeling on the way to binging); purging to control a horror of our bodies looking a certain way by; controlling everything by self-starvation.
These difficulties have names: binge eating disorder, bulimia, anorexia. All of them are actually emotional in nature. And a deep part of healing all of them is by coming back into right relationship with feelings.
Just as we were born with a right relationship to food built in to our cells, so we were born with the potential for right relationship to feelings. To heal one is to heal the other. I worked closely for 10 years with Geneen Roth, author of When Food Is Love and many other groundbreaking books about emotional eating. Body-centered mindfulness is the core of this deeply effective work with emotional eating.
Finding and then living self-kindness heals the harsh ways we’ve learned to treat ourselves. Multimodal treatment adds group work, consultation with dietitians who work with emotional eating, and sometimes 12 step approaches, as called for. Emotional eating absolutely can heal – and as it does an opening happens into a new life.