Groceries

I carry five plastic sacs of groceries in from the car and leave them on the large wooden table in my small kitchen, stopping for a moment to appreciate how tidy the space is before I head upstairs to my chilly bedroom and plug in the electric radiator.

Back in the kitchen, I put away a head of broccoli, a half-off package of sliced baby bella mushrooms, and two bags of organic carrots in my tiny, dorm-sized fridge. I take a swig of pomegranate juice from the almost empty bottle on the fridge door, and then I remember that I have left the car running with the heat on full blast. Just in case.

I snag a torn-open plastic bag of mini bananas, shut off the light and head outside. I tuck myself into the driver’s seat of my warm Subaru, appreciating the heated sheepskin-covered seat. I shut off the engine and eat a mini banana.

I open my book. It starts to rain.

I’m sitting in my car in the dark, the rain pinging on the hood, the windshield, the roof. That rain sound, a symphony of droplets, is comforting to me; it’s a sound I am sure of. Any human who has lived for 31 years on the earth knows the sound of rain.

Does any other human also know
what it feels like to be scared
to go inside their own house
because it is after ten p.m., and
there is food in the kitchen?

Scared because I’m not in bed, which
means there is a 97% chance that
even if I spend a number of minutes sitting here in the dark,
listening to the rain, cozy on the sheepskin seat cover,

noticing the way my stomach feels full,
and how there is no way that
the feeling I have right now
could ever be called physical hunger,

acknowledging that I do not
need to eat right now,
that I could walk into the house
and upstairs to my bedroom,
and avoid the kitchen all together,

even with all this being so,

moments later, I still find myself
in the kitchen eating
roasted almonds with sea salt,
and then macadamia nuts,
and then some apricot jam, straight
from the jar with a spoon.
And then a banana,
first one half, and then
the other half,
alternating bites with a small bowl of
millet rice flakes in goat milk.

As I eat, I organize the groceries
on the kitchen table.

 

 

 

 

a dose of excitement and a dash of spice.

2/15/2014

I’ve been struggling with how to experience spice and excitement and a feeling of satisfaction in my dreary-feeling life. I used to rely heavily on food for this; the tastes and colors of food have been one of the most consistent forms of stimulation throughout my life.

I began to explore the culinary arts as a teenager and I have spent countless hours in the kitchen, scheming & creating, chopping & cooking…and joyfully eating and sharing food. Food has been a companion, a reliable source of both inspiration and comfort.

Food has also been a consistent source of frustration. My relationship with food is colored by the way in which I learned to use food for things other than what I believe its primary purpose is: nourishment and occasional pleasure.

Merriam-Webster defines food in these ways:
1. a : material consisting essentially of protein, carbohydrate, and fat used in the body of an organism to sustain growth, repair, and vital processes and to furnish energy.

2: nutriment in solid form

3: something that nourishes, sustains, or supplies <food for thought>

As a child, I came to rely on food as a source of comfort, an escape. I used it as a way to attempt to fill a deep emptiness that I think was actually caused by a fear of intensity, a fear which may have led to an inability to identify and feel my feelings.

It seems that maybe some addictions start when a person turns to a substance to dull pain, to distract from or push down a feeling that they don’t want or know how to handle. What’s different about (my) food addiction is that instead of wanting to numb a pain or avoid a feeling (which, it seems, I had already learned how to do), I wanted to fill an emptiness that was actually caused by an absence of the feeling. Is there a difference? Is emptiness a pain in itself? I’m not sure.

For years I have thought that I was using food as a means to escape feeling my feelings. What I saw recently is that I was actually trying to fill a hole, a lack or an inability to even access my true emotions. This was a revelation. To realize that I actually love to feel emotion move through me. I almost look forward to it. I realized that I have been unknowingly robbing myself of a source of vitality, sometimes sorrow, sometimes joy, but always aliveness.

At the times when I feel empty or disconnected and turn to food out of habit, I am now often able to pause and do my best to give myself a little more time to see if there is a hidden, held-back emotion that wants to emerge. Sometimes I even play around with it, simulating anger or sadness to see if something opens up. Sort of strange, I guess, to try on so-called negative emotions, but after so many years of doing my best to avoid emotions completely, my pump often needs a bit of priming. I have been scared of these shadow emotions for so long; it is a relief to discover that they can be just as satisfying as so-called positive emotions. It is the experience of letting them move through me, and knowing I am alive that seems to count most.

My whole adult life I have experimented with food. I was raised in a household where we didn’t use much traditional medicine, so I came to believe that the “right” food was the key to my health. If ONLY I could figure out what the right food was! Throughout my life, I tried many different ways of eating. I read and experimented and read some more. I talked about food with anyone who was interested. And I read and experimented (ate) some more.

In 2012 I found the blog, Mark’s Daily Apple, written by Mark Sisson, founder of the Primal Blueprint. His ideas about food and eating all resonated with what I had learned and discovered about myself and what felt best for me. I felt relieved to find someone who was writing and teaching about a diet and lifestyle that actually resonated for me. One that was very different from the way of eating that conventional health care recommends. The Primal Blueprint plan is based on how our hunter-gatherer ancestors lived and dined.  It is not simply a diet, it is a way of life, with a focus on whole, nutrient-dense foods, play, rest, nature, movement, and connection.

A year later, I was introduced to the Human Design System and after getting a reading of my chart, I learned that my body is indeed designed to eat a “cave man” diet. Very simple. Not a lot of added spice. My body digests best, I discovered, when each of my meals consist of a few simply prepared, mild-temperature, “primal” foods. And even more specifically, it actually makes a huge difference for my digestion if each bite I take consists only of one food, and if I alternate between them. My body can absorb and assimilate the food best if I eat in a calm, quite atmosphere, and keep my eyes closed while I chew.

When I first received this information, it seemed a little extreme, too restrictive. How was I going to enjoy food in the same way I had in the past? My friend, the Human Design consultant said I would begin to enjoy the subtle tastes of the food more. I would begin to appreciate the salt and sweet tastes in the food itself. He was right–I have. I do.

At the same time, I have not found a replacement for the experience of adventure, spice and stimulation–emotional, mental and physical–that food used to provide for me.

I love the way I feel when I eat in this manner suggested by Human Design. In fact I love it so much that I feel pretty committed to it. I see how everything begins to degenerate when I don’t make this way of eating a priority. Knowing that, I would love to find a new way of creating excitement and spice in my life.

It’s the middle of an especially snowy winter in New England and I live alone in a small house on an island off an island. Outside my windows are trees–woods. Ground. Sky. A road with the occasional car. Through the woods not too far away are a few friends and family. All with lives of their own. I feel isolated. A lot of the time I love that; Human Design tells me I am a hermit and this rings true. I love tucking into my house, stoking the wood stove, cuddling in with a book, or getting lost in a writing or art project. Feeding myself simple meals, prepared with love.

I am also here to be of service.  I am here to be called out of my isolation and to make a difference in the world.  It feels challenging to wait for this call; on some days I feel like I want so much more than my hermitage provides. I want stimulation, growth, adventure, excitement, passion, spice. I want to be meeting new people, exploring new places, discovering new passions. I have been finding these experiences where I know how, and I am still not feeling satisfied.  It seems maybe it would make a difference for me to be in a place where this is more action.  More external stimulation.  What would it be like to spend some time in a place where I can retreat and feel safe, and where I am also surrounded by activity?

So here are the questions I ask myself: do I want to leave my home? For a day? For a week? For a month? For longer? Do I want to go somewhere warm? Do I want to go somewhere new? Do I want to land somewhere, or do I want to travel? Wander or nest? Would I like to live somewhere else? Would I like to visit a city? Would I like to travel to a different coast? A different island? A different country? Speak a different language? Do I want to visit friends? Or go somewhere no one knows my name? Do I want to travel by airplane? by foot? by train? by bicycle? by car? by boat? Do I need to have a plan?  Or can I just set out?

Where is my next adventure?  Who will call me out of my little, isolated, hermitage home? Do I need to wait to be called out?  Is there something else to respond to?

my choice cold

Do you remember the last time you had a cold?  Were you just a bit miserable? Today I have a cold, or rather I have the symptoms that most people associate with having a cold: I have very little energy, I’m a bit achy, my nose is running and it feels like my head is full of snot.  I can’t taste much and can’t breathe through my nose without a whole lot of effort.  I don’t feel well.  And yet, this may be the “best” cold I’ve ever had.  I’m not suffering.  Even though I have some discomfort, I am, in fact, grateful.

For the last couple of weeks, I have had an insatiable evening appetite.  The kind of “hunger” I have when I am feeling a whole lot of emotional emptiness and not a whole lot of passion about anything. This state is something I am really uncomfortable with.  Along with it goes the feelings of being unsure, and maybe even a little vulnerable.  The evenings found me in my kitchen, creating all sorts of interesting (and sometimes not so interesting) culinary concoctions.  Sometimes I was eating because I was hungry.  Mostly I was eating because I couldn’t bear to sit with this feeling of emptiness and not-knowing.  It’s a feeling I’m pretty familiar with, actually.  One I have been alternately doing battle with, or attempting to make friends with, for as long as I can remember.  This month the empty, uncertain feeling has been particularly present for me.

I had gotten to the point last week where I was pretty much resigned to eating anything in my kitchen that was remotely comforting…until it was all gone…and then I just wouldn’t restock it.  Chocolate, nuts, nut butters, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, dried fruit, jam, oatmeal, popcorn, etc.  At the time I didn’t really see any other choice.  I have thought about joining a group like Overeater’s Anonymous but what I know about myself is that I detest being told what to do, and although I am sure that I would probably be introduced to many useful tools, not to mention the support provided in a group like that, I also have the sense that I would rebel.  So, I tried a different tactic. I did an experiment where I simply did my best to love myself…to be with my evening-eating-adventuring self with as much ruthless compassion as I could muster.  I celebrated the interesting eats I created (like Lily’s “3AM North Star” popcorn), and I did NOT beat myself up for this behavior.  I knew that there was a reason it was supposed to be happening…because it was.  Here I was, eating myself full, if not fully sick.  Going to bed with an extended belly, waking up feeling groggy and without an appetite for hours.  And how did I know it was what was supposed to be happening?  Because it was.  How did I know it was OK to simply love myself? Because any other option felt even worse.

In the last few years, I have been playing around with Byron Katie’s simple process inquiry of questioning stressful thoughts.  One of her books is called Loving What Is, and the questions and ideas that she presents have given me a whole different way of looking at and relating to my life.  I was already in doubt of the utility of value judgements such as “right or wrong”, and “good or bad”.  So I was open to the idea that there wasn’t anything “wrong” with what was happening…not matter what it was.  I was willing to consider the possibility that everything that was happening was supposed to be happening.  I began to explore the possibility that I wasn’t necessarily the best judge of what should or shouldn’t be happening to me.  In fact, I also began to question the idea that anything was happening to me at all.  What if, in fact, it was all happening for me?

As a teenager I was introduced to the idea of “pronoia” by a friend of my dad’s.  Pronoia, opposite of paranoia, is the belief that everything in the world is conspiring for your benefit.  Not necessarily that I will always “get what I want”, but that there is a way that everything that happens in my life can be seen as a blessing or a necessary element in the journey of my right life, my destined life.  Sometimes this takes my awhile; sometimes I have a hard time seeing how it could possibly be part of my right life to find myself doing something like stuffing myself sick, night after night.  Sometimes the reason is simply so that I can help other people learn to also love themselves.

I feel pretty clear that life itself has no inherent meaning.  I believe that life has whatever meaning we give it.  While there are many ways to interpret what is happening at any given moment in my life, I like to choose, as often as I can, to apply a meaning that makes me feel…well, good.  There a few different reasons for this, the simplest being the fact that I like to feel this way.  It’s nicer than feeling not-good.  It’s expansive and light and free feeling.  As opposed to heavy and tight and trapped feeling.  So when I remember that I have a choice, I take it.

A few days ago I noticed that I had a bit of a scratchy throat.  There was a time when this would have sent me into a downward spiral, knowing that a cold was coming on.  I would have made myself feel guilty, saying things to myself like, “really, you are getting ANOTHER cold?” “Gosh Lily, why did you eat so much sugar?” “Why have you been pushing yourself so hard?” “You should have taken better care of yourself, then you wouldn’t be sick!” “Will you ever learn? Don’t you know that you will get a cold if you eat sugar and don’t get enough rest?!” “Oh, this is such a bad time for a cold.” “Oh no, I don’t have TIME for a cold right now!”.  Instead, I thought, “THANK THE LORD!”.

Thank you God, for giving me the support I need to shift the habit I had created of stuffing myself full of food late at night.  I had really been feeling like I NEEDED HELP.  And I had been asking for it.  And I had been seriously loving myself at the same time.

The great thing, for me, about having a cold, is that I have a(nother) habit of taking care of myself when I feel this way.  Over the last 20 or so years, with the support of family and friends and information that suggests this course of action, I have developed an attitude about colds that is a little different from many that I observe around me.  Colds are a message from my body.  They are information. They are my body’s way of re-balancing and reminding me to take good care of myself.  When I get these symptoms, I instantly know that I need rest and a really simple, healing diet.  I know that I am a little bit out of wack.  And finally, I have also learned that being “a little bit out of wack” is truly O.K.!  There is nothing wrong with me.  I don’t need to be punished for not being able to live “perfectly” and stay in balance all of the time.  I shouldn’t have “known better”.  I can be responsible for my cold, and at the same time not make myself wrong for its existence.  With this epiphany, this willingness to be kind and love myself even though maybe I “should have known better”, there is also room for seeing the gift in it.  Taking on the pronoia interpretation of having a cold.

When I am willing to love what is, I think just maybe there is the possibility for gratitude and joy and presence in each and every moment of my life.  My choice.

i could eat a house. day #13.

My body is constantly surprising me.  When I really listen, it tells me that its needs are often different from what I expect them to be–they are different every day.  I am not like a car that just needs gas and oil and water and I will go along happily.  There is not a daily routine I have found that I can just follow and have my body respond positively.   When I look back, though, there is often reason, there is often rhyme.

I have noticed that when I am not hungry, but for some reason I feel expected to eat (so food doesn’t go to waste, or because I am at a restaurant, or I have just cooked myself a delicious meal, or this is the only time in my day I have scheduled a break to eat), I find myself eating faster just to get the eating over with.  I often don’t really even taste the food, and I certainly don’t enjoy it.

Sometimes in these cases I will even end up eating more than I would otherwise because I have no access to my “hunger-ometer”; it has been overridden, and therefore, the only direction that I have about when to stop eating is from my mind.  “Ok, Lily, that should be enough food.  You can stop eating now.”  And because I am already doing something that is overriding my body’s requested/expressed needs, I am feeling anxious.  And in the past, my go-to cure for anxiety has been… you guessed it, eating!

Eating because I am full also used to show up in scenarios like this one: I have eaten too much and feel stuffed and yucky and fat.  All of a sudden, as I am having this uncomfortable experience of being over-stuffed, I have the thought, “Oh, I’ll be ok, I still have a half a chocolate chip cookie in my bag if I need it.”  Need it for what?!  What kind of bizarre program am I running in which my remedy for feeling stuffed is to eat a half a chocolate chip cookie, in which my answer to feeling stuffed is to eat more food?!

I realize that what my mind probably means when it thinks, “I will be fine” is that it has somewhere to escape to.  It has some way to escape from feeling whatever uncomfortable thing it is experiencing that it doesn’t want to experience.

When Geneen Roth talks about why we eat compulsively, she suggests that it is because we either don’t want to feel what we are feeling, or don’t want to know something that we already know.  In that half a cookie I could count on a moment or two of numbing relief, allowing me to escape from the actual experience I was having in my body.  Eating it would allow me to check out of the present for a minute.  The problem with this strategy was that once I had finished the last crumb, there I was, still feeling fat, and even a little bit more stuffed than before.

What I have finally begun to be able to do, though, is to be willing, little by little, to allow myself to feel what I am feeling. I have begun to realize that even super-uncomfortable feelings are not an actual threat to my well-being.  While I used to perceive the act of feeling my feelings as a mysterious danger zone to be avoided at all costs, I now have practice in just being with them.  I often can let them pass through me, breathing, and find myself still intact, and often in awe, on the other side.

What I know to do in situations like last night is to breathe.  I know to sit or to write and to let myself sort out whatever craziness I have gotten worked up about.  I know that the best thing to do, when I feel like I could eat everything in the whole house, is to pause.  To take a minute or five or 30–however long it takes for me to slow my nervous system down, to get out of fight or flight mode, and to get clear about what I am actually experiencing.  I can now recognize this kind of ravenous hunger as emotionally based, because no matter how hungry my body ever gets physically, it never imagines needing to eat more than a few courses before it will be satisfied.

My my mind, or whatever is in charge when my body isn’t running the show, is the one who thinks, feels, that it could eat everything in the house, and more, and even then is worried that it would still feel that emptiness inside or that perceived lack of the ability to get its needs met.

When I am, “so hungry I could eat a horse”, I ask myself what I would actually like to eat (assuming I haven’t already served myself a hunk of horse) and I prepare myself a meal.  When I feel hungry enough to eat my whole house, and everything in it, I do my best to sit down and breathe.  I have a glass of water, I get out my journal, or just simply sit, and I ask myself what it is I really want.  What is my heart or my body really yearning for?  It is my guess that there aren’t, in fact, many human bodies who would think that they actually need a whole house full of food to satisfy their physical hunger.  It is only our emotional appetites that can feel that large.

Safety in small bowls. Day 12.

This evening’s conversation with my “inner eater” went differently than it had the night before:

Lily 1: “Are you hungry?”

Lily 2: “No, yes, I don’t know.  I just scarfed down a whole plate of dinner and I don’t feel satisfied.”

L1: “What would you like?”

L2: “Ice Cream”

L1: “Really? Is that what your belly wants? What your body wants?”

L2: “No, and it’s not even really what my mouth wants. It’s what my mind wants and I’m going to have it anyway.”

I serve myself a very small bowl of ice cream –  Neopolitan, heavy on the strawberry cause that’s what flavor there is the most of in the carton.  I take one bite.  It makes my tongue cold and it’s not really that good or satisfying.

I put the bowl down and do something else for a minute.  I can’t stop thinking about it, though, the sweet taste lingering on my tongue.  I consider dumping it down the drain and brushing my teeth.

I remember how good I had felt the other night when I left a large puddle of melting ice cream on my plate.  How satisfied I had felt.  How clearly the moment had arrived when, all of a sudden, my physical hunger was satisfied and I had no desire to eat anymore.  My experience tonight is different.  I am trying to fill some perceived need that both my body and mind know could never be satisfied with ice cream, even gallons and gallons of it.  And I don’t feel willing to take the time to slow down and listen to what it is that I really crave.

11/11

A conversation between me and myself at 8:30pm this evening.

“I’m hungry”

“Ok, what would you like to eat?”

“Baked squash with butter, and cottage cheese.”

“Hey look, there is still a little birthday cake left, and I’m sure there is ice cream too. Do you want some of that instead?”

“No thanks, I just want squash and cottage cheese.”

“What? Are you sure?  Are you Lily?  What did you do with Lily, the sugar addict I know?”

“I’m still Lily, I just don’t want any cake or ice cream right now. My belly wants squash. And cottage cheese.  And maybe a few cashews.  Why is that so weird?”

“Well… If you don’t know what I’m referring to, it’s not even worth getting into it with you.  Geez.  And you didn’t even think about eating the cake yesterday even though it was on the counter all day long!”

“Yeah, ok, maybe I’m a little different from before.  I’m not sure why.  I think it’s just because there isn’t anything that I am not allowing myself to have, so therefore I can just listen and feel for what I want, and not be distracted by the no-nos beckoning to me.  And I think I am just more committed to feeling good than I have been before.  Not to looking good, or acting good, but to actually feeling good.  And that means only putting things in my mouth that I want in my belly…or, you know what I mean.”

“That’s so cool.  I’m excited to hear more about how that works out for you.  Please keep sharing!”

“Thanks! I will.  It’s really exciting for me too.  I think it’s making a difference that I am owning it too, instead of denying that there’s an issue.  I’ve been noticing what a difference naming things has been making. It’s showing up everywhere in my life – as soon as I am honest about something and tell it like it really is in that moment, it is able to shift.  Sometimes even 180°.  Life is so cool.  And I’m really looking forward to enjoying my days without being run by my relationship with food and eating.  There are so many other interesting things to think about and explore.  Don’t get me wrong, thinking about and playing with food are still some of my absolute favorite things in the whole world, but they aren’t my only favorite things.  I like cookbooks too.  And gardens.  And recipes. And photos of my lunch.”

“Those things all have to do with food.”

“Hmm.  Well, I guess I do like food a lot.  And I like it even better now that I can distinguish it from other things.  Like, when I know that I am hungry for squash, not just for sleep or companionship.  It’s so fun to live life being clear; what amazing joy and freedom is available now that food is food, and love is love again.”

 

 

Day ten.

“Creamy Mug of Warming Deliciousness”

I know, I skipped a few days.  I wrote them in my journal, and rather than continuing to put off posting again until I have the energy and interest to type them up, I am going to skip to today’s entry, to real-time.

I have started going to bed or laying down whenever I find myself wondering if I am hungry or not.  Cuddled cozily under my down comforter, between my flannel sheets, I feel safe.  Any phantom hunger pangs brought on by anxiety or boredom or other emotional or mental disturbances seem to float away when I give myself permission to take complete and utter care of myself.  Then, from the depths of my downy nest, I can tune into my body and ask it what it wants.  “Are you hungry? Thirsty? Tired? Would you really just love a nap and that is why you are reaching for the jar of nuts, or the leftover birthday cake?”

Post nap, I check in with my belly again and can very clearly feel that, yes, I am hungry!  It is such a victory to be able to sense and know for sure that I am hungry.  My body wants food.  After many years of using and confusing all sorts of other cues with physical hunger for food, I am beginning to recognize and distinguish this feeling again.  There is no doubt in my mind or in my grumbling tummy.  It’s time for lunch.  So that is what I shall give it!

——–

It’s the first day of my moon time today, the beginning of my womanly cycle and I find myself craving rest and comfort.  After lunch, I sit at the table and read one of my favorite cookbooks for a while, The Healthy Hedonist by Myra Kornfeld, and then I acknowledge that really all I want to do is go back to bed.

There is nothing like sitting in the sun on a Saturday afternoon, sipping a cup of turmeric tea (my new favorite hot drink, aka, “Creamy Mug of Warming Deliciousness”), and then crawling into bed to take an afternoon nap.  Especially a second afternoon nap.

Day #2.

I tear open the small yellow package of danger and pour seven uneven, egg-shaped, multicolored morsels into my left hand.  Peanut M&Ms have been an obsession of mine since I was young. Even now, even when I know that the candy coating will cut my tongue, the non-organic peanuts carry pesticides and toxic mold, the chocolate keeps me from sleep in the wee morning hours, the sugar erupts tiny red craters on my cheeks, even still, they are like good, old friends.

They rattle into my hand, three brown, two orange, one green and one blue.  I toss the crumpled wrapper behind me into the trash.  It lands atop a banana peel, a couple of carrot tops, and some shards of glass from the mason jar that previously contained my healthy dinner option.  By now, the sweet little devilish egg-shaped candies are sticking slightly to my hand, leaving blue #27, and red #3 on my warm, moist palm.  They don’t melt as fast as chocolate chips do, when gathered on the palm on the way to my anxious mouth. In this way, M&Ms are better suited for the methodical hand-to-mouth habit that I find so often I turn to for comfort.  Sometimes I am not aware of what is happening, until I “come-to”, finally conscious of that familiar softness of finger tips meeting lips.

I noticed it tonight.  Even with olives, or maybe especially with olives, those juicy, drippy morsels that require an extra suck and smooch to keep fingers clean.  It’s funny to think of the comfort foods I created during childhood.  Black olives eaten out of the can, one after another, fingers in the can, fingers in the mouth.  Peanut m&ms.  Smartfood popcorn. “Healthy” jalapeno cheese puffs. Red Hot Blues tortilla chips with Temptee whipped cream cheese. The list goes on.

There are only six now.  The first chocolate covered peanut disappeared into my mouth earlier as I reached behind my seat to throw away the wrapper.  What IS it about the hand to the mouth action? What is it about the feel of finger tips to lips?  All focus on the task at hand (no pun intended).  The world slows down for a moment.  The fact that I don’t have a home of my own is now not a worry; my empty belly and a heart that yearns for connection are, in this short moment, forgotten.

The problem with this tactic is that the worries and emptiness are still there as soon as the ritual is through.  The hunger, physical and emotional, is not gone.  I have either stopped because the food is gone, or because I have noticed that my stomach is beginning to feel ill.  Or, more recently, I have begun to stop because, all of sudden, I wake up.  Something gets my attention and reminds me that I am already whole.  That the desperate hunger which I am feeling is often not, in fact, a function of an empty belly, nor of a current lack of ability to meet my needs.

It comes, instead, from programming.  From an old program I created as a child, back when I wasn’t always in charge of my situation.  When I didn’t have a say, or didn’t know I had a say about my circumstances, back when the only choice I thought was mine was whether to eat, or not to eat. And usually there wasn’t a question.

Food has been the substance I turn to for comfort since I was a baby.  Yes, I know, that is normal.  We all do that.  We feel sad, tired, etc. and mom gives us the boob or the bottle and everything is better.  But somewhere along the way, I think I missed an important transition.  I bypassed the fork in the road where I would (eventually) discover that I was now responsible for my well-being, and with that responsibility came the freedom to make choices about things in my life that I hadn’t felt free to make before.  Missing that rather important discovery, I continued as a young adult, a teenager, and then a 20-something, to believe that when I needed comfort, food was the best option, the one and only thing I could count on.

The m&ms are still sitting in my hand. I don’t particularly want to eat them any more, and now I am not sure what to do with them.  This is a common issue for me.  I have a strong dislike of wasting food, so I often find myself disposing of food into my mouth when no alternative storage options are presented.  I think in this particular instance, though, I will send the m&ms to join their wrapper in the trash. [I am reminded of one Christmas when my boyfriend and I had stopped eating sugar and he was about to throw away a plate of homemade cookies, all the way from his grandmother in Germany, and I stopped him, saying what a waste it was, and why didn’t he bring them into the folks at work. “Lily”, he said, “if you had a bag of cocaine and you had just quit your habit, would you bring it into your friends at work so it wouldn’t go to waste?” Good point.]

I used to be desperate enough that I might later decided that I “had to have those m&ms” and would find myself carefully picking them out of the trash.  I think I have made some progress, though. I am better at breathing these days, and I don’t think it will be a problem.  The glass shards would be a good deterrent — in case I am tempted.

Sometime in the last few years I realized that now, as an adult, I am in charge of my life.  That may seem like a rather obvious realization, and one that maybe could have come a bit before I turned 30, but I think that even though I knew I was responsible for my life, I hadn’t yet discovered the freedom that comes along with the perceived weight of that responsibility.

I love the notion of responsibility as access to change.  The idea that when I take responsibility for some part of my life, I am claiming my power and the ability to take action. Then, instead of responsibility acting as a vehicle for blame, unwillingly driven by me, the guilty victim, it is the cargo vessel for change.  When I take responsibility for my life, I now, all of a sudden, have a say in how it goes.  I make the shift from victimized driver to powerful captain.

When I slow down for long enough to remember that I am driving my own bus, I get present to the fact that I always have a choice about my next move.  I think I need to say that again: “I always have a choice about what I do next!”  When I remember that, I can allow myself to take the time to get present to what is really going on.  What am I really feeling?  What are my actual needs?  What is the most effective way to meet these needs?  What will be the effects down the road from whatever action I choose?

I am hungry.  My belly is growling.  I am tired.  A little thirsty, too.  I am about to arrive back home after traveling for a month.  I am not sure where I will be living for the winter, and I have chosen to stay with my parents tonight which means I will be entering the dynamics of the place where I grew up — the place where I spent so long using the now-dysfunctional program called, “food = comfort”.  I will be preparing and eating food in a strictly vegetarian kitchen, the diet my family has followed since I was young, so, while there, I won’t necessarily be able to keep the promise to myself to eat what my body wants.

And yet, even as these circumstances cause anxiety to rise in my body, I still have a choice.  As I start my car and drive off the ferry onto the island I call home, I am reminded of that choice by the faint rainbow of colors still painted on my palm.

Project Freedom: Day #1

Thursday, November 1st, 2012 was the first day of my current project to heal my relationship with food, to break free from my patterns of emotional eating, and to create a body in which I  love living!

It was sometime in the late afternoon on this particular Thursday, when I ate the last gooey, sugary bite and realized I had managed to consume two, full-sized almond snickers bars in the short span of a couple of hours.  The last time I ate even one snickers bar was probably over five years ago.  Snickers bars were the candy of my youth.  I was a vegetarian, and they were one of the few candy bars which didn’t contain either gelatin or egg whites.  I’m not sayin’ they were healthy, but they didn’t break any of my family’s dietary rules (beside the sugar!), and I absolutely loved them.  Somewhere along the way, though, I became so sensitive to sugar that they were way too sweet and I gave them up.  I can’t say I never looked back…

After a whole bunch of experimentation with food and diet over the course of the last 15 years, I have finally figured out a way of eating that makes me feel good in my body and mind.  Even so, I continue to re-test the validity of these specific dietary choices over and over and over again.  And I keep getting the same result.  Yes, I know, insanity.  And yet I don’t think I am necessarily less sane than any other emotional, hormonal (ie; I have emotions. I have hormones.) 30 year-old woman.  So what is going on?

I am not sure if I will ever find a definitive answer to that question, but for the duration of this month-long eating experiment, “Project Freedom”, and hopefully for the rest of my life, I am making a commitment to learn how to trust myself with food.

Here are a few of the tools I plan to use on this part of the journey:

  1.  The Eating Guidelines. Geneen Roth has started referring to her eating guidelines, as “what love would say to you if love could speak”. “Honey”, love would say, “eat when you are hungry, eat what you want, and stop when you’ve had enough.” “Sweetie, take some time. Eat in a relaxed environment. Don’t feel like you need to sneak your food. And please, my darling, eat with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure.”  I was introduced to Geneen’s eating guidelines when I was in my late teens, struggling with learning how to listen to my body, and they have continued to make a tremendous difference in my life.  In the beginning most of the guidelines seemed impossible to follow.  And I still find myself “waking up” to find myself eating while driving, or walking, or eating more than I want, or eating something I think I should eat but don’t really want to eat.  But, as I was reminded today, the guidelines are suggestions for traversing the journey called life.  I am not going to get my eating taken care of, and then move onto the rest of my life.  Instead, my success with the guidelines is an indicator.  When I find myself unable to follow them, it is time for me to check in with myself and see what is going on.  I am no longer attached to the belief that they are impossible.  In fact, I am sure that following them will make possible what I want for my relationship with food and my life.
  2. Writing. Asking myself questions. Being curious about my experience. Whenever I am not sure if I am hungry, I will have a dialogue with myself until I get sure.  I am excited to record all the parts of my journey including the yummy food I choose to eat (stay posted for photos and simple recipes), and the creative alternatives to emotional eating that I come up with.  I will journal every day and do my best to post something here most days.  I am also keeping a daily log of what I eat, what I feel, my intention for the day, what my body wants, etc.
  3. Participation in a weekly, group coaching call on “becoming irresistible” with Be More You.  Homework for this call includes making goals and taking actions towards my dream of finding a life partner, as well as being in touch with other women for support and guidance, and offering the same in return.  Not to mention becoming irresistible along the way.

I am committed to healing my relationship with food primarily for the freedom and self-love and trust it will provide.  Although I am not thrilled with my current pooch of a buddha belly, the possibility of finding my natural weight is a fabulous bonus.  I am excited to listen to my body as it tells me what it needs to be nourished and healthy and to find its “right” size.

For the next month, I plan to record my experiences and findings as I explore what it feels like to bring focus and commitment to this area of my life, and also be willing to share it with others.  The reason I have decided to finally record and share a part of my journey is this: As my favorite life coach, Martha Beck, says, “my story is all I have to give, which is why I keep writing it down”.  Although my experience with emotional eating is not necessarily the part of my story I feel most proud of, I offer it up with the intention that it will be useful to others who are facing similar challenges and are reaching for the same goal of healing their relationship with food.

Please feel free to leave comments if you are so moved (I would love it!), and if you have questions I will do my best to respond.  Thank you for joining me on this journey!