"No matter how developed you are in any other area of your life, no matter what you say you believe, no matter how sophisticated or enlightened you think you are, how you eat tells all."
| Geneen Roth
When Geneen Roth's book, Women Food and God was published 2010, I didn't pick it up. Because at that time of my life, I thought I had it all figured out - at least in the food and body image department. How naiveté!
When I was 36 years old, I woke up one day and decided I was going to eat a plant-based diet. I had been on and off vegetarian for years, so I knew it would be easy. This time I was going to do it right (lots of greens, no processed soy). And it was easy, because I was committed.
As a consequence of changing my eating to exclude all animal products, my body and energy shifted a great deal. I felt amazing physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I had a new respect for my body and life, in general. My whole being felt lighter.
Fast forward 7 years later, a sluggish thyroid, too much sadness and grief, a lifetime of over exercising, and more shifting as I enter periomenopause - my body has become softer, fuller, and more feminine.
My body is changing; and in some ways, I don't like it! My needs are different now. But even worse, I've been paying close attention to my own inner dialogue about my body. I'd be lying if I said it was positive. I knew there had to be a better way. And I had to find it. Would I want my daughters talking to themselves the way I was speaking to myself? Hell no. My 9 and 12 year olds girls think they are beautiful, and it shows.
Self-sabotage is simply misguided self-love. - Brad Yates
Food and body image is so intertwined. We can't get away from it. The outer messages coming from everywhere are so conflicted, and the SHOULDS never end. It's even rare that it doesn't come up at some point in conversations with friends - as if food is the enemy to connect us.
Food is not the enemy and willpower is not the solution.
It's not. And I've been shocked to I learn of some of the extremes that women go through to achieve their idea of perfection. For many, body image trumps our nutritional intelligence as we ignore our own inner wisdom. We all know it's hard to get away from all the mass media messages screaming at us that we need to fix ourselves.
And, we listen.
Seriously, what the heck is the perfect body? I see women all day who are of all shapes and sizes, who are beautiful.
Last week, I was having a conversation with two women. One of the women was thin; and at first glance, some might be envious of her shape, but there was a look of sadness, deprivation, and lack of vitality in her eyes. The other woman was full of life. She was not overweight by any means, but more voluptuous, radiant, and comfortable in her skin. And I enjoyed her energy, I even remarked to my husband, she helped me see my own beauty in a different light.
I've seen this look of deprivation before, but for some reason, I received it differently this time. Not to say that all thinner women have this look, but if you are struggling against the true nature of your body and not nourishing yourself, it shows. Just like with overeating, there is no hiding.
Beauty is not a number on the scale nor is confidence. It's how we feel at home in our bodies.
If you realized how beautiful you are, you would fall at your own feet.
Lately, it's occurred to me that I have the perfect body to do my work in the world. If I had been teeny tiny with no issues, I would not have acquired some of the wisdom I've been blessed with. My struggles have shaped who I am. Helping women love their bodies is something I inspire to do, and as I get less judgmental with myself, I can be less judge-y about other women. It's a win-win for connecting to ourselves and to each other.
The truth about food and body image is so deep, that I am certain most women could write a book about it. That is, if we truly want to know ourselves, which I believe we do.
Sadly, it is much easier for us to focus on our so-called imperfect bodies than to say, "I don't feel like I am good enough." "I am overwhelmed." "I am sad." Or even asking the tough questions like, "What do I truly need to fill me up?" Or whatever stories or limiting beliefs we are telling ourselves. In some ways, food is a less painful distraction. It keep us from asking the real questions.
A perfect body, if it does exist, does not equal a perfect life, and acquiring will not solve all our problems.
It's NEVER about the food. Unless, of course, you have an actual food allergy. It's about loving ourselves more fully and not just with food. But when we love and truly want to nourish ourselves, we CHOOSE the food (and movement and thoughts) that feeds our true hunger - and our soul hunger. Food is our teacher, as Marianne Williamson, author of A Course in Weight Loss says, it a spiritual journey of our relationship to ourselves. And overeating is "spiritual starvation."
So what is real hunger anyways? I found this great definition.
Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you
are satisfied. It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and
truly get enough of it-not just stop eating because you think you should.
Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food. Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good. Normal eating is mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way. It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful. Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more. Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating. Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life.
| Ellyn Sater
As we begin the year, there will be no resolutions, no detoxes, no punishing thoughts and actions around food and body image for me. Just setting an intention to love myself more with nourishing self-care, love my sisters more with radical non-judgment, and truthful listening to the wisdom of my body. This is what has worked for me in the past, not a specific diet or way of eating.
Do you want to be chasing an elusive dragon your entire life?
If in loving yourself you desire a different body, everything will change. Or nothing will change. When you get there, either you will realize your life is the same, and it's an inside job. (FYI: It always is.) Or you will truly love your life NOW, as is, and the "perfect body" will emerge.
She, your perfect body, was always there to begin with.
So start with love.
*** If you would like to receive my newsletter, please sign up on the side panel of this page. In this week's issue, I will be talking more about food and body image, as well as listing some very helpful books and ideas on this topic.