Does it help you to identify whether or not you’re addicted to food? Has it worked for you to call yourself a Food Addict or Compulsive Overeater?
This was a question someone asked, and I love what it helps us look at….the definition of addiction itself, and what supports us in ending the suffering.
We all know addiction basically means to be caught in a negative cycle of “having” to use a substance, eat that food, “do” something that relieves pressure or brings some pleasure….
….and that when we do it, it feels briefly good but overall, the whole cycle basically sucks. It has terrible side effects (in the case of eating, feeling bloated, sick, nauseated, frightened, discouraged, guilty, condemning of the self, angry with the body).
It does seem the process we’re calling addiction is whatever happens when we’re “hooked” and we feel like we can’t stop.
But it’s clear that with all the deep studying of whatever we’re calling addiction, it’s profoundly helpful to focus on the cause: difficult feelings, suffering, pain, trauma, anxiety, fear, rejection, betrayal.
What I find most helpful of all is knowing that nothing is permanent. Everything changes. Many people who were once addicted, no longer are.
It doesn’t matter ultimately if you say you are or are not by definition “addicted”. What is most important is noticing.
Watching the movement and energy and thinking that happens in each moment. Feelings, thoughts, memories, urge to bolt.
Who are we without our stressful or negative or fearful thoughts about what we encounter, including our memories?
Allowing them, perhaps, to pass through…and return to where they came from.
P.S. Eating Peace Process, an in-depth program for those of us with eating concerns, will start May 1st. Our focus is ending the repetitive cycle, with loving compassion.
The first time I ever decided I had a “problem” with my body weight, I was 14.
The usual solution is to follow a diet and exercise program. Right?
I want to weigh less, so I’ll change the food itself and I’ll exercise more. “So simple” we say.
It’s a math problem!
We’ve all heard over and over how food plans and dieting and exercising in ways we find unpleasant and controlling our food doesn’t ultimately work. It doesn’t get us to where we truly want to be: A person who doesn’t even think about over-eating or under-eating. Someone who doesn’t have a concern or fear or rebellion about eating.
I was once at a conference standing in the tea/coffee line with a doctor, having a lovely conversation. We had a long time, as the line was very long. When I mentioned that I had an eating disorder for many years, she said “oh, you’ll probably need to be vigilant about that for the rest of your life, right?”
How did I move into a much greater peace with eating, food, and weight?
I worked with the heavy weight of my emotional life. It was very heavy. I still experience swirling emotions, grief, heartbreak, anger, anxiety, nervousness. These are simply experiences that appear to be common, bubbling and normal for me. I’m not emotion-free.
In fact, in the past, when the weight of my emotional life was so heavy, before turning toward my emotional experience with compassion…. ….my goal was to have zero intense emotions.
I could tell they came in and took over, and I wanted to shut it all down. Who would we be without this story that being upset, troubled or anxious is bad or wrong? Who would we be without the story that the emotional and feeling life is torturous and must be avoided? Who would we be without the thought my feelings are frightening?
It may not feel comfortable, but it does feel human. For me, to be human is to feel. What I notice is….having feelings is a part of reality, whether I like them or not.
You want your body to be thinner?
Let’s turn it around: I want my thoughts about feelings to be thinner. I want emotional experience to be thinner.Just start with ONE fearful or troubling experience. You don’t have to handle all your terrors, upsets or grief at once. Begin with one, and study it, investigate it, chew on it, allow it in, allow it to be digested and to pass through you with understanding.
One of the best ways to do this?
The Work of Byron Katie.
Start with one difficult emotional experience where you felt betrayed, cut off, unloved or hurt, and take it through the four questions, then find turnarounds.
It may be easier to handle than you think.
It’s certainly worth the trip, because on the other side is a relaxation about having emotions without shame, and allowing them to live with compassion.
When this happened for me, I simply didn’t feel like binge eating, or starving myself, anymore.
“Since the beginning of time, people have been trying to change the world so that they can be happy. This hasn’t ever worked, because it approaches the problem backward. What The Work gives us is a way to change the projector–mind–rather than the projected. It’s like when there’s a piece of lint on a projector’s lens. We think there’s a flaw on the screen, and we try to change this person and that person, whomever the flaw appears on next. But it’s futile to try to change the projected images. Once we realize where the lint is, we can clear the lens itself. This is the end of suffering, and the beginning of a little joy in paradise.” ~ Byron Katie
Since the beginning of time, I was trying to change my weight and my body and my eating so I could be happy. This never worked, because it approached the problem backward. What The Work gave me is a way to change the projector–mind–rather than the projected–my body, the food.
I thought there was a flaw on the screen–my body itself–and I tried to change it constantly. I also tried to change this feeling and that feeling, trying to change myself and all “my” flaws when they appeared.
It was futile for me to try to change the projected image–the body, the food, the diet, the vision of perfection in the future, my feelings.
What worked instead was to clear the lens by questioning the beliefs and feeling the turnarounds with surrender, acceptance, trust.
I always say, if I can stop having an eating disorder and really notice the obsession to think about food is no longer present, then anyone can.
Long ago, I was ranting and complaining about myself really viciously.
It wasn’t the usual kind of inner rant, as if I had a really mean, abusive voice yelling at me “Why did you eat that? What’s wrong with you? Really? You’ll NEVER get this right.”
This particular rant, I was actually sharing what I was thinking out loud.
I was in a 12 Step Meeting (I can’t remember which kind, I went to many). I felt full of despair, and it was definitely about food and eating and my body. I felt entirely disgusted with myself and the whole ongoing experience.
What I wanted most was to shut down my behavior, my mind. I did NOT appear to want to understand what was going on with a more open mind.
I knew what was right and what was wrong, and I was definitely wrong.What if I had been able to pause, and treat myself with loving compassion….and ask if what I was thinking was true?
How did I react when I believed I KNEW I was doing it wrong?
Full of despair, anger, self-attack, aggression, dictatorship.Who would I be without “my” opinion?
Someone shared something with me after my sobbing and complaining and agonizing about how awful I was.
It changed my life.
Not instantly and forever. I went into that mode of judgment to the self again, oh yes.
But something was aware of the words the person shared with me, and how they were truer than what I was saying to myself.
What I see is, when I give up being furious with myself about my behavior or my appearance related to weight, I have a chance of understanding what’s happening in a bigger picture, and ending the torture. Love allows all the “bad” things we do with food and eating, it seems, to dissolve.
Not violence and control.
“We grow to believe we need to be improved and are badgered into self-improvement programs. But none of that is true. We don’t need more criticism or badgering; we need a loving, supportive ‘coach’.” ~ Cheri Huber
P.S. Eating Peace Process, an in-depth program for those of us with eating concerns, will start again May 1st. Stay tuned for more about this program about self-inquiry, ending control vs wild abandon mentality, and using the way we eat to enlighten ourselves to what’s really true: love has the power.
The great questions when it comes to our eating woes usually sound like “what’s wrong with me?” or “why can’t I just stop this obsessing?”
And there are also many more lists of “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” that also plague us. Last weekend, I jumped out of bed on Saturday morning so happy and excited because Saturday mornings I put on a dance with my husband Jon that has become one of the highlights of our week.
We create a huge, eclectic set list 80 minutes long, we rent a dance hall for two hours, we roll in speakers, laptop and sound equipment and hang up fabrics to decorate the space….and we sweat without planning or trying or pushing. Forty to sixty people come every time.
For me, it feels like the thrilling movement like the kind when you’re a child and you spring into the day, leap down the steps, roll down a hill, fly along on your bicycle, or jump for joy.
There is no “should” about exercising. There is no “shouldn’t” about sitting still.
One thing I think that helped me deeply recover at a core level from my eating and body image obsession was to question every rule I ever learned that I had not actually tested out and felt to be true for myself.
One of these rules was most certainly “I should be exercising”.
My belief, especially as an athlete, was that I should be pounding the pavement at all times and all hours. NEVER LAZE AROUND.
It became very serious, and rule that meant if I exercises, I was “good” and if I didn’t I was “bad”.
Who would you be without that dreadful story?
I noticed I began to love moving in my body again, when I didn’t have a “should” about it. I quit the long runs. I quit doing anything that wasn’t pleasant or fantastic. I tried new forms of movement like aikido, and qigong, yoga and freeform dance.
P.S. My monthly open First Friday 7:45 am PT for anyone wanting to take 90 minutes to meditate in The Work (no fee) is TOMORROW. Join ten minutes before we begin (7:35 am) here. If you want to speak and be heard, choose phone or WebCall to connect. Listen-only choose Broadcast.
Maybe one of the #1 key feelings to address when it comes to addiction, compulsion, reactions to life.
Fear leads to anger. Fear leads to resentment. Fear leads to withdrawing. Fear leads to not trying in any way to get your needs met that might involve getting hurt. Fear leads to guessing.
Fear leads to eating.
It has many forms: terror, nervousness, anxiety, worry, rumination, planning, irritation, controlling, forcing, battling, fighting, aggression, passivity, pushing, criticism, fury, smallness, shyness, hiding….eating.
There’s signage that’s used in so many construction sites where people are operating big bulky dangerous equipment: Safety First.
In this case of compulsive behavior, the big bulky dangerous equipment is our thinking.
A wisdom can come from this little phrase “safety first”, because if you don’t feel safe (enough) you won’t be able to do inquiry or deal with the world without feeling a sense of threat.
Can we look at what has been threatening, and face it head on with The Work of Byron Katie? To do this, a few things help. These may be wonderful to add, so your mind and heart can get a sense of “Safety First” when reviewing and resolving past troubling experiences and beliefs:
*remember that you’ll feel upset or uncomfortable right now, as you remember this uncomfortable situation from the past–it’s OK. The event isn’t happening except in your mind. Good to remember. *using The Work, you can be totally honest first about your stressful, judgmental thinking, and then answer the four questions *get someone to sit with you while you contemplate and question your trauma *be compassionate with yourself for reaching for power, comfort and safety with food–it was a good choice, for the time being (you didn’t know any better, so you made the best choice you could) *there’s something safer than replaying that old fearful experience within at a gut level–facing it, speaking it, sharing it, inquiring.
It’s especially worth facing fear when it means you won’t be eating so compulsively anymore.
You might even notice, when you inquire, do The Work and find your own wisdom….you don’t need the soothing food gives you.
You’re safe now, so no need to eat.
The Work will hold you, or anyone, in peace.
“Strange things can happen when the mind understands and rest silently in itself, but these are no more miraculous than the simple act of breathing or walking or biting into an apple. When the past is over (and it always is), I forget it until someone asks me about it, because there’s nothing to remember. It’s done, it’s gone without a trace, as if it had never existed. What is happening right now? That’s where my focus is.” ~ Byron Katie
Last call for this year’s annual Eating Peace Retreat: a deep and beautiful immersion into questioning stressful thought, including fear, and sharing 5 nights 6 days together in Seattle. To read more, visit here.
Retreat means literally to fall back, pull out, give way, give ground to the “enemy” in a war zone.
In retreats, where we gather together outside of our daily activities, we get to back off from the front lines of life, and pause.
I wasn’t so sure, for a long time, about offering a retreat specifically for eating peace, self-inquiry, and the spiritual path known as The Work.
It seemed too daunting.
It took me a long time to find peace with food. I couldn’t promise anything. I could never with any integrity say “guaranteed to heal your compulsions by Monday”. And yet, people would request this retreat.
I noticed my own joy at attending retreats and workshops. People invited me to come facilitate about eating, thinking, feeling, questioning, body image, compulsive behavior, addiction.
The topic is amazing and wonderful and agonizing and confusing, and worthy of profound exploration. I continue to be curious, endlessly, about peoples’ experiences with food.
So it became a thing.
At first, in 2010, it was a one day event. It wasn’t enough.
It quickly became two days (a whole weekend), and then I added in Friday all day as well. For a few more years it was 3.5 days, and now…..it’s five nights and six days. We start on a Weds evening, and end on Monday morning.
The Eating Peace Retreat is the longest and most focused and guided retreat I do. It’s the one that addresses what almost killed me (my eating behaviors).
It’s the retreat I wished for thirty years ago when I suffered so much with my thinking about food and eating and weight. I went to therapies, tried nutritionists, read about every kind of diet (couldn’t keep on them) and was even hospitalized because of my obsessive eating.
Really, it was my obsessive thinking.
It was my beliefs and ideas about eating, not-eating, dieting, not-dieting, addiction, cravings, compulsions and weight. Most of it was torturous and oppositional and fear-inducing.
Who would you be without your story of “I am abstinent, I am doing it, I have control”? And when the chocolate is eaten, “I did it, I am terrible, I cannot keep promises to myself.” I, I, I. Who would you be without the violence in your mind and heart? ~ Byron Katie
Doing The Work has made all the difference in the world.
It is the kindest, most compassionate way to sit and inquire with thought, and understand the patterns or feelings that build up and create compulsive action in the first place.
I love spending the time to sit and look at every fear, anxiety, disappointment….every grabby pattern, every panic that says “I have to have this!” or “I have to have something else–not this!”
When we gather together on retreat, we sit in a circle and share and do The Work. We uncover our embarrassing, uncomfortable, sad, childlike, innocent thoughts and beliefs and find new ways to be life, and with reality.
What I’ve found as I question my thoughts is a peace beyond belief.
On retreat we rest, relax, get all the physical needs handled so we can be with the busy mind, and unravel what’s there. Using our imagination (which has been so good at the negative) we wonder what it’s like without our thoughts and rules and effort to control everything.
Together, we eat, sleep, share, question.
What a wonderful practice.
If you’d like to come to this year’s retreat, you’d be welcome. We have two spots left. This fee for the Eating Peace retreat is only $585. The two rooms left are $120/night (for a king sized luxurious bed) and $95/night for a queen room on the lower level.
Geneen Roth, who does a beautiful job of inquiry and freedom from compulsive eating, charges $2300 for the same length of time. Byron Katie’s School is over $5000 for 9 days (almost ten times as expensive) and treatment for emotional eating or eating disorders are generally $2000 per day and start with a minimum of two weeks.
This time together is one of the best ways you can practice freedom from frustration, and be without binge-eating, graze-eating, worry, struggle or fear for six days.
Retreat offers you practice to feel true relaxation in your bones, so you can take it home with you and rest in peace.
And even if you never travel to attend retreat, you can have your own “inner” retreat, starting now, with this new moment.
Have you ever had the thought that you have zero peace when it comes to food? Never a peaceful moment with eating, or your body…..ever?
It’s probably not true, if you really think about it. First of all, there are many minutes in a day when food is in the world, and so are you, and you’re OK–you’re not thinking about food.
Then there’s night time. You’re sleeping, even though food is in the vicinity, or somewhere close by in the house.
This doesn’t diminish the experience of terrible stress around food when it’s there. I know it hurts. I know it’s very painful, and full of struggle.
The thing is, we can take a look at these struggle-filled moments one situation at a time, even if you feel like a whole tsunami of stress is washing over you when it comes to eating or your weight.
We start with one moment.
If you’re not sure where to look….you can go back to wondering what you learned about food and eating and body image from the people around you when you were a child. I know that’s a big topic all on it’s own.
But if you sit for just a few minutes and remember, and see the people who influenced you, you’ll find a person to investigate….and everything they modeled for you. If you’re still not sure, do The Work on your mother.
Today I share a wonderful moment discovered by someone in the Eating Peace Process Immersion program. She remembered a time sitting at the dinner table with parents and grandparents.
She was forced to eat what was on her plate.
This brings to light the idea that there’s a “good” way to eat, and a “bad” way to eat. A “right” way to eat, and a “wrong” way to eat.
Eating and food becomes a religion. I myself become a good or right person if I eat like x, and I become a bad or wrong person when I eat like y.
We can find these situations of deep influence, and question them! Is what you learned absolutely true? Are you sure? Who would you be without your thought?
If you’re longing for what it’s like to eat beyond a religion about food, in a place where there’s no right or wrong and peace is the core sense (not chaos) then come join me at the Eating Peace Retreat Jan 9-14, 2019 for five nights/six days of peaceful eating, peaceful thinking.
It’s coming. The annualEating Peace Retreat 2019. We begin Weds evening 7 pm on January 9th and end Monday morning 11:00 am on January 14th. If you fly into Seatac, arrive by 4:30pm on Wednesday, and book your flight out Monday 1:00 pm or later. In many ways moving about as peace is what this whole thing is all about; eating peace, thinking peace, being peace. Even lining things up in a peaceful way when moving the body from here to there to here again.
And one thing that isn’t so peaceful? And often results in eating off-balance?
It’s really thinking. Thinking in a way that feels repetitive, sigh-inducing, restless. Boring thoughts come down to a basic point: I need something more than what is here. This isn’t good enough. This is pale by comparison (to some past experience). I don’t like this. I want entertainment.
And a big key to boring thinking: I don’t want to remember the things I’m concerned about. As I mention in today’s video, I once heard “boredom” called Dissociation Lite. Why do we dissociate?
Because we don’t want to look at our environment with open, clear eyes. Sometimes, we’re afraid of the darkness, the emptiness, the space, the memories.
Maybe we think of the emptiness of unscheduled or unplanned time as haunting, lonely, or sad.
We say it’s “boring” and we’re off to the snack cupboards.
Who would you be without this thought?
Watch here to get the feel of exploring being with reality when it’s empty….without boredom.
So many of us have had the thought “I have no idea what to eat!” or “I need to make sure food will be where I’m going that I can eat!”
We feel lost, confused, full of analysis.
We have to read about “the plan” or understand “the diet” and have someone tell us what to avoid, what to add, what to never eat, what to always eat. Maybe we take books and calculations with us everywhere, so we can look up whether something is “allowed” or not.
Then we plan and manage food, and take food with us on trips when we travel, even if there’s plenty of food where we’re going.
Not that there’s anything wrong with finding structure and balance that’s peaceful and supportive. Education is sometimes amazing for this. Asking questions is also helpful, when you have them.
(I’ve worked with many people who follow a food plan for awhile in order to learn normal portions, comfortable ways of eating, balanced amounts and types of foods).
But what if you had a built-in compass that could support you in a balanced way with what you eat?
Well, you do.
It’s not in the mind.
Which is tricky, because the mind gets so loud and brash, it appears to override our experiences and take over everything….including (it seems) our contact with the wisdom in our own bodies.
Yet, the mind never kills off our access to the body.
In the body has an inner compass or refined measuring mechanism that is through the felt senses. We feel “enough” or we feel “too much” when it comes to eating and foods.
How do you find connection with this built-in compass you already have, since the day you were born?
We don’t follow the impulses of the mind or emotion so quickly. We question “I need to eat that immediately” or “I need to eat x to be happy” or “I need to NOT eat x to be happy”.
Who would you be without your story about what’s going on around you?
What if it wasn’t frightening to be without a thought or story about what’s going on with food, eating or your weight?
What if it was peaceful, relaxed, and natural instead?
If you’d like to come experience what it’s like to question your thoughts, in a loving, kind, supportive environment so you tap into what’s happening in the mind, what’s happening in your emotions, what’s happening in your body….
….then join me at Eating Peace Retreat 2019. We begin Weds evening 7 pm on January 9th and end Monday morning 11:00 am on January 14th.
You may experience the relief of discovering your inner compass that you thought didn’t exist anymore. The one that you can hear again that says “enough” or “done” and the one that says “let’s eat” with joy and freedom!
When we pay attention to the body, we’re attuned with the natural flow of What Is, not grabbing for concepts about foods and eating and bodies that really are not true–or are only ideas in the mind.
If you are not able to come to retreat to experience the joy of questioning stressful thoughts and eating in peace, then enjoy this guided meal meditation right here.
You can do this. If you’re wondering whether or not you can, remember it’s a process, a practice. You can question that you don’t have what it takes.
Is it true? No.
You can find trust, balance and joy in the flow of eating where no kind of food is evil, poisonous and frightening, and you get to notice what works for you and what doesn’t, without shame, fear or control.
You were born this way. You can return to it.
If I can, so can you.
“The most peace I have ever felt in my life with food was at the Eating Peace Retreat.” ~ participant