By Emily Holden
There is much to be said for the struggle, the pain, the terrible burden of having a dysfunctional relationship with food. Feeding yourself, the most basic activity that enables us to survive in a physical body, becomes a daily, or even hourly battle. I want to eat. I mustn’t eat. I want to eat that. I shouldn’t eat that. Look how slim and gorgeous she is. Look how fat I am. I’m failing. I must do better. I can’t do better. What’s the point? ARGH!
And it hurts. It hurts when your birth right, a peaceful and effortless relationship with food and body, seems so out of reach. You have met a natural eater. You recognise that innate ability to flow through hunger, into fullness, and back to hunger. And it eludes you, so you wish for that superpower every night. Just to eat when hungry. To stop when full. To be in a body of natural size. To let go of this madness once and for all. I wish… I wish… I wish this would just go away.
Do you? During the many years of struggle, of frustration, of despair, have you benefitted from this tug of war? What is it teaching you? What are you learning? How does this struggle shape you, what gifts does it bring you?
As I reflect on the gifts of my overeating, I find great blessings, sparkling like jewels among the wasteland of hurt. I find the source of my compassion, my imperfect humanity, the part of me that connects deeply with the struggle in you. I find humility, and I ask for help and support, I lean on those closest to me, and I invite the universe to guide me. And my fragile self is pushed into the light of day, as my eating challenges demand me to be vulnerable, to be real, to speak the unspeakable shame of being a broken eater. Upon my darkness, I shine a light, and in doing so, I find my whole self – imperfect, struggling, brave and beautiful.
On this journey, I learn my lessons. My body-mind needs real, whole, natural foods to feel well. So I receive the gift of a beautiful plant-based diet that brings me health and vitality. My soul needs real, honest, authentic connection to feel well. So I receive the gift of deep and loving relationships with those around me.
And the final gift I receive? I need unconditional gentleness, acceptance, and patience with my student self, who is learning from this most powerful teacher. We eat every day. We have an opportunity to learn, every day. Our teacher is with us – in our bellies, on our plates, in our hearts and mouths. Whatever habits we have learned, we can unlearn them – all we have to do is try something different, something scary, something uncomfortable – and see how the body-mind reacts. Is this new way supportive to my wellbeing? Do I want to give myself a gift – the gift of freedom to change, to evolve, to learn new ways?
Thank you to my teacher, my overeating journey, for the humility, the compassion, and the authenticity you bring to my life. As I continue my journey, I practice with gratitude for the Emily who went before me – brave and beautiful, hurting and struggling. Don’t despair my darling. Don’t give up. Give yourself the gift of unconditional gentleness. Onward we go, gently, with gratitude for each baby step we take, in both light and darkness. One cannot exist without the other, so I give thanks for all.