For the longest time, I worked really hard to manage my tendencies towards food.
Those tendencies were basically that I LOVED junk food, and didn’t seem to able to control myself while eating it. So, I would work out a bunch and make a point of getting exercise, so that I was at least counter-balancing “The way I was”.
Every now and then I would decide I wanted to become more lean, or lose some weight, or get ripped, or whatever, and then I would try to impose hard rules on myself (like “No eating candy for a month”).
When those hard rules didn’t work, I would try creative rules, like “You can only eat dessert when you’re out for dinner”.
Basically I was trying to use my mind and a top-down approach to control and manage how I showed up in my life around food.
It never seemed to work. I might achieve some kind of short-term success, but because these approaches were always layered over top of “The way I was”, the only options were basically to live under the imposition of these rules, or to eventually get sick of these rules and return to the status quo.
Over the course of this past year, I’ve been doing a lot of work healing what lies underneath my tendency toward food.
Initially, as I started to create more space between my impulse to eat and actually eating, I found myself presented with boredom. I’m bored, so that’s why I’m eating.
But actually, boredom was only the first layer, and as I’ve continued to work with this, I’ve practised sitting in that boredom for longer and longer. As I’ve done so, the boredom starts to morph. It shifts from boredom to frustration. And then to sadness. And eventually, usually to helplessness or feeling profoundly lost and listless.
These are feelings I don’t generally enjoy feeling, and so I learned to find creative ways to avoid them. As long as I continue to stimulate myself, I never really have to confront those feelings.
So basically, I had this stack:
Helpless and feeling lost and directionless > Sad > Frustrated > Bored > Eating and Stimulation
My solutions were all aimed towards addressing the very top, and maaaaaaybe the second layer.
None of that works.
What I’ve found is as I’ve practised deepening into all of this and really letting myself feel what is there underneath, I can start to be with those bottom-most feelings.
It’s not a fun time. But it IS what is actually there to be felt.
Put differently, I’m not allowing myself to feel helpless and lost because it’s productive or will get me somewhere. I’m practising feeling those things, because that is what is there for me to feel.
The more I practise with this, the less I need to do something to avoid feeling them. I get better at simply allowing those feelings to be, and as I become more proficient at this, I can start to relate to them differently.
These days, feelings of helplessness and a lack of direction serve me as profound indicators that it’s time for me to slow down and simply sit in surrender.
And the miracle in all of this is that the craving to eat food has simply fallen away. I no longer need to manage how I’m feeling, and so the strategies I used to avoid feeling something are no longer needed.
This is how we actually shift things like our eating habits, our so-called “laziness”, our greed, and so on — by getting to the root of what is really there, and letting ourselves sit with it.
You don’t need to create crazy diets, or bizantine rules to overcome “the way you’ve become”.
You simply need to face what is there, and start to heal it.