I talk a lot about ‘Finding the Middle Way’ with our food. But what do I actually mean by this?
What I mean is staying away from any kind of fundamentalism regarding how to find peace and freedom regarding food and our bodies. It means finding our OWN unique, dynamic way with how we eat and how our bodies are today.
We may be someone who get pretty extreme around food at times, in conflicting ways. For example, we may have diet-focused parts of us that are extremely restrictive and rule-focused, or on the opposite extreme, we may have parts of us that long to eat our most irresistible foods as much and as often as possible. One extreme leads to and causes the other. It is a serious burden for anyone being plagued by these extreme parts, and, as such, many methods have sprung up to attempt to help us find a way out of this inner-conflict, to a place of freedom and ease.
I’ve been exploring many of these ‘ways’, both on behalf of my own continuing recovery, and to keep my knowledge-base current for the benefit of my clients. What I’ve noticed is, just as the extreme parts of can be in conflict – dieting versus indulging – so too can the schools-of-thought around helping us recover.
One school prefers and suggests a structured plan, one that typically excludes the food we’ve found ourselves hooked on. This school warns that eating such foods leads us right back into the trap of food-obsession and over-indulgence. And another school warns against any kind of structure or exclusion-of-foods from our lives, saying that this method only activates our dieting food-inner-controllers, and sets us up for perfectionism and self-criticism when we perceive ourselves to have failed once again.
I’ve noticed that both of these schools of thought can be in danger of closed-minded criticism and judgement of the other, that only intensifies the confusion and conflict we so often experience within ourselves, between our own warring parts. What works for us on the spectrum of ‘no-structure’ to ‘firm-structure’ around our food will likely change as we recover. Any kind of judgement about what “should” work for us – ideas that are projected out from both sides of the food recovery camp – can feel hurtful or even threatening to us as we first begin to tread the delicate path of recovery. If we are are finding that what we are trying around our food is finally bringing us peace, we must hang onto that, even in the face of judgement from professionals or others in recovery. To hear one camp or the other consider the way we do our food today either “Too rigid!”, or “Too loose!” doesn’t help.
Today I heard a well-known presenter audibly scoff about a spiritual program of food-recovery that I personally know has helped – even saved – many people. I’ve witnessed such judgments fly both ways.
I know women who have finally found their feet walking the path of recovery by letting go of ALL rules around food, and eating what they want – blissful relief and freedom after a life of desperate continuous rule-making and breaking. And I know other women for whom this would be the worst thing they could do: their bodies and minds have been a battle-ground for the swing of their extreme dieting and bingeing mindsets for so long, that loving structure and gently firm boundaries around what, when, where and how they do and do not eat is essential to continue guiding them out of this mire.
To share some of my own experience, I’ve been in recovery for over ten years, and I’m doing well: I have long been happy, free, and peaceful around food and my body-image. And yet I have recently found it necessary to exclude melted cheddar cheese from my palate of possible-food-choices…. It is just so irresistible to parts of me, that it sends me into thoughts of cheese and more cheese throughout the day, as well as activating the dieting parts of me that wants to control and criticise the obsession, desire, and indulgence right outta me! Just for today, when I eat melted cheese, I am not as present and available to myself, my loved ones, and my clients as I would otherwise be.
And in other areas of my food life, I am as free, spontaneous, and-boundary-less as I please… the balance is delicious, in all senses of the word… and I’m left feeling free.
So for me, just for today, this so-called ‘rule’: ‘melted cheddar-cheese off limits for today’ creates relief, peace and contentment in my system. Tomorrow that might change, as I change, as my body changes….
We’ve done so much judging based on what is right for us. From now on, let us practice love, acceptance, tolerance and harmony… and keep our eyes on our own plates.