The Balance of Giving and Receiving to Discover Lasting Food and Body Freedom

A theme that so frequently arises in my work with women finding food and body freedom is the balance between giving and receiving.  When I reflect on this theme, some questions arise within me, as do some answers. 

Some questions: How can we live comfortably in this world, a world of so many unmet needs ‘out there’ … and continue protecting and sharing our own loving hearts and our very real sensitivity?   How can we do all this without losing the very precious balance between what we give to others, and what we give to ourselves in terms of time, care, attention and the meeting-of-needs? 

For those of us with stress-generating ways we relate to food, this balance can be a tricky one.  When the balance tips too far one way or the other, we can find ourselves once again obsessed and preoccupied with food, not sure how we ended up there again.  

When we don’t make time and space for ourselves, or nurture an openness to our inner worlds, we are deprived on a very deep level.  Our Food Rescuers then step in to fill that empty hole we feel inside with food and alcohol and still more over-working, or with undereating and over-exercising. 

This place of emptiness has a voice and many stories it longs to tell us and be heard.  Food and body image obsession cover over these stories like a heavy blanket, leaving them alone and unwitnessed in the dark.

We must gently, steadily, and consistently begin to practice prioritising meeting ourselves in those unseen places.  Food and body freedom is a path of forming a friendly relationship with our inner lives; to sustain this freedom, we must do so until it becomes a habit.  We don’t need to meditate for hours or go on long retreats to do this.  Small daily non-negotiable actions that we commit to do no matter what … these are the things that create lasting change and a feeling of freedom over time.

Once these foundations of attending to our inner lives are in place, more space gets created inside.  This in turn allows some of our food habits to begin to soften.  In turn, more space gets created inside.  It’s like a positive upward/outward spiral… 

From this new vantage point of more space, our food rescuers/firefighters can act as a helpful indicator when they show up and act out old habits again.  They can act as guides for us, showing us when that balance of giving and receiving has got back out of whack in our lives, and when we are in need of more Self care and Self attention, and the time and space for this in our lives … to slow down and listen within a little more again ….  

Many of us developed habits in childhood and teenage-hood of prioritising others’ needs far above our own, to the point where we lost steady contact with those needs and even managed to forget they exist. 

Many of us learned early on to nurture and attend to the world as a protective strategy: to try to fix external things, people and relationships so that life felt safer inside.  This never worked, but we didn’t have a choice: we were children, and there was nobody there to help us feel better at the time, so we kept looking outwards. 

A focus on the external rather than the internal landscapes of our lives to try to feel better can become a habit that is chronic for many of us.  It is a strategy that can work to some extent, in its role of distancing us from the pain of loneliness and disconnect we felt in our own bodies when we didn’t receive the nurturing and reassurance from the adults around us back then.

Now we can be that inner-nurturer for ourselves: the one we needed when we were younger.  The FAB Freedom process offers a scaffold for learning how.  When we begin to explore and prioritise its principles, we discover the way of protecting the balance of giving and receiving in our lives.  To practice maintaining this balance is in turn essential for discovering and maintaining lasting Food And Body peace … a spiral up and out, to freedom …. 

One image I love for how I want to live in the world is the overflowing cup: it waters the world from that place of inner balance. 

A more pragmatic image with a similar message comes from the guidance parents receive on airplanes: to apply their own oxygen masks before attending to their child’s.

What we can offer the world is limited by the amount we can offer ourselves.  Unless we continuously, steadily, daily prioritise our own needs: physical, emotional, spirit and soul needs, we will be deprived when we give to others.  Our internal family of parts know what these needs are and never forget them, even when we somehow manage successfully to do so.  Inner parts of us can show us the way towards what we truly need for ourselves when we make time to listen to their thoughts, feelings and dreams for our lives. 

A mantra I appreciate for myself and remind myself of often is, “I will always be there for me, no matter what.”

The FAB Starpoints show us how to “be there for ourselves” in practical ways.  Some of these ways may change over time, as we change.  Interestingly, I find as I keep practicing these ways until they’re a habit, I am actually able to be MORE available to the world, not less. 

Somehow my parts learned along the way, from family, culture, and myths passed down, that when I give to myself, I deprive others and should be ashamed of my selfishness.  However, I am finding the opposite to be true.  When I consistently practice meeting my own deepest needs, the quality of my presence changes and deepens.  I am seeing many signs of how this improves the quality of my relationships and the way I serve other people in my family, my work, and my life as a whole.