A lot of people spend their life energy living in a food prison. They’re at war with food, with their appetite, with weight, with fat, and with a body that’s not being cooperative in terms of looking exactly what we want it to look like. The net result of all this is that life feels like a ball and chain, and it’s easy to lose hope that things can ever be different.
The reality, though, is that there’s always hope. Freedom is just around the corner, and closer than you think. Here are five simple practices that will help you to have more freedom with food:
1. Be grateful for food
One way to be free is to be grateful. It just may be the fastest road to happiness with food and body. The reason why gratitude works so well is because it’s the opposite of the state that people who struggle with food so often find themselves in. When we’re fighting food and body, we are saying to the world that what we have is not what we want, and therefore we don’t have much gratitude. From this place, we will constantly feel a sense of lack and a hungering for something more, something which always seems to elude us. Gratitude asks us to completely shift our worldview.
Gratitude relaxes our nervous system, increases our energy, decreases our pettiness, and strengthens our immune system. It makes our food taste better and soothes our experience around it. It opens our mind.
So before you eat, be grateful. Practice gratitude at every meal for several weeks and notice what happens. And for extra credit, practice gratitude for the body that you have right now, just as it is right now. You just might find that you have a whole new experience of food and of life.
2. Have hope about your eating challenges
Having hope allows our mind to stay nimble through struggle. It’s easy to give up when things are hard or painful. But, when we engage hope, it shores us up like a buoy when we are stranded in a sea of emotional turmoil.
Hope focuses our mind to see what’s working, rather than what’s not. If we believe we are doomed, we tend to fulfill that prophecy. If we believe that every struggle has a solution, and that there is a guidance that will move us toward what we want if we take action, the stars tend to align in our favor. It doesn’t matter whether we believe in a god or deity or not. Hope frames our outlook on struggles. Hope is what gets us back in the game of life, and hope is what helps define our future when it comes to a happier relationship with food.
3. Practice joy with eating
Our brains are wired for pleasure, and eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Practice eating with joy. Allow yourself full permission to partake in food that’s enjoyable to you. Give yourself the little pleasures in life. When we allow ourselves to receive pleasure, we’re also less likely to overindulge, because we’re eating in the light of day, not in secrecy or shame. By taking pleasure in your food, you are doing what you’re wired to do. As we learn from Dynamic Eating Psychology, part of the joy of being in a body is to be able to accept the pleasure of eating with gratitude and full, conscious embodiment.
4. Share meals with others
Don’t isolate yourself. Food tastes even better when we share it with others. Sharing a meal joins us with the rest of humanity and can help get us out of our own internal turmoil. For eons, humans have shared food together. But if we’ve had a challenging relationship with food, it’s easy to get in the habit of eating alone and suffering alone.
Eating is one of the first things we do in our earliest infant moments, and it requires another person’s presence. It’s wired in our brains to link bonding with being fed. So often we substitute food for our longing for connection because of this link. Why not have both?
Slow down and make time for sharing a meal with others. How many times have you had a shift in perspective when you sat down to share a meal with friends or loved ones? Some of the best memories in life are made over meals like these.
5. Stop apologizing for not having the perfect body
Finally, stop apologizing for not having the perfect body. When we focus on food to help us create the perfect body, pain and suffering are predictable. Perfectionism is like a bad virus, and it’s the kind that we need to use our awareness and intention to remove from our system. Perfectionism drains our energy, and it breaks our heart slowly over time.
The truth is, it’s the imperfections we have that make us humans interesting. In other words, rather than attack what you perceive as your imperfections, celebrate your uniqueness.
In Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem,” there’s a beautiful line that goes “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” It’s our flaws that allow us to interact with life. Sure, we can improve to become a better version of ourselves, but that’s distinctly different from trying to become someone else, something entirely different.
No matter what shape or size your body, stop apologizing.
And with the energy you save, start celebrating.
A true feeling of freedom around food takes time and commitment to develop. It’s the product of many small choices and passing thoughts, which grow into habits and attitudes. The good news is, we all have the ability to cultivate this freedom. And we can take the first step right now.
The Institute for the Psychology of Eating
© Institute For The Psychology of Eating, All Rights Reserved, 2018