Reflections at 35
Last month I celebrated my 35th birthday.
I’ve been steady on the path as a counselor and coach for nearly ten years (10 years this coming winter), continually training and honing my craft, and continually working on myself.
I’ve been a student of nutrition and eating psychology for a long time and (more recently,) psycho-shamanism, curanderismo, and Internal Family Systems therapy and have travelled around the country and to South America to study with great teachers and healers.
My understanding of eating and what surrounds it has deepened in all directions over these past years.
Now I stand both as an insider and an onlooker into the nutritional world and see a culture fascinated, infatuated, obsessed, conflicted, dogmatic, undernourished, asleep, righteous, and neurotic around food on many different levels and, I do believe, for many good reasons.
Even as health and nutritional coaching continue to take first world countries around the world by storm, admirable in their pursuits to clean things up, somewhere eating well has become a badge of honor, a way to simply be better, cleaner, and almost less touched by life.
Have you noticed this?
AND….at the same time, collective awareness has expanded regarding the importance of supporting our local farmers, growing our own food and herbs, and knowing what our food is made of and what conditions its grown in.
Things most of us can agree are progress.
All considered, the interest in healthy eating has picked up some unhealthy baggage along the way.
Personal baggage: as individuals work toward attaining the ideals of being healthy, of doing it right, of looking great – goals that can turn out to be oppressive and complicated with hidden motivations, say, when deciding what to order for dinner or how to lose some weight.
Collective baggage: as we as a people are experiencing a loss of a solid center of orientation. Enter the media exploiting this, feeding us images and ideals of what makes a good and successful life – weight, youth, a perfect diet. These become the center of orientation and can trigger the type of shame that encourages perfectionism and food fundamentalism.
How do we sort through it all?
Turns out, a multi-layered way…
Work worth doing
As you know, I love helping people feel better physically and more confident about their eating. I have an interest in the body as a biological system, and revel in the many nutritional strategies and therapies available.
And still, nutritional work alone, without space for the inner life is not enough…
Think about going to a nutritionist and simply being handed a list of foods to eat and to avoid (Have we not all been there at some point? Even just researching online…)
Does this feel great? Really? Does it last for the long haul?
Working outside behavior alone has it’s limitations.
We don’t know if the “clean eaters” beautiful diet is riddled with fear of weight gain or impurity or if the local foods activist feels hatred towards those that buy non-local foods, including themselves.
Who exactly is doing the eating? What’s the motivation?
Approval? Safety? Shame? Anxiety? Belonging?
The Great Healer
Some of the greatest work we’ll do in life has much to do with loving ourselves and touching our most pained or unskilled places with grace and a compassionate heart.
This includes our eating.
An area, I’ve learned in this work, that needs a lot of love.
How are you with yourself when you run into a stressful eating habit that’s “off the plan?” What about when you’re having a tough day accepting your body and an acquaintance makes a comment about what you’re eating?
There are endless ways to work with food and the diet, but WHO is doing it* and in what spirit, is what makes all the difference…
Those are my thoughts for now. It is still a great pleasure to do this work, acknowledging both the seen and unseen variables that guide our eating and our lives. Let’s keep carving out space for solid and sustaining nutritional work. Thanks for reading.
*thank you Marc David and Dick Schwartz