Tuesday, 28 August 2018

The unbearable vulnerability of eating enough.

If I were to pull a theme out of all the conversations I had about food and eating this summer, it would be black-and-white thinking. By that I mean, thinking in all-or-nothing terms, swinging between two extremes, and never pausing to consider the middle ground. In fact, actively resisting the middle ground.

There is so much black-and-white thinking about eating in our culture, that sometimes I start to wonder if we have an allergy to moderation. It seems that moderation (by which I mean: eating enough to feed your life, while respecting your body’s fullness signals) must be a place of intense vulnerability, or we would not avoid it with such urgency.

Some people restrict their food intake in order to give their bodies less than they need, and some people feed their bodies more than they have the capacity to process, and I think both sets of behaviours are encouraged by our culture in many ways.

Let me stop to define “eating moderately,” since we live in a cultural hellscape that takes words like this and redefines them to mean something like “eating less than you want or need and pretending it’s okay.” In my own life and in my work with clients, I’ve come to understand moderation as eating enough, and pleasurably enough, to be able to stop thinking about food for a while.

Eating moderately means your sensations of hunger go away for a bit, usually a few hours, and thoughts about food that are precursors to hunger (not hobbyist enthusiasm about food, and not the food preoccupation that is either a hallmark of long-term deprivation or a coping mechanism that has come to replace all other coping mechanisms) also cease. At the same time, you’re not troubled by the discomforts of over-fullness, or signs of physical distress that come with having eaten something that doesn’t agree with you, in a quantity your body can’t handle.

In this space of not-thinking-or-fantasizing-or-feeling-uncomfortable-about-food, there is room for thinking about, and doing, the things that make life meaningful.

In fact, I suspect that’s exactly where the vulnerability comes in: because if you’re not obsessing about food, either eating less of it than you need, or more than your body truly wants, what should you do?

It is a big, frightening question. Especially in a culture obsessed with careerism, credentialism, and “achievement” of a very specific and limited variety.

When I started this work, I didn’t realize this would be such a source of terror for people, and that, in order to avoid it, food obsession and disordered behaviour might rush in. But once I witnessed how often people actively resist eating in a way that is comfortable, even though they may suffer intensely from their disordered eating, I had to ask why. As far as I can tell, for many people I’ve talked to, it’s about avoiding the uncertainty and inherent riskiness of life. One of the major sources of uncertainty and risk is the question of what to do, and how to make meaning, with the limited time we have.

The only comfort I have to offer is this: humans are meaning-making machines. Our lives, when told back to ourselves, become stories that tell universal truths about being alive. There is pain and sorrow, joy and wonder, filth and beauty in living.

Meaningful lives are not reserved only for the rich or beautiful or uniquely gifted. There is meaning in being of service to others, in making someone’s day slightly less crappy, in laughing with a friend, making music, petting a dog, eating a good meal, or watching the wind stir some leaves. Everything we do and experience can be made into meaning, if we’re willing to be here for the experience.

When you are hurt or frightened very badly, it can become tempting not to do much at all: not to connect with others, not even to experience the present moment, your body and the world as they are, right now. Life can get very small, and may feel empty and pointless. If this is the situation you find yourself in, the only answer I know is to find a way, maybe with support from a friend or therapist, to start being present and pushing out again.

Being among people, among animals and nature, feeling what is happening in your body, and feeling compassion for yourself and for every small, warm, breathing thing alive in this big, cold, inert universe reminds you that we are all in this together. We’re part of the organic mulch that makes up the thin, sentient top layer of earth. Don’t go underground. Don’t substitute a life for made-up rules about food.

You’re vulnerable because you’re alive. Being alive means feeling things, so feel them. Grab a pillow, an animal, or another human if it helps, and let yourself. Try a thing, make a mistake, tell someone you like their earrings. Eat a meal that fills you up and gives you life.

No matter what you feel, or what has happened to you, we love you anyway and we want you here.



via The Fat Nutritionist https://ift.tt/2MTbeHd