eating is a practice

by rebecca on September 27, 2013

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Eating is a practice.

I get better. Then I get worse. I had a little dance with anorexia when I was 17. Some people put their eating disorder behind them. For others, it’s like being a sober alcoholic.

You can’t stop eating. Each day you face that thing with which you struggle. I haven’t written much about it because I know people intimately who have suffered far worse symptoms than my own.

Have you ever done this? Marginalized yourself from crawling inside your own skin because your story didn’t qualify for the evening news?

It doesn’t work. You can stuff your story down because it isn’t as dramatic as what you see on TV, but then you’ll find yourself pouring your heart out to a stranger at the grocery store.

I remember the 5 foot 10 inch 80 pound anorexic that lived with us and that laid on my couch while I rubbed her bony, painful back. She had a job at the local grocery store and could crawl inside the bakery display case in order to clean it. She looked freakish and yet she wouldn’t eat.

There is an internal drama that battles when people say to victims of anorexia, “You’re so skinny,” and the mirror tells them they are fat. The electricity of that drama is seductive. It provides a purpose to your life so you don’t have energy to devote to a career, and it takes your mind off your marital problems.

But one day I felt the ghost slip across the iris of my eye. I noticed when I could no longer concentrate because I was depriving my brain of protein. I knew I was heading down a one-way road of disappearance.

That scared me.

A smoothie is friendly to the anorexic because you don’t have to chew it.smoothie and blender

So gradually, smoothie by smoothie, I decided I wanted a life of simple joys. I wanted to learn  to appreciate simple gifts.

My favorite smoothie is a big handful of spinach, the juice of 1 lime, frozen bananas, pineapple and raspberries. Enough orange juice to make the thing turn. Yum.

People who do not have anorexia think all we do is stop eating. No. Sometimes. But you can’t live that way. And the more I deprive the greater my body craves strong flavors. So I long for super sweet things, or a burst of salt. Center is difficult for the anorexic. We want the drama of taste, just as we want the drama of disappearing and reappearing.

It all happens inside. Where it gets dark.

The smoothie spreads light.

It provides the strong taste I need without the sugary spike that latter leads to a cave of deeper darkness.

Into my dark cave inevitably comes the voice of “You should.”

  • You should be drinking a greener smoothie girl.
  • Instead of berries with that spinach, it should be cucumbers and avocado.
  • Orange juice and raspberries are for weaklings.

So I try the super green smoothie for a week. Then I’m eating chocolate cake for breakfast, followed by bags of potato chips.

I know myself. Anorexia has been a gift to me. It’s kept me feeding myself.

I walked a marginally extreme road at one time of carrots and Tab cola so that I will always be able to recognize the pattern. The bounce.

I can chain myself to a regimen for a time, but I cannot LIVE there.

I want to live where I am free.

Freedom tastes good and is good for me. Extreme eating is bad for me. Food rules are not for me. Eating is a practice. It lets me listen to how I want to show up in the world. Literally. How my skin wants to shine, expand or contract.

My favorite berry smoothie makes me happy, so I can stay with it. I can add eggs and chicken and pizza. Ice cream, zucchini bread, apples and coffee with cream are all welcome until there’s nothing on my forbidden list. The smoothie, just the way I like it, is my way to practice every time.

Food helps me feel better and occasionally food makes me feel worse. I’m practicing each day, until I find my right way.

My friend Sue Ann Gleason calls this “leaning in to the spaciousness of the gray.”

How do you practice with food? Are there foods that are off limits for you? What foods help you find your center?

Enjoy the video below.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Margaret Reyes Dempsey September 27, 2013 at 10:18 pm

I enjoyed this one. My eating habits have improved greatly in the past few years. I already knew what good nutrition was and I practiced much of it. However, stress would lead me to my drug of choice…food. 🙂 I came to realize that too many options are not a good thing for me. I eat the same one or two things for breakfast and lunch every day. Dinner is always a healthy balance of foods. If I do dessert, I halve it. This plan has resulted in my being more aware of portions and when I’m full. But I have to give credit where credit is due, and the thing that most got me on track was that conversation I had with you about the body compass. So, thanks a million, life coach extraordinaire.

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rebecca October 1, 2013 at 6:26 pm

Margaret, thank you so much for the compliment! I love helping people find that touch stone underneath – whatever it is – that will help. The Body Compass is a great tool.

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Kristen @ Motherese October 2, 2013 at 3:08 pm

What a moving piece, Rebecca. Thank you for sharing it. I actually wrote about food and my relationship with it today. I am fortunate never to have suffered from an eating disorder and in general I have a pretty good sense of what and how much food my body needs. I recently did a three day vegetable cleanse and hated every minute of it. I emerged realizing that cleansing is not the answer for someone with my personality, perfectly comfortable with battling through any challenge. If I want to change a habit, I need to not fight. I need turtle steps (e.g. drink a glass of water each day…then two…then three…all the way up to my goal). The extremes don’t work for me because I can do extreme, but I don’t learn from it. The practice, as you say, is where it’s at. Sending much love to you, my dear.

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rebecca October 28, 2013 at 1:09 pm

” If I want to change a habit, I need to not fight.” More than anything this is the way to peace. Not fighting with ourselves. This leads to peace within. Which leads to peace without. Very profound, Kirsten.

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