Do we ‘Live to eat?’ or ‘Eat to live?’ are often questions when it comes to our relationship with food. My relationship with food is an ongoing discovery and accepting the shifts that come with discovering what I can and cannot eat is what builds this relationship with food. These days I can get an instant pain in my head for so much as tasting a food that I had let go of because it was harming my body.
So, if our bodies communicate to us and at times very loudly that what we are eating is harming us, then why do some of us push through these signals, ignoring the feelings of fullness, bloating, pain, exhaustion, nausea and so on?
Often, I hear of people telling their story of how they did not pay attention to their relationship with food until something big happened to them, like a chronic illness or some other body reaction. I did not care about what I ate until I hit rock bottom with chronic fatigue syndrome. I felt my body was just about entirely drained of energy, that the couch became my best friend for nearly five years. Walking down the street was near impossible and impossible at times, with the exhaustion in every cell of my body as well as a foggy head, unable to think clearly, making communicating exhausting also.
As a part of my healing I began to look at my foods and so began the changes which included going cold turkey with eliminating a lot of what I was eating – virtually starting over with food. Because I went cold turkey at cutting out the foods and drinks that were adding to the draining in my body, I became very aware of my sensitivity to what I now call poison in my body. My healing of chronic fatigue began when I took responsibility for being ill which involved my whole body on a physical level as well as mentally/emotionally.
I became aware that there was another aspect to how I became unwell which was in how I had been living and reacting to life. The challenges experienced through life up until the point of becoming unwell led me down a path of withdrawing from life so as to ‘have a break from life’. I appreciated feeling energetic again and it was easy to not go back to the way I was treating my body with food and drink. Instead, I continued to refine my foods as my body communicated through discomfort or feeling unwell. More than twenty years on, I am still refining my relationship with food which is based on my unfolding relationship with myself.
Although to most of the population I am considered to be healthy with my food choices, I have come to know there is more to our relationship with food than just the food itself. Where I have fallen for the trap of the saying ‘live to eat’ rather than ‘eat to live’ is obvious in my past behaviours, as well as in my behaviours that still exist today.
So, if I am aware that eating too much harms my body, then why do I do this consistently so? To be honest I look forward to the meal at the end of the day. It is like a momentary satisfaction that I am craving because I am not settled with the day just lived. I have come to understand that the unsettlement is only there when I have not expressed all there is to express through my interactions with others, with myself and at work. It’s like food is the last resort to feeling satisfied and making up for what I haven’t connected with in my day.
If I could give up other eating habits due to the chronic fatigue, then why would it not be as simple as recognising the symptoms of being tired the next morning or listening to the simplicity of my body? Is it necessary to hit another bout of rock bottom to have to deal with this awareness I have with eating? No of course not. It is not necessary, however I can only make further changes with my relationship with food if I want to feel the energy to fully commit to my day. This then allows me to be in purpose, which is greater than me, myself, and I.
When I identify with being an individual and living from a place of self, this arena sets up a cycle of abuse with my relationship with food. This then affects my relationship with all other areas of my life; most affected being the interactions I have with others. If I am tired and heavy, how can I then bring all of me to another? It becomes a cycle of abuse across all areas of my life, be it relationships with family, friends, work colleagues or clients. I am realising that everything is interconnected and when I place more importance on one area of my life over another, for example eating as the highlight of my day, making my connection with others less important, I not only harm myself, I harm the people I interact with. I harm myself and others as it is my original natural way to connect with others which is harmonious, always considering each other and on a larger scale, humanity.
The ultimate realisation is that when I am feeling more consistently a steadiness in my body, absent from nervous energy and anxiousness, my body does not need to eat as much. At the end of the day, I am sometimes aware of my desire to eat large portions of dinner to satisfy something I feel I am missing, my steadiness. I am aware when I am steady and when I am not steady, so bringing greater care to coming back to my steadiness is my responsibility. The more I connect to the gentleness and delicacy in my movements, the more this brings focus to my body and reconnects me to my steadiness.
What if our relationship with food is just one part of our day equally important as all other areas of our day? I am realising that most of us have a relationship with food as the emphasis to our day in an attempt to fulfill the emptiness we feel with ourselves and our relationships with others. As I become more aware of the communication from my body by way of how it feels – whether it be heaviness, sleepiness, bloated, racy heart or elevated/hyper mood – I am able to choose what I eat and how to eat. When I feel the fulfillment of my relationship with myself and others throughout the day, food choices, when to eat and how to eat, are no longer the emphasis of my day, rather a part of the day equally nourishing as the connection I feel with others. This remains an unfolding process…
By Annie Torok, Life Skills Developer / Support Worker, NSW