Start finding peace with food
Updated: Nov 30, 2023
Note: This was originally published in June, 2020. I have changed the title and updated the post.
One of Carl Jung’s popularly paraphrased statements—“That which you resist, persists” never really resonated with me before I started thinking about my body and my eating in a more mindful and kind way. In fact, I didn’t get it at all. In my world, and through many years of endeavoring to “fix” my body, I thought resisting was the way to go. In fact, I thought it was required.
Resistance was basically my middle name
I resisted a lot of things in the name of improving myself—and at times even felt smug about it.
I resisted eating foods I really wanted.
I resisted listening to my body’s calls for food when I was hungry, thinking my scheduled eating times were more appropriate.
I resisted resting even though I was tired and sore from physical exercise.
And like many women (although I’m sure some men do it too), I even resisted buying new clothes if it meant that the size on the tag might be bigger than the number I wanted to see.
But now, I think I’m starting to “get” the whole resist-persist thing a bit more. Reflecting on my own experiences and through studying mindfulness and acceptance as they relate to food, eating and body image, I am starting to see my way toward the idea of acceptance as not being the same as giving up.
I wish I could say that I achieved a big “aha” moment through studying Jung’s work, although that wasn’t the case (putting some reading on Jung on my to-do list though). If you, too, feel like you've spent half (or more) of your life fighting with your body, maybe you will find some understanding of yourself—and maybe even some peace—by considering the following...
Fighting with yourself won't get you there
Using your energy to continually resist your nature is damn tiring! The amount of time you spend monitoring yourself, contorting yourself to fit some notion of what you’re “supposed” to be or look like, berating yourself, punishing yourself—all of that time could be spent on other, much more meaningful and satisfying pursuits.
When you spend your days resisting, you have given your power to the thing that you don’t want, instead of to the things you do want.
Every minute spent fighting, complaining about or resenting things that are deep down inside us is time we haven’t spent in understanding ourselves better. And if we can understand ourselves better, then we can figure out what it is we are truly fighting against.
I’m not a therapist, a psychologist, psychiatrist, philosopher or theorist, but even to me it became obvious that if I exhaust myself in the resistance, then the very thing I wished to be rid of was simply perpetuated.
Giving up the fight isn't giving up on yourself
In retrospect, this whole idea of #resistance and persistence seems very simple. Why didn’t I understand this earlier? No, I didn’t have any “rock bottom” or have a gigantic personal or physical crisis—all of which I acknowledge can trigger this kind of revelation. Maybe it is a reflection of age (I’m in my late 50s, so maybe). Anyway, who knows, but I will say that, when it comes to one’s body image, things don’t always reveal themselves right away.
#Bodyimage issues are not easy to wade through, and it’s a more nuanced topic than some realize or acknowledge. Hashing through all of this stuff over and over again is the most dismal mental and emotional cycle, and one I am done hanging onto. (If you’ve got a white flag…or a white dishtowel, feel free to wave it along with me. Giving up the fight isn't giving up on yourself.)
So how do we start finding peace with food?
If you were hoping for a simple list of three tasks you can do to magically start feeling better about food, your eating and your body, I'm sorry to disappoint you. And I wish it were that easy, too. But the fact is, we have to open ourselves up to a level of acceptance that at the very least allows us to observe our inner demons. We need to not look the other way, but instead get curious and examine them in order to learn the lessons those demons are trying to teach us.
This requires some level of accepting what is. Accepting your body right now, the way it is, has to be ok. (And by the way, you can feel two things at once—one that you want to accept yourself in all your human glory, and two that you may want to change something about yourself.) Being mindful and accepting enough to recognize and acknowledge that something else is at play here—something on the inside—that's key to finding peace with food. In other words, to start finding peace with food, we need to understand that it's not just about the food.
If something deeply troubling, perhaps even traumatic, has happened to you, you likely just want to tamp it down and push it away from your conscious awareness because it will hurt too much to resurrect it all. That's totally understandable. These kinds of hurts can absolutely find their way into your daily life through emotional issues, or some physical manifestation such as illnesses, or body conditions like weight gain.
Most of us know that what happens to us can be reflected in our bodies. There is science that shows that (and I have had that happen to me.) A therapist can be so helpful in guiding you through the process of facing those inner demons in a way that is safe for you.
To start finding peace with food, we need to understand that it's not just about the food
Choose the right wolf
Maybe you have heard the well-known parable (often attributed to the Cherokee people) in which a grandfather explains to his grandson that two wolves are fighting inside him—one evil and one good. The evil wolf represents things like anger, resentment, greed, self-pity, regret and ego, while the good wolf represents joy, love, humility, kindness, hope and compassion. The grandson asks “Which wolf wins?” And the grandfather replies “The one you feed.”
Maybe this parable speaks to you in a way that Carl Jung doesn't. Either way, the concept is one that most of us can understand. Feeding the good, which sometimes means accepting certain things and moving on to focus on positive things, as opposed to feeding the bad through resistance or obsessively dwelling on the negative, can be life-changing. What could you accomplish or how would your life change if you focused on what you want instead of ruminating over what you don't want?
I am working on finding more ways and space in my life to nurture the good wolf; what about you?