Healing my relationship with food


I remember the first time I was really hungry and didn't allow myself to eat. As a model I traveled to Paris in hopes of work. With no guarantees I dove headfirst and did everything I could to succeed. The agency I worked with didn't have to put pressure on me to lose weight; I did it very well myself. After a few weeks my skin broke out in protest of my unhealthy mental and physical state. I remember how frustrated I was when I had to go back home earlier then planned.

Looking back, I am thankful that my body said, “no” when my mind wasn’t able to. Although, after this incident, I developed a great fear of hunger and often overate. So many painful emotions were connected with something so natural that is part of life.

My first step in healing was to be able to leave a little bit of food on my plate at every meal. A rice kernel, a pea or a piece of a potato. It might sound easy, but for me it was extremely difficult. My fear of hunger, combined with a belief that my plate always should be left clean after a meal, made it almost impossible. Slowly it got easier and eventually I was able to make more conscious choices about how much food I put on my plate, and built strength and awareness to notice when I was full. This is still something I work with. Thankfully it gets easier every day!

The burp

When I first read about the burp in Myra Lewin's book, Freedom in Your Relationship with Food, I was confused. What burp? Slowly, I started to notice it at my meals. Sometimes it was very obvious and sometimes just a subtle belch. But it was my stomach signaling, “Hey, I'm full! I can't handle more food right now.”

When I stop at this gentle signal, I feel great. Full of energy and recharged, I can go on about my day. That is what I want food to do for me; certainly it should not require all my energy and make me need a nap right after eating.

Eating just enough creates a lightness that felt very unusual at the beginning. I was used to feeling full, heavy and dull after meals. Sometimes this feeling made me want to fill up that space, maybe with something sweet. If you experience this, too, try resisting that urge and see what happens. Pay close attention to the emotions that float up to the surface and deal with them. Give them your full attention and accept you and your experience as it is.

If you have had similar problems as me, these are my tips to overcome that fear and need to overeat:

  1. Start small by practicing leaving something on the plate and asking yourself if you are truly still hungry enough to eat it. From there, you can learn to estimate how hungry you really are and make your portion just what you need. Your two palms held together fits the perfect amount, try it!

  2. Sit down when you eat. Be conscious and mindful, enjoy every bite and pay close attention to the different tastes you’re experiencing.

  3. Pay attention to the first burp that comes after you’re eating. Trust it, explore it and notice how it makes you feel.

  4. Have patience. It takes time to change old habits. How long have you been building your habit?

  5. Don't make your history an excuse. Take action from where you are now and start from a place of love and compassion toward yourself.

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