Three summers ago I suffered a broken heart. It was so bad I couldn’t eat or sleep or cope in any capacity. I dropped the 10 pounds I’d always wanted to lose plus an additional bonus of 5 more. I was thin! One of my girlfriends said, “Oh my god, you’re one of those skinny bitches. You’re so lucky!” The fact is I was gaunt, exhausted and many thought I was sick. I certainly did have a DIS–EASE. Part of me was ecstatic, it said, “See? Now you are lovable!” Except I wasn’t loved. I was heartbroken.
That same ego-voice tells me every day that I’m not lovable for every reason on the planet. I am so completely and utterly tired of this voice that continues to chant, “You are not lovable”. This voice tells me to go on another diet, get a face lift, get a tummy tuck, get a nose job, boob job, you name it, I’ve thought it. Seriously, I need it to STOP, STOP, STOP! And I’m finally in that place where I’m willing to ask for help, willing to journal, willing to share my journey, willing to pass the message on as fast as I receive it.
Geneen Roth recently posed this on her Facebook page, “What do you really really want more than you want to lose weight?” What the what? Isn’t weight-loss, being thin, or rather being perfect, the key to happiness? For me it’s a daunting question, but the answer is very clear. I want to feel loved and lovable. But how? How do I attain this after a lifetime of hateful habitual inner messages?
What is love? How can I give love and receive love without being needy or clingy or pathologically attached? I asked myself these questions three summers ago when I was heartbroken. Somehow I knew the pain I experienced could not be healed by someone else. It had to start with me. A friend recommended a book called, How to be an Adult in Relationships. In it author David Richo explains what he calls the 5 A’s. “He suggests that these five hallmarks of mindful loving play a key role in our relationships throughout life:
- Attention to the present moment; observing, listening, and noticing all the feelings at play in our relationships.
- Acceptance of ourselves and others just as we are.
- Appreciation of all our gifts, our limits, our longings, and our poignant human predicament.
- Affection shown through holding and touching in respectful ways.
- Allowing life and love to be just as they are, with all their ecstasy and ache, without trying to take control.”
This was a place for me to begin. To deeply understand the 5 A’s and apply them is the most important lesson of my life. If I’m using food to quash my pain I’m not allowing my feelings, not accepting some situation, person or thing, not attending to my true needs, not appreciating the moment, nor giving myself affection since overeating for me is a form of self-harm. My journey out of emotional eating means I must be present to what I put into my mouth and also to life. When difficult emotions come up I have to allow them, feel them, let them wash through me, but I also have to question the thoughts or beliefs that bring on painful emotions. I’ve learned through examination that often my overwhelming emotions of sadness, anger, and fear are not based in reality at all. My ego’s favourite message is, “You are not thin enough to be loved.” When I challenge this thought I realize it’s not true but it’s deeply ingrained and creeps in when I’m vulnerable, tired, or stressed.
The art of mindfulness when it comes to eating-behaviour not only includes the joy of food, taste, texture and mouth feel but also incorporates how we eat, why we eat and the sensations of hunger or fullness. Mindfulness includes watching ourselves without judgment when we are in the process of eating when we are not hungry. This has been a huge learning curve for me. I’ve discovered I have unusual behaviours when it comes to food. For example when on holiday with friends I become increasingly anxious if some of my friends begin planning dinner right after breakfast. I believe my anxiety has to do with my ability, or inability in this case, to control. When I explored this more deeply I recalled the anxiety I suffered from when I was child. When I got home from school I would sit in front of the TV and eat, usually a bag of chips in secret. By dinner time I was stuffed but I was unable to confess to my mother what I’d eaten before dinner. It’s no wonder I feel anxiety when others start planning dinner. This small revelation was revealed to me through gentle inquiry and mindfulness. Knowledge such as this can be used as a tool to understand my behaviour and at the very least know when I am triggered. This tiny bit of information allows me to take one step closer to self-acceptance and self-love.
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Photo credit: “Woman Belly” by Ambro