Our relationship with food & our bodies is a lifelong one.
Just as in any relationship, there is no quick fix when it’s deeply damaged. However, the relationship we have with our bodies, and thus with the food that we eat, is never beyond healing and repair. We are given this one body. When there is a great rift between our cognitive self and our body, it can feel as though our body is fighting against us or letting us down in some way.
We frequently wish we could will our bodies to “do” and “be” in the ways that our minds think are best. Our minds often get these notions of what is the “best” way for our body to be from our peers, our family of origin, the culture we live in, and the media. There is a desire, either from ourselves or from outside influences, to control our body, to push it into submission, to make it behave.
We tend to view the body as simply a vessel for carrying our soul & thoughts around in. Our sense of “self” typically exists primarily in the mind and our emotions, but somehow often gets detached from the body. The body is made our slave, to bend to our will as we see fit. Even if we treat the body with kindness, and nurture it physically, we still lean towards viewing the body simply as a machine or a collection of cells from within which we look out at the world. We forget that our body is part of us, part of our story, it tries to teach us things, it tries to get us to listen.
We are in a relationship with our body, and it’s the one relationship in our life that stretches from birth to death, no matter what.
How do we begin to repair our relationship with our body, especially in a culture that either idolizes the body primarily for aesthetics, performance, and sex or tells us that our body is worthless and invisible if it doesn’t look or act a certain way?
We start by listening to what our bodies are trying to tell us. We start by giving them a voice, freeing them from being our slave, freeing them from our need for constant control. We start asking questions to our bodies, “What are you trying to teach me? What does it mean when you experience something in this way? Why does this thing/place/food/person create such a strong reaction inside of you?”.
We start by trying to understand and appreciate our inherited body configurations, which have been passed down to us from our ancestors. We start by changing direction, moving away from shaming our bodies for not conforming to pressures placed on it by society, and moving towards honoring the beauty, magic, and intuition that lives within our bodies.
One of the primary areas in which we control our bodies is through our relationship with food.
We all have a relationship with food. Our personal food story. We have the story we learned as a kid about how to relate to food. We have observed and in many ways inherited the stories that our parents and families have around food. In the process of growing up, we have gone down our unique path with food, cultivated our relationship with it.
Some people have never had an unhealthy relationship with food, and that is truly a gift. Many of us have had very unhealthy, even disordered relationships with food and eating throughout our lives. Sadly, it’s extremely prevalent to have a negative, self-critical relationship with our bodies in our modern culture of perfection, diets, exposure to vast amounts of media, and comparison to others. This self-critical relationship with our bodies, especially for women, often leads to a very unhealthy relationship to eating, and a skewed, limiting story around food.
Story is such a powerful vehicle. It’s in our nature as humans to reach for stories as a way to explain our experiences in the world, and hearing other people’s stories is how we can share in their lived experiences.
We all grow up being given different stories around our bodies & food by our parents, our peers, and our culture. These stories grow or restrict us in different ways. One of the most intriguing things about a good story is the arc of the main character. It is how the character changes and grows through the course of the story. The beauty around any story in our lives, any narrative that we are telling ourselves, even if it’s a narrative that we inherited, is that it becomes OUR story. Which means that we are the author, and we can re-write those stories and change the arc of the main character, ourselves, at any point.
I believe that our personal stories around food & our bodies weave together and impact each other. If you have a deep sense of disembodiment, your relationship with food is likely to be disordered. If your inherited story around food is disordered, you are likely to have a disembodied relationship with your body.
This is why it is my passion to work with people around their stories in these two areas. I love the following quote about the power of storytelling from the book “Women Who Run With The Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I love the idea of a story, your story, being a “light tattoo” on your skin. Your lived experiences leave a permanent imprint to be sure, but you can determine how that imprint shows up in your life, what it manifests, and the artwork that it brings forth.
“In the tradition of storytellers, stories are considered to be written like a light tattoo on the skin of the one who has lived them. The training of a storyteller comes from the reading of this faint writing upon the soul, the development of what is found there. In the best tellers I know, the stories grow out of their lives like roots grow a tree. The stories have grown them, grown them into who they are. We can tell the difference. We know when someone has grown a story and when a story has grown them. There is an integrity to story that comes from a real life lived in it. A story is not just a story. In it’s most innate and proper sense, it is someone’s life.”