Part 1: An Introduction to the Eating Guidelines


Summary Notes by Bonnie Rosen, Edited by Judy Ross.

PLEASE NOTE: Although presented in part in a format similar to a transcript, this is an expertly edited SUMMARY and not a word-for-word transcript. It is meant to supplement; not replace, Geneen's recorded audio presentation.


Geneen Roth: I want to tell you all how happy I am that you are joining us, and how privileged I am that you decided to spend your time and your energy and your money in this way, with these six – and what will turn into eight – Online Retreat sessions.

I know it’s always true that you have many choices with what to do with your time and money and resources. I know that it’s always a big thing to commit your precious time and energy in this present economic time and environment.

You probably thought a lot about doing this and at some point you decided to take that leap for yourself. And I realize that it’s an expression of longing, of wanting to heal what’s going on with you and food, and most of all, of love for yourself, of wanting to take yourself further.

I want you to know how happy I am that you are here – either live now or if afterwards via a download. Either way, I am so happy that you are here.

I am going to give you a little bit of an overview, how each session will proceed. We’ll start with a quieting, orienting, grounding, centering, meditation, so that you can begin to settle into yourself. Just to allow the frustrations, anxieties and situations during this day to settle, and you can begin returning to yourself. If you don’t listen from that quiet place in yourself, it will be difficult to take in and absorb.

After the quieting/settling time, I will talk about a bit about the week’s particular topic and I’ll also handle questions that come up during the week. I’ll address the questions as a way to review, recap and go deeper into the work from the week before. We’ll also go into the current week’s topic.

In conversation, because there are so many of you, I’ll talk with Sil, who will act as you, be your stand-in. She’ll ask me to explain things that might not be clear. Toward the end of the evening, I’ll give you some practices to put into action during the week.

Sil has told you about how to ask questions. I’m eager to hear from you. I’ll look at them throughout the week and will address as many as possible.


Geneen: For right now, be in a place where you won’t be disturbed for the next 90 minutes. A quiet place, where you feel comfortable. Be relaxed and alert at the same time, whether listening live or at another time. Hopefully sitting down and not lying down, if you’re comfortable sitting.

The first thing I want you to do is orient yourself. Take a look around the room that you’re sitting in. Orient yourself by placing yourself exactly where you are, in your physical location. I know it sounds strange, but if you watch small children and babies, they do this naturally all the time. Looking side to side, babies take in their environment.

We get so used to rushing through our environment, rushing through our meals and our lives, that we don’t actually notice where we are. And if you don’t notice where you are or how you are, you’ll never be able to tell what you really want and what you’re really hungry for – in your life, with food, even on a financial level. You won’t be able to track yourself.

At the beginning of each session, we practice something you can do every day of your life, even if only for two minutes right before a meal.

Again notice where you are. If you find yourself getting bored and impatient by this – and many probably are – I want you to really notice if you want to be getting on with it. This is what getting on with it looks like. Getting on with it is just coming back to yourself, again and again.

This is one of the keys to breaking free from any compulsion. Compulsion and awareness cannot exist together in the same moment. If you are aware of yourself, you can’t be compulsive, or the tendency to be compulsive lessens hugely, geometrically with awareness.

Orienting yourself, looking around, taking in with your eyes one thing that you’ve looked at hundreds of times but haven’t actually noticed in a long time. Just taking in, noticing settles you because you can see what is around me. Eating isn’t the only way to feed yourself. Getting full with what you take in with your eyes and heart affects what you eat.

Now feeling the ground beneath your feet, really feeling the ground that supports you. Feeling that it’s steady and stable. That it’s there. And then feeling the ways in which your body is touching the surface of something outside of it. Landing in your body.

Embodiment is a key to ending obsession because most of us eat and spend in ways that are not connected with ways that our body is telling us. The body doesn’t lie. Noticing your body now, the way it’s being supported, the surfaces it’s touching, the Earth, the ground, the carpet, the chair. Feeling yourself as your particular body, your particular person. You, just you, right now.

During this centering/stillness at the beginning of each session, we want to learn to be in our bodies and not to take our mind so seriously. If you’re feeling bored, frustrated, and pissed off – “How come she’s taking so much time doing this?” – just notice that without getting completely identified with that, without jumping on that thought and believing it to be absolutely true. Welcoming it without having to react to it.

That’s another way we learn to be with all the voices urging us to eat. “I have to eat this now. I have to eat these cookies now. To hell with the Eating Guidelines.” That’s the same Voice. Once you get to know how your mind works, you can hear that Voice. “I need this now absolutely. I need a treat. Period. Whether a piece of cake, a whole cake, a new gadget, a new pair of boots.”

You can actually hear that and question that. Quieting allows us to be in our own skin. You can be frustrated, impatient, bored and still be comfortable in your own skin. So just take one minute of silence and tune into your own breath and to see how easy it is or how difficult it is to be inside your own body. There is no right answer or judgments. You are just noticing and welcoming what you are noticing. You are just seeing what that is.

At the beginning of every in-person retreat and every workshop that I teach, we offer all of the heart work we do, the healing that we do, to anybody who needs it. Each of us is here really because we want to heal. We want to grow and a gain a sense of love, of freedom, of spaciousness in our lives, and now we have the privilege and luxury of this time together. I believe that every ounce of love and attention and of healing that one person does, affects us all.

So I’d like for just ten seconds to offer all of the healing that occurs in the next many weeks to all the beings everywhere. To the four-legged beings, those beings with wings, and two-legged beings. And to the oceans, the air, the trees and the Earth itself. Everything that needs love and healing and attention. May all benefit from this love that we bring here and now, and this love and healing that happens over the next many weeks of this Online Retreat.

Geneen: Today I was thinking about when I first came upon the Eating Guidelines years ago, and about all the years of bingeing and dieting, gaining and losing, all of the anguishing and self-loathing, wanting to change myself and hoping to wake up thin, and willing to do practically anything to be a normal person around food. What I realized was that the one thing I had never ever tried was listening to myself and believing that what I was doing around food made sense.

That was the thought I had. I realized that what I had never done was to eat when I was hungry, to eat what my body wanted, and to stop when I had enough food. To actually focus my attention on the food. I thought the food was the problem, and it was best not to focus any attention on it because that was the problem. It was too important to me in my life.

In the first few months and weeks, and then in all the years that have followed, there were a set of guidelines that made intuitive sense to me. I’d read about them in books like: The Psychologist’s Eat-Anything Diet by Lillian and Leonard Pearson (no longer in print), Thin Within by Judy Wardell-Halliday and Joy Imboden Overstreet (no longer in print), and Fat is a Feminist Issue by Suzie Orbach. By reading these books, I realized that what kids did with food was eat when they were hungry and stop when they had enough.

I thought that if I listened to my hunger, I‘d go wild and my needs – for things, for love, for attention, whatever was under the umbrella of “need.” I couldn’t listen to myself. When I decided to start to eat when I was hungry and stop when I had enough, I came up with this set of Eating Guidelines. I realized it was the simplest thing in the world. I couldn’t believe it had never occurred to me. I thought I’d discovered the missing key to the Universe, the missing answer to the obsession with food. And I started actually following these Guidelines.

The Eating Guidelines Are Love Speaking

It’s hard to title this retreat the Eating Guidelines Online Retreat. Over the years I’ve learned that some people hear the word “guidelines” and respond to them as rules and rebel against them. Yet I don’t know another word to call them. I’ve tried over the years to name them “suggestions” or “practices” or “eating ideas.” In Women Food and God, I used: If pure love could speak to you instructions, what would it say to you about food? If pure love could speak to you, it would of course tell you to eat when hungry and to eat what feels good in your body. Because unless you do that, you feel depressed, spacey and sick, and burp and fart. And to stop when you’ve had enough, because if you eat past satisfaction, then you don’t feel well.

If love could speak to you, it would spout out the Eating Guidelines. I’m sure love would say: “Be kind to yourself, be true to yourself, listen to your body and love yourself.” What else does love want? Love just wants to keep opening, softening, relaxing, and expanding.

Many of us find these guidelines so hard to follow because we take them as rules. And we don’t know exactly what to do. We rebel against them because we don’t want anyone telling us what to do, or we follow them slavishly until we can’t stand it anymore and then we rebel.

What I first want to say about the Eating Guidelines is that they are love; they are love speaking to you about food. To the extent to which you follow them or not, it’s a barometer about how you are being with yourself in that very moment and what else you need in that very moment that isn’t food. Because if I eat when not hungry, it’s an immediate signal that there is something else I need in that moment that isn’t food and I don’t know how to get it.

When I say that the Eating Guidelines are a physical, psychological and spiritual process or practice, I am saying that to follow them it requires or asks or evokes you to be aware not just of food but also to know what else is going on or what your body wants. You need to be in the present moment with yourself. It requires awareness, presence, and self-reflection. Then it requires kindness toward yourself, to be willing to give that to yourself. And of course it requires you to act on behalf of yourself. Being willing to be present in the moment with yourself, kind enough toward yourself to say, “What do I want?” And then the ability to translate that into action. To say “I’m hungry ... but not for food right now.” To ask yourself, “What else do you need or want?”

If you know it’s not food, there is also courage in not knowing. So there is presence, awareness, kindness and the willingness to act on your own behalf.

Sil: I’m so filled with excitement and trepidation. It’s hard even though you say it’s simple. I’m thinking: “Yes, this is the way children eat and this is what comes naturally.” Then I remember the days and the moments when it’s difficult. It’s a paradox of being very simple and at the same time very challenging.

I’m wondering if you can clarify about the extent to which I follow the Eating Guidelines as a barometer to where I am at that moment. I feel there is a key there, in the feedback as we practice these Eating Guidelines.
Where The Rubber Meets The Road

Geneen: Yes, there are a couple of ways to understand the patterns and obsessions with foods and what we do with food. There are the practices. The first Women Food and God Online Retreat was about the practices, such as: Drop the struggle; drop the war with food. It’s not about the weight and it’s not not about the weight, because when we’re uncomfortable in our bodies and can’t move with ease, it’s about the weight. Never underestimate the inclination to bolt. Beyond the brokenness, there is that which has never been broken, never wounded.

Many read Women Food and God and get excited, enthralled, caught in a good way by the practices, by the insights that they have as they realize that they’ve been fighting with themselves or think it’s just about their weight. “Oh, I’ve been leaving myself over and over and over again.” We get excited and have many “ah ha” moments. And we think that these “ah ha” moments, these insights are going to change us and carry us through. And change what we do with food.

You can be on fire, enthralled and filled with insights, and it still gets down to what do you do the next time you are hungry, or the next time you want to eat and you’re not hungry, or the next time you want to keep eating when you’re no longer hungry but the food tastes so good. Where does rubber meet the road? The Eating Guidelines are where the rubber meets the road!

Sil: That’s right. I’m feeling so excited tonight. You said the simplest thing in the world. They look so simple and feel so simple intuitively and then sometimes they’re the hardest thing in the world. And this takes work!

Geneen: The rubber meets the road every single day and every single time that food enters into our life, We have choices to make. I think the hardest thing to do is to get a snap shot. You can see yourself and the beliefs that you have by the food that is on your plate. The world is on your plate.
The Core Practice

When it comes to the Eating Guidelines, what we’re talking about is the core practice of all of the principles. For years when I was teaching the retreats, I had sort of been dismissive of the Eating Guidelines because I was more interested, or so I thought, in the underlying reasons and the deeper spiritual layer of the patterns with food. And what I saw was that these Eating Guidelines are the spiritual layer of the patterns with food. Because they are the expression of our relationship to food and what we believe is true.

So I say to myself, “I’m going to only eat when I’m hungry.” What happens immediately for many of us is that we are clenched with a sense of, “But then what?” We think, “If it takes so little for me to actually fill that hunger, what do I do with the rest of what I thought was my physical hunger but is actually not my physical hunger. But I’ve never actually named it before, or touched it before, or been aware of it before. I don’t know what it is, I don’t know how to express it. Or I have felt this hunger of the heart for such a long time that I have actually given up hope that I can ever get it satisfied. So if I can’t get it satisfied, then I might as well eat.”

I was reading a little from Women Food and God today, a paragraph from a retreat student from the chapter titled “Hot Fudge Sundaes.”

Every time I eat, it’s like I’m confirming the secret knowledge that I am just a bad girl deep down, that love and beauty are not meant for me, that I’m alone and doomed and destined to stay in this perpetual purgatorial zone. Going alone, doing good work in the world, engaging with my community but always returning to the cold, hard truth of this dry loneliness and the inherent limitations of my life. Despite the reality that there is so much available to me, I keep overeating to forbid myself from having it and also to comfort myself because I feel like I don’t deserve it or I am not allowed to have it.

Just notice that this is true for all of us. In this very moment as you are listening, there is so much available. The very fact that you can breathe and see and feel and that so many of us can still get around in our bodies. And we’re alive and there is some degree of love and contact in our lives, even if it’s just with our colleagues at work. In this moment, there is so much we can touch and take in, and yet we’re so focused on what we don’t have that we miss what we do have!

She goes on to say:

Despite the reality that there is so much available to me, I keep overeating [a way to say that she’s not following the Eating Guidelines] to forbid myself from having it and also to comfort myself because I feel like I don’t deserve it or am not allowed to have it.

I perpetuate my beliefs by eating. One of the things I noticed on Sunday during our eating meditation was how, when I was eating, I felt my chest—my heart—physically clenching. I felt bad about eating, and I felt like someone might take it away, or that I would take it away from myself, so I clenched myself. It’s as if I’ve constructed a heart wall that no one can cross, that no intimacy can penetrate. I keep people out and one of the main ways I do that is by eating.”

Notice that the Eating Guidelines are intimately woven into the entire rest of your life. Into how you keep people out or how you let them in. Into what you deserve to have on the non-food level and how little you believe you can have and so you comfort yourself by eating more. Or eating less because you feel that you don’t deserve that. Each sentence is exactly about the Eating Guidelines

She ends by saying:

I’m beginning to understand that this whole struggle with food is not about discipline or self-control or bargaining with myself; it’s not even about food. It is a story, it is – a powerful story – about loving, and wanting and having.

In many ways that is exactly what the Eating Guidelines are in about. They are about loving and wanting and having. How you love or don’t love yourself. What you want and what you feel you are allowed to want. What you have and feel like you are allowed to have. Because what we do in our lives, without knowing it, is to bring our whole self, our entire history, all the beliefs we have, all the convictions we have, all the things we really, really, really believe are true about ourselves. “I need too much. I want too much. I’m too needy! I’m a failure, I’ll never get what I want in this life, I have no will power, I’m lacking in self-control. I was not loved by my mother therefore I’m not love-able.”

We bring all our beliefs about love and lack of love, about wanting and having, into what we are eating in this moment and we express it through how we eat. The Eating Guidelines approach all of that through the relationship with food directly. There are ways to approach it: Through the principles – not about the weight, dropping the struggle and beyond broken, bolting, etc. – and directly, day to day, concrete hands on with food. That’s the Eating Guidelines. So we can approach it through the principles or in this retreat through the basic core, one-and-only set of Eating Guidelines. I say it all the time: The Eating Guidelines are true in the beginning, middle and at the end. They are both the path to the place we want to go, and they are also about how we’ll feel when we get done.
Work With The Guidelines Bit By Bit

Question: Can I do this in stages? Eating when hungry? Can I do it with my family?

Geneen: Yes, you can do it in stages, bit by bit. This is how we all change, baby step by baby step. During this Online Retreat, we’ll be approaching ourselves by learning about our hunger and what we actually want, learning about what satisfaction and fulfillment feels like, and learning what enough feels like.

When touring for Lost and Found (about food and finances), I discovered that the main theme that so many feel is not knowing what enough is on any level. Not knowing what enough food feels like and what enough money feels like and what enough love feels like. Not actually having a way to know when we already have enough. And so we will be talking about this with the Eating Guideline “stop when you’ve had enough.”

We will be entering into the deepest layer of our loving and wanting and having through the actual hands on practice of the Guidelines themselves. They are the path to the freedom itself. Because you discover what you feel when you begin eating when you’re hungry and you eat. You will learn what actual physical hunger feels like. And you’ll find out that when you eat when you are hungry one time today or three times this week, how you use food to make up for all the things you are hungry for that have nothing to do with food.

Sil: I hear that the Eating Guidelines are a path, a way to live. By practicing them, they become available to us. The Eating Guidelines are like a mirror or feedback and help us grow and be free with our relationship with food. We can lean on them in a positive way. They are like a friend. These questions within ourselves, we can ask kindly and get answers about more than physical hunger.

Geneen: Sil, what are some of the particular questions that you have about the Eating Guidelines or following the Eating Guidelines?

Sil: I’m curious about working the Guidelines even when not following the Guidelines. Can you clarify that? How do we work it when not eating when we’re hungry? When we lose faith in ourselves when we do this? I’ve heard you say there are no failures in practicing these Eating Guidelines.

Geneen: The Eating Guidelines as a whole are a practice. When I say Eating Guidelines, it means listening to my body, being kind to myself, listening to what I really need, day to day. Because it’s a practice, it doesn’t matter how many times you forget, it only matters that you remember!

These Eating Guidelines are a compass in a way; they are like the North Star. You never actually think you’ll land on the North Star, but you use the North Star as a guide, as a reference point. The Eating Guidelines are reference points. They are about eating naturally, with awareness, presence and kindness. If food wasn’t a problem for you, you would be following the Eating Guidelines naturally, but you wouldn’t know about them.

Sil: They’d be second nature.

Geneen: Yes, and people without food conflicts eat when hungry, eat what their body wants and stop when their body has had enough
Eat With Joy and Pleasure

One big part of the Eating Guidelines is the joy and pleasure. I’ve noticed that many, many people with food issues/conflicts don’t actually enjoy their food or enjoy the process of eating. At the retreats when we eat together, I’ve noticed that many say that they have spent so much time thinking and obsessing about food, but so little time paying attention to and/or enjoying what they’re eating because there is so much guilt and self-loathing or judgment. There is no room left for enjoyment. So really, what is the point?

Eating is one of the great pleasures of having a body and being on Earth. If you’re going to have an obsession, it’s the best one to have. I say that because with alcohol, smoking or drugs, you don’t have to do them, you don’t need them in your life. It’s a process that you just need to stop because you don’t need them.

With food, the fabulous thing is – which also makes it difficult but in the end it’s a gift – that you get to have it in your life. You get to eat every day. You get to go from having it is a source of conflict and pain to a source of pleasure and lightness and spaciousness and expansion. You get to feel what it feels like to have fulfillment on the physical level, but then to also ask yourself what fulfills you that isn’t food.

As long as the kind and emotional and spiritual spaces in your life are being taken up by your obsession with food, nothing else really gets to be addressed. It’s a bubble world of compulsion. But when you begin addressing it, all the parts of your life that need your attention, the parts that have been asking you for your own tenderness, become more and more apparent.

This isn’t about all the monsters, all the scary, untouched, untreated places in your life being unlocked. It’s not about them coming out all of a sudden. It’s about slowly, bit by bit, when we’re ready.

So in answering the question, “Can I do this slowly?” The answer is, absolutely! It’s the intention with which you do it. I know that those of you listening wouldn’t be listening unless you wanted this with your whole heart. You would have spent your time and energy and money elsewhere. That you’re here tells me that you yearn for this. This is the very first step.
Food As A Doorway

Okay, now what do I do? Step two is to see that this relationship that you have with food is a doorway. It’s an opening not a closing or a wall. It’s a way to get to enter into the beliefs, longings and unfulfilled parts of your life that you haven’t been looking at or haven’t been treating kindly before. So it is a blessing. You get to follow these practices, over the next few weeks, by taking them one by one.

We’ll go through them in a particular progression, but if I’m talking about a particular Guideline and another Guideline comes up for you, is calling to you, and you want to start with that one, then work with that Guideline. However, I would recommend that you practice and do one Guideline per week so that you get to see where you are. This takes practicing and acting on your own behalf to see how you are, where you are and what food has been answering that can’t actually be answered by food. We get to see what we’re depriving ourselves of. We get to see what our spiritual self hungers for, to see what we believe about ourselves, by following a very concrete Guideline. Everything is in the Guidelines, so we get to see everything by following them.

Sil: Can you speak about reconciling these two parts of me – the part that wants to slow down, doing it bit by bit, and another part of me that wants the results, whether it’s weight or peace of mind, now!

Geneen: So many people feel that way. “I’ve spent too many years, too much money on this. Time eating and bingeing and wanting to cut off parts of my arms and legs, wanting to get rid of the suffering and anguish. I don’t want to spend more time on myself. I want it to be over! The impatience, the frustrations, the self-loathing, the belief if only I could get rid of this, then I could be happy!”

Of course we want to do that. We believe that the anguish has caused this relationship with food. But the relationship with food is an expression of the discomfort that is already there, of the anguish that is already there. If it could magically go away tomorrow, then that in you that is expressing itself through food would express itself in another way. Through your relationship with your partner, with your friends, with your colleagues at work, with yourself.

Food is the tip, tip, tip, tip of the iceberg. It’s through working with the relationship with food, from the inside out, via the Eating Guidelines, that we address softly and kindly what comes up.

I often say, it’s very simple: Eat when you’re hungry and what your body wants and feel what you feel when you’re not. How do I break free from the obsession from food? That’s it. Because food is the way we mediate all those feelings, the Eating Guidelines are a practice and we start them very slowly.

I think that what happens is that many of us feel that we’ve spent so much time, energy and money on this obsession with food, we don’t want to spend another dime on this, another five minutes. We feel completely sick of it and in some ways we feel a little sorry for ourselves. “I can’t believe I have to spend more time and more energy and more money on this. I can’t believe that Geneen will give us something to do each week.”

The truth is that what we’ve spent time and money on is not being with ourselves, avoiding ourselves. Because diets, based on fear and deprivation, are not about being with ourselves. They are based on not being with ourselves, on fixing ourselves.

Instead of thinking “Oh no,” I’d like you to reframe it. What you’ve done so far has been a way to fix something that can’t be fixed through diets. This isn’t a quick fix. It’s a process. I’m asking you to spend time on yourself and with yourself through the Eating Guideline in a whole different way. And that is to be interested.
Be Curious

The whole way we approach food is one of curiosity. “Okay, I’m hungry now. What do I want now?” Being willing to be curious about what you want when hungry. “Okay, now I’m eating and I’m not hungry.” And then seeing that it doesn’t take much, maybe three bites, for the hunger to go away. “Oh boy. What do I do now?”

That’s the place that many go away and leave themselves, or bolt from here, go away and don’t become interested. Most of us aren’t actually interested in ourselves. We are just not interested. We want to fix ourselves and we believe we know how to be fixed and we want to push ourselves to get there. But we’re not actually interested in where we are right now.

I saw that there was a different way to approach food. I saw that in the 17 years that I had been raging against myself with dieting and bingeing, I had never, not once, been actually interested in what I was doing with food. I had never wanted to find out why I was eating when I wasn’t hungry or what I believed I couldn’t have that food had become the substitute for. I just wasn’t interested. I just wanted to lose weight and just be done with it! And I wanted to be fixed and get on with the rest of my life.

Here is the pickle with that way of being: If you are not interested in what you’re doing with food now, even if you no longer have a problem with food, even if you could instantly fix it, that’s not going to work much better than the relationship with food. For part of this is being interested in who you are and what you bring and what you believe and who you take yourself to be. All of this comes out when you start eating with the Eating Guideline’s slowly, one by one.

Sil: An outer practice that takes us to our inner life, where we discover more and more of who we are.

Geneen: You can remember if you’re lucky. And if you’re not interested in the moment, you can become interested in why you’re not interested. It’s not always easy to be curious about the things you’ve never been interested in before. “It will destroy me. I can’t go there.”

I don’t believe there is any situation that is unworkable. Nothing in your life is unworkable, if you’re willing to be curious about it, be kind to yourself about it and get the support you need.

This Online Retreat is support. The week-by-weekness is a way to give yourself support. This support isn’t advice, it isn’t quick tips or commiserating. It isn’t blaming someone else for what we feel (this moves the problem and solution out there). This is a new way of support that’s not about supporting our position of being wronged.

The support we need allows us to look and see what we’re doing, what is our part in this, and to be clear about that. The support to ask yourself questions that might be difficult. Like when you want to eat when you’re not hungry, what is going on?

Sil: To ask the question and really look.

Geneen: To know there is another way. I know, absolutely, one hundred percent that these Eating Guidelines work. I know that if you follow these Eating Guidelines, you have a practice that works, that is undeniable, that’s natural and that’s true all of the time. I know that from practicing them myself for 33 years and from being with thousands and thousands of people who have incorporated them into their lives. I know that every one of you listening is able to change your relationship to food. I have no doubt about that. No matter what it’s been like, I know you can have this change too. I know you can do this by translating insight into action.

THIS WEEK’S PRACTICE: Eat When You Are Hungry

Geneen: Let me go on and talk about the practices for this week. Let’s start with eating when you’re hungry. Start with that, very simply. I’d like you to decide on a number of times that you can do this in a day. Maybe it’s once a day or twice a day.

You need to bring the practices we are doing to the edge of your comfort. You can’t go beyond comfort or you’ll set yourself up to fail. And you want something that goes beyond what is your current comfort range because no change is contained in what you’re already doing. You figure it out. If you’ve been doing this Guideline, take it up a notch. Take it to two times a day or three times a day. You have to think about you, and how much you have been practicing this.

Go to the edge of your comfort. Find out what it feels like to eat when you’re hungry, what physical hunger is for you, what it means to you. When you practice it one time a day, wait until you’re hungry and find out when you experience hunger.

Next week we’ll talk about the different levels of hunger and how to tell when you are hungry. For now, just explore what hunger means to you. When you hear the word hunger and hear “eat when you are hungry,” what comes up for you? Notice what scares you about it. Notice what would need to be changed in your life if you did this. Notice what’s easy for you about it.

Make Time for the Guideline. Along with this Eating Guideline, you also need to structure your life so that when you practice eating when you are hungry, you can actually pay attention to what you’re eating. You want to have a time where you can be paying attention.

Keep Log or Journal. Don’t make this too hard or cumbersome but jotting down a few notes. You might notice something. You might be surprised that you don’t get hungry when you thought you’d be hungry. You could notice that most of the time, you eat when you aren’t hungry. Notice where hunger starts in the body, in the throat, the chest, etc.

Notice Where Body Hunger Stops and Another Hunger Comes Up. When you eat when hungry this week (even if a snack), ask yourself what you’re hungry for. You could ask after eating, when get up in the morning, before bed. Just ask lightly, “What am I hungry for? What is my heart hungry for?” It could be just a few minutes alone, it could be to see stars outside, and it could be to hold a child’s hand, to touch a plant outside, to take in something beautiful. Notice what you’re hungry for that isn’t food. Notice that.

Let Yourself Have Something That You Are hungry For That Isn’t Food. It could be a tiny, tiny thing. Just to a few minutes alone, in the morning. The important thing to do here is to translate insight into action, is to actually do something in your life. If you do not do something differently, change is never going to happen. You have to do something differently.

Start slowly. Notice your physical hunger and notice what you are hungry for that isn’t food and let yourself have something, one thing, once a day that isn’t food. Maybe just to look at a flowering plant. It could be that simple. Do that for yourself.


Geneen: I recommend that you go back and reread the Eating Guidelines. I want to leave you with a passage from the Eating Guidelines chapter in Women Food and God:

In the food and weight arena, the Eating Guidelines are both the physical and spiritual practice. They provide a precise path to the world of being in the moment as well as a concrete path to feeling well. They are descriptions of what eating would look like if you had no problem with it at all. You’d listen to your body. You’d eat to nourish yourself. You’d love yourself with food. The Guidelines are exactly what you will come around to when you get tired of aching joints. Of lugging yourself around. The Guidelines are nothing more than understanding that your body is yours and you can eat as a way to be yourself. After all these years, all these diets, all these pounds gained and lost and lost and gained, after eating to resist and rebel and fight, you realize that eating can finally be – and always was – for you, only you.

Thanks for being here with us. Good night!

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