Summary by Katie Morton
This lecture came at the perfect time for me. Yesterday, I believe that I experienced a “moment of clarity” – a term that alcoholics use when they finally realize it’s time for them to turn the corner on their habit.
I had just written an article that I found moving to write. It’s about how hiring my babysitter to watch my one-year-old daughter a few days a week allows me to be a better parent. I am able to pursue my passion, writing, when the babysitter comes. That way, when I’m with my daughter, I can fully be there in the moment with her with no distractions. I can focus solely on her and give her my undivided attention and love.
When the piece was completed and I was walking back to my apartment to be with my daughter, I felt an overwhelming wave of emotion. I wanted to burst into tears. I tried to make sense of what I was feeling, and I think it might have been happiness. Here I am on this perfect day, able to connect with the wonderful people of the world by pursuing my passion for writing, and then walk home to be with my baby girl.
The weight of the emotion was uncomfortable for me. I tried to let myself go and cry, but then I stopped myself. It was too much, and it hurt my head and my face. I knew what I had to do to stop these feelings.
On the rest of the walk back home, I thought about what food I could eat. I robbed myself of feeling how crushingly and intensely happy my present life makes me. I stole that moment from myself, a moment that would be remarkable over the course of one’s whole existence. Worthy of a deathbed memory. Gone.
When I walked into the door of the apartment, I spent a moment with my daughter and got her set up to play with her blocks. Then I walked straight into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. I got out slices of pepper jack cheese, hummus and cream cheese. I sat down in front of the TV to watch my favorite mind-numbing show, The New Adventures of Old Christine, while I spread cream cheese on one slice of cheese, and then hummus on another.
Once my emotions were safely buried under a sufficient amount of cheese, I played with my daughter on the floor, then I took her for a walk outside. I cooked her dinner, fed her and bathed her. After she was asleep and I was alone, I couldn’t risk a return of emotion, so I got out a box of Cheez-its and spread cream cheese on the tiny crackers. I knew dinner was going to be soon, and I didn’t care. This is what I did instead of allowing myself to be with myself.
Following Geneen’s lecture, I went upstairs and looked at myself in the mirror and I cried. I cried for me, and I cried for the little girl my daughter will be, if I don’t get my act together. I realized that the mother that was showing up for me was my own mother when she wasn’t cherishing me. I don’t want that mother for my adult self, and I don’t want that for my own child.
If I can’t be with my own feelings now, how will I learn to help my daughter be with hers? How will I be able to sit down and say to her, “Come here, baby girl. What are you feeling? Tell me all about it,” if I won’t even give myself time to practice being in that same space with kindness?
When I was small, I had the sense that my mother didn’t accept or acknowledge my displays of emotion. I was her third child, and she was focused on my older sister, who was perceived as a handful, and my older brother, her beloved son. There was no room for me.
Even as an adult, I’ve seen this dynamic come into play. When we were on a family vacation in France, we were debating where to eat, and I pointed out a nice French restaurant. My feelings were completely ignored. My brother wanted to go to an Italian restaurant (in France!) so that’s where the family went. I acted out and protested about how my feelings were ignored. My display of emotion was met with hostility and harsh words across the dinner table.
And I reinforce this treatment of myself. “Shut up, Katie. Your feelings don’t count.” YOUR FEELINGS DON’T MATTER. STOP FEELING THEM. Go eat some cheese and watch TV, Katie. Stop being so dramatic.
I can’t imagine treating my daughter that way. I refuse. I also refuse to continue treating myself that way. It’s time to acknowledge and cherish my own feelings. It’s high-time that I’m treated with kindness.
Why did you come here? What do you really want for yourself and your life? When you think about what’s possible from unwinding your relationship with food – what do you glimpse? It’s an out-picturing of what you believe is possible in your relationship with yourself, your children, work colleagues. What you believe is possible can be tainted by old beliefs, limitations we’re convinced are there that we need to question.
Get in touch with, glimpse, experience what is truly possible. Once you taste that, you can never go back.
Feel the sensations of your body. Does it bore you? Are you uninterested? Notice that, without judgment.
How Would Life Be Different if You Were Kind to Yourself?
Can you imagine how your life would have been different if each time you were feeling sad or angry as a kid, an adult said to you:
“Come here, sweetheart, tell me about it. Tell me where you feel those feelings. Tell me how your belly feels, your chest. I want to know every little thing. I’m here to listen to you, hold you, be with you.”
How would your life be different if you treated yourself with such kindness now?
Eat what your sweet body wants. There’s a kindness in this approach that we’re taking. It’s important to think about that. So much of our relationship with food is based on a lack of kindness.
Our relationship with food is an outcropping of our relationship with ourselves. When I avoid feeling my own feelings, it’s as if I say to myself, “Keep a lid on it. Don’t show your emotions. Your emotions don’t count.” If I feel my feelings instead of stuffing them down inside with distractions such as food, then that’s kindness to myself.
If we sit down and eat without distractions, that’s also a reflection of kindness.
Taking Time for Yourself Is Kindness
Gail, a participant, writes to Geneen that she likes to read while she eats. That’s the time she has to catch up on reading. It takes extra time to eat without distractions, because then she gets behind on her reading.
Geneen answers, “If you believe getting things done is more important than unwinding your relationship with food, then that’s what you value right now.” Every choice has its own consequence and its own benefit. Where do you make the choice? Where do you show yourself the kindness? Is the urge to get things done more important than unwinding the pain and suffering around food? Does it truly matter how many things you get done at the end of the day?
If your relationships with yourself and food were healed, and you regularly followed the Eating Guidelines, there might come a day when you had to get something done, so the newspaper could be more important in that one moment than eating without distractions -- but if you are suffering in your relationship with food (and yourself) then that’s what really matters right now.
When Geneen was sick with bronchitis over the last few weeks, she needed to take it easy and recover. She would have been unkind to push through rather than let her body rest. What matters is how you feel inside.
Money Doesn’t Heal Your Relationship With Yourself, Only Kindness Does
You could have all the money in the world, but if you have a poor relationship with yourself, then you’re still suffering.
Geneen read an interview with Roseanne, about how she was earning a million dollars a week at one point, but she still wasn’t happy. When you’re suffering, money doesn’t mean much. What matters is your relationship with yourself. What matters is being kind to yourself.
The Eating Guidelines are how you would eat if you absolutely cherished yourself. You wouldn’t want to eat any other way. You wouldn’t consider it.
We need to keep bringing ourselves back to kindness, because we keep forgetting. Treating yourself with kindness means different things at different times.
What if My Case Feels Hopeless?
Lisa, a participant, writes to Geneen: I’ve been following the Eating Guidelines on and off for several months now. I will start working long hours or there will be a shift in my mood and the Eating Guidelines will fall by the wayside and I have a hard time getting back into it. I binge and overeat frequently.
Lisa continues, I would like to know if this program can help a 55-year old woman who weighs 310 pounds with bad knees and an adrenal problem. Cooking and gardening cause pain. I’m physically limited and it makes me depressed. I can’t do simple things like stroll the streets in a small town. I don’t think this can work. I feel internal pressure to lose weight because of my knees. The pressure makes me rebel. I have been at this weigh for 22 years and it feels like a lost cause. I need help to guide me out of this horrible place that I’ve been in for so long.
Geneen says: What’s the alternative? Do you just give up? Do you go ahead and assume that nothing will work? Is the alternative that unwinding your obsession with food is impossible? That we collapse in a heap and feel like we’re doomed, and that true transformation is not possible?
Why do we think that it’s possible for others and not me? What makes it so that one person can get it and another can’t? We wonder, what’s wrong with me? Should I give up and save myself the trouble? Is this just like everything else?
We All Think, “It’s Not Possible for Me”
We all feel that way. We all think we are too damaged to make this work. Why do we validate the hopelessness?
Geneen believes it’s possible for all of us to heal our relationships with ourselves and with food, no matter what we think is wrong, where we are in life and for how long we’ve been there. Geneen would have thrown in the towel long ago if she didn’t believe every situation could be worked through.
“So what’s the alternative? Give up?” When you say that, and each of us does in our own way, (It’s not possible for me) then Geneen asks, “How old are you when you feel that?” What was truly not possible when you were growing up? What really wasn’t there and what couldn’t you have done no matter how hard you tried. Each of us has that one inside us. We all have a part like this frozen in time. We didn’t get what we needed, weren’t attended to, weren’t cherished.
Can you imagine what your life would be like now, if when you say, “I can’t do this, it’s not possible for me, I’ve given up hope,” if you can be kind to that part of you that’s saying that, that feels that?
What would happen if – when that despair arises – I can’t, I won’t, I’m too messed up, there’s too much water under the bridge, it’s not possible – what would happen if you made room for that? If when you’re overcome with grief, or you’re sad, if you say to yourself, “Sweetheart, tell me more, where do you feel those feelings?” What if you welcome those feelings, and know, “Yes, this is what hopelessness feels like.” Accept it. Identify with it and get lost in it so you don’t realize that it’s a frozen part of you.
Kiss Your Inner Frogs
Can you be kind to what seems like the most hopeless, or ugliest parts of you? Like in the fairytale, can you kiss your inner frogs? Can you be kind to them? What happens when you do?
Something in you immediately relaxes. Something in you gets what it never got. Something in you, the frog part of you is seen, heard and known when you acknowledge and know how hopeless it felt. When you listen to those inner frogs, they relax. They are kissed by kindness and love, and they open up.
Our parents weren’t always good caretakers. Parents aren’t perfect. And now, when part of us needs help, it’s THAT mother that shows up. The mother that told you to “Sit down and shut up” is the one we often choose to parent ourselves as adults. Unless we were deeply cherished, then we have frogs.
When these feelings come up, ask who is talking? How old are you? What does this part of you need? A frozen part, an inner froggette needed something from you that you didn’t get. What would that be?
If you master this, treating yourself with kindness, the Eating Guidelines are a snap. They are intuitive and you would be able to follow them every day. There would be nothing else to say. You wouldn’t want to treat yourself with food any other way.
When you aren’t hungry and you want food anyway...we all need different things at that time. When we need soothing, we might need to take a bath. For some, a bath is just another way to get lost in more stuff. Some need to get active. Go outside, take a walk. Call a friend. Ask yourself, if you know enough to ask yourself, what is the kindest thing I can do for myself, you will come up with an answer.
We Are in Control of Our Own Lives: We Alone Are Responsible for Ourselves
A lot of us say, “Sometimes I feel like I’m drinking out of a fire hose.” But you are in control of the fire hose. You can turn it off any time you want. If you are frantic and your days are out of control, that’s up to you. If you can’t focus on the Eating Guidelines, then you don’t value yourself, your sanity, health and wellbeing. If you are working long hours, that’s your choice. You get to decide how you spend your days. How you spend your days is how you spend your life.
Marjorie: I’ve been feeling these negative feelings for so long. The payoff of still getting to eat what I think I want and having those negative feelings is bigger than the unknown.
Geneen asks, “How do you get to see what it is that you really, really want?” Marjorie is making a decision about eating what her mind wants (instead of her body) because it’s more exciting than exploring her feelings. How do you know what else is out there if you refuse to look?
Hummers and Beckoners: What the Mind Wants Vs. the Body
Hummers: the body wants without seeing. You can’t tell what your body wants in that moment unless you are hungry. A hummer wells up from the inside.
Beckoners: If you ask what you want when not hungry, then your mind will conjure a beckoner.
What the Body Wants (Hummer) Might Not Make Sense to Your Mind.
When you’re hungry and you ask your body what you really want, you can’t interpret the answer with your mind. If your body wants a food you would get if you were on a diet, if you ask your mind what it thinks about that, it might say, “That sounds boring.” When the food your body chooses sounds as if you are on diet, then you will get confused when your mind gets involved.
This is only about asking what your body wants (not your mind.) If you don’t know what your body wants, then make lists and lists of different kinds of foods. Go into a grocery store to explore (but not when you’re too hungry.)
If we use the hunger scale of 1 – 10 where 10 is full, don’t explore the grocery store or your food lists when you feel starving at a 1 or 2. Go to the grocery store when you are just starting to get hungry. Walk by different foods and look at them and see how your belly feels. Imagine eating different foods and see how you would feel if you ate them. You can also do this by using lists or pictures. There should be an instinctive movement towards or away from foods. That’s a hummer.
A Beckoner Is What the Mind Wants
A beckoner is a food that someone else is eating, something you shouldn’t eat, or a food you saw in a commercial. Maybe it’s a food that was a hummer yesterday, but today is a beckoner. The stimulus to eat a beckoner comes outside of you, not within your belly and body. It comes outside from seeing or smelling, or watching someone else eat it.
Most of the foods we eat are beckoners.
What if I Don’t Know What my Body Wants to Eat?
If you don’t know what your body wants because you’ve confused yourself for so long with foods and satiety and hunger signals, then it’s a wise idea to find a nutritionist who can help you with the biochemistry of your particular body.
Eating what your body wants allows you to have the life you want. Eating for your body allows you to feel well enough so you can have the life you were meant to have.
Some of us are afraid to ditch our eating issue. If this wasn’t taking focus of our lives, then what would? Who would we be? Food problems are a constant companion.
A benefit of not following the guideline is that we don’t have to get on with our lives. If there’s any question of what we’re going to do when we grow up, or there’s some pain or confusion, then there’s benefit to keeping the struggle going.
Jennifer has 37 years of disordered eating under her belt. What she wants: salmon and quinoa. Nothing processed. It seems restrictive. Geneen says: You won’t know until you start experimenting.
If you’re used to intense restriction, then this guideline is the most challenging. If you’re doing this because it’s what your body wants, then it won’t feel like restriction.
For a permitter, the most difficult thing is to stop eating when satisfied and to only eat when hungry. A permitter eats as a drug, to gain distance from feelings.
Rebellion Is Not Freedom
Some people see what Geneen eats and think she’s on a diet. She feels great, but it took her many years to figure out what her body needs and wants. What your heart desires is letting yourself truly want, what you actually want that isn’t food. Even if it’s not possible to get it, don’t cut yourself off form your wanting.
A lot of people think if we can’t get what we want, then we’ll eat what our minds want because it’s better than nothing. Geneen doesn’t believe that giving your body what your body doesn’t want and not feeling well as a result is better than anything. “I think you punish and deprive yourself of feeling well when you do that. When you eat what your body really wants, it can feel like deprivation. But there are two kinds of deprivation – not eating what your body wants, and not feeling well.”
You deprive yourself of feeling well when you eat what your mind wants. Rebellion is not freedom. If you made lists of foods you “shouldn’t” eat – when you eat those, there’s rebellion going on. That’s not freedom, no matter how it feels in the moment.
Allow Yourself to Want What Your Heart Wants That Isn’t Food
We want the most freedom of movement in our inner worlds. That means wanting what our hearts want that isn’t food. Be allowed to know that, to name that, to feel your heart, the depth of the desire of your heart.
“I want a relationship, a partner.” You might want what you don’t have. But if you go all the way with that heart’s desire and see what you want that a relationship would give you, there might be parts of that you can have without that one significant relationship. You would never find out unless you let yourself go to the depths of your longing.
Eating what your body wants while paying attention to food leads to the enjoyment of that food. Eat with gusto, enjoyment and pleasure. Eat until you’re satisfied. Pleasure is attention. Pleasure is engagement of your heart and what your body wants.
Knowing yourself in terms of:
... choosing what your body actually wants and
... to know the depths of what your heart wants
allows you to:
... be comfortable in your own skin physically,
... know yourself
... and not be frightened of yourself.
This Week’s Practices:
Ask yourself, what do you really want?
Notice when you eat what your body wants and it feels good.
Notice when you eat and it feels unpleasant in your body.
Practice the art of staying with yourself during the pleasant and the unpleasant so that you don’t feel the need to run to food when things feel uncomfortable.
When you’re feeling hopeless, or despair, or another familiar feeling you’ve had before in your life, you can assume that it’s the inner frog or that frozen part of you that needs your attention, that needs you to say, “Come here, sweetheart, tell me about it. Tell me where you feel those feelings. Tell me how your belly feels, your chest. I want to know every little thing. I’m here to listen to you, hold you, be with you.”
Practice that. If you don’t, then you aren’t treating yourself with the kindness you deserve.