Summary by Katie Morton – Part 2: Beyond What’s Broken

The following Summary of Geneen's second live call was written by Katie Morton, an Online Course student, who graciously granted us the rights to reprint it here for the rest of you. It is Copyright Katie Morton 2010, and appears originally at Katies's "Swell Easy Living" blog. Please note that while you may read it here on your private Student blog, you may not copy it or share it with others

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Course Overview

We covered a lot this week! Here are some bulleted main points from the lecture:

  • Geneen elaborates on how you can trust yourself and your hunger to eat the right foods in the right amounts and at the right times.
  • When we follow the guideline "Eat when you're hungry," we can start turning towards living the life that we want instead of dulling our emotions with food.
  • Learn about what makes you tick when you examine your actions and trace them back to your beliefs.
  • You are innately whole and good, but your critical inner voice makes you doubt your inner compass, your capabilities and your greatness. This critical inner voice, a.k.a. The Voice, shames you and keeps you small.
  • First, you must distinguish when you hear that voice. Second, you must interrupt The Voice with even greater wrath and force than it uses towards you. When you extricate yourself from its nearly ongoing communiqués, you allow for your transformation to living the life you want.

The Meditation

Geneen walked us through another meditation where we were to inhabit our bodies and be aware of our surroundings. She explained that this is a tough practice to conquer, and we'll do it each week.

Even though we might feel bored, frustrated or impatient while she takes us through the slow-paced, non-critical tour of our bodies, our appendages and torsos, there's a good reason for doing it.

Geneen says that most of us don't spend our time where we are. We dwell on the past or worry about the future, always letting our minds wander and rarely focusing on what it's like to be in our bodies. The problem is, we're missing out on the here and now and we're out of touch with our physical selves. We can engage in the present moment by spending time in our bodies.

Geneen says that taking this time for ourselves might seem like a luxury, but she considers it a necessity to be able to be where we are now. And this is important: Hunger and fullness signals come from the body, so we need to learn how to be there to listen to it.

She said that if we are checking out during our guided body tour, to notice that. I felt like,

"Well, I have an excuse because I'm seven months pregnant and inherently uncomfortable. If I let myself feel my body, the way my back aches, I'll want to get out of this chair and not sit through the whole session."

I was guilty of having my Facebook page open, and felt caught red-handed when Geneen asked, "Is your Facebook page open?" She didn't yell at me though. She simply said, "Notice that."

Then it occurred to me that just about everybody on the call probably had an excuse or thought process as to why they didn't need to fully listen. And the weird thing was that when I did tune into my body, shift my position and rub my back, the pain went away and I became very relaxed.

The big lesson Geneen points out is that we need to notice just how darn difficult it is to pay attention to ourselves. She says there's a guideline called, "Eat without distractions," and if it's hard to pay attention to yourself now, then it will be hard to eat without distractions. So that's why we're practicing paying attention to ourselves now, and each week of the retreat.

Reinforcement of the Guideline: Eat When You're Hungry

Geneen went over some common themes that have arisen among participants as they engaged in last week's practice, "Eat when you're hungry." She says it's likely that, previously, a lot of us had been eating according to a plan or a schedule or what we think we should eat, ignoring hunger cues.

If we're not hungry when we wake up in the morning, then it doesn't matter what the experts say about eating breakfast. Maybe you're not hungry for an hour or two after you wake up. So then wait until you become hungry to eat! The same idea holds about lunchtime. If you aren't hungry, then who is to say you need to eat at that moment? Wait until your body is asking for food.

I remember when I was young and thin and naturally ate intuitively. I had a coffee with cream for breakfast at around 10AM, and then lunch was a hot entrée from the work cafeteria, usually a balanced meal of meat, vegetables and starch. It was very rare that I ate a huge dinner and felt uncomfortably full at bedtime. I only ate what I needed, and I stopped eating when I was satisfied. I simply didn't think that much about food.

I remember in those days hearing all those studies about how only fat people don't eat breakfast. But I was completely disinterested in food in the morning and I certainly wasn't fat. I shrugged my shoulders and ate what I wanted, when I wanted. It worked for me.

At some point over the years, after reading this study or that study, I started eating five times a day, including a big breakfast. Now I eat breakfast out of habit and it's not based on hunger. I eat too much at dinner, mindlessly and in front of the TV. I no longer eat intuitively, and it seems like a huge struggle to stay in shape.

Geneen says that if this week you ditched that plan or schedule and ate when you were hungry, then it's likely that you were faced with the realization that you need much less food than you thought you do. Perhaps you didn't get as hungry as often as you thought you would.

I certainly had some breakthroughs in my eating habits by paying attention to hunger cues, and also asking myself "What do I want to eat?" instead of relying on the old stand-bys. If I want a veggie stirfry with shrimp and mango for lunch, then that's what I'll have. I no longer think, "Oh that's too much trouble," or "No, that's not what I planned to eat."

I'm eating healthier foods, more fruits and vegetables and a greater variety of food. I've been eating a smaller breakfast and feeling more energetic without having a big feast sitting in my belly. And I only woke up in the night with heartburn once this week, which as the pregnant ladies know, is a big victory.

Why Eat When You're Hungry? Why Not Follow a Plan or Schedule?

If you aren't even hungry to begin with when you start eating, then you won't know when to stop eating. Geneen says that if we eat when we aren't hungry, then we're totally out of synch with what our body wants; we won't know what to eat or when to stop. On the other hand, if we eat when we're hungry, then we know to stop eating when we're no longer hungry.

Geneen explains that there's a big difference between mouth hunger and body hunger. Mouth hunger is in your head. You might see a certain food and decide you want it, whether you need it or not. She says if you've been on a diet, then you might be convinced that your body wants food you're not "supposed" to have while dieting, or food you don't eat without guilt. Geneen says that's deciding with your mind, and has nothing to do with your body.

Instead, body hunger is connected with what will nourish the body. Geneen says your body wants to feel good, energetic and vital; your body wants to move with ease. It takes discernment to figure out what your body really wants. [Hint: probably not sugar.]

What Should You Turn to When You Aren't Hungry?

Geneen says, "Once you begin following that guideline [Eat when you're hungry] a lot comes up." When you trust your hunger and listen to your body, then you stop using food to push away emotions, feelings and issues.

Geneen says you might be bored, lonely, sad or afraid you won't like your own company. There might be that feeling of, "Okay, I don't need food, SO NOW WHAT?!" You might have doubts that not eating is the right thing to do according to the diet experts.

The good news is that these uncomfortable feelings are the doorway to your new life! When you're feeling uncomfortable, ask yourself how you want to live. What do you want your life to be like? See what's most important to you.

Once you decide what you want out of your life, you need to keep re-deciding on a daily basis. We need to re-decide every day that we're only going to eat when we're hungry. At least in the beginning while we're getting used to it, it's going to be scary. We're going to have not-so-nice emotions and we're going to want to go back to old patterns. However, we need to re-decide every day how we want to live our lives.

This brings to my mind that famous Zig Ziglar quote: "People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily."

Every day, we need to decide that we're going to get out there and live the life we want. Over time, it will get easier as we gain new habits and ways of being.

Learn About Yourself

Geneen offers us another opportunity to learn about ourselves. She says that being in tune with our hunger and eating will show us the beliefs that we have, both in our approach to food and other areas of our lives.

She says a belief is a thought you take to be true, and a thought you've had repeatedly is a belief. Thoughts lead to feelings, and then feelings lead to behaviors. Thus, thoughts and beliefs drive actions.

When we want to change our actions, we should discover the thoughts and beliefs that are driving them. We often don't question our beliefs because we think they're facts, but it's time now to dig them up and face them and be curious and open about your beliefs.

What Are Your Beliefs?

Explore why you can't eat a meal by yourself while you take the time to pay attention to your body and the sensations you're feeling. Maybe you believe you can't take the time to eat a meal by yourself because it's self indulgent and you need to give to others, and not yourself, to be loved.

We all have our reasons. Maybe you have a fear that it's not okay for you to take time for yourself. If you rush with food — whether it's at the fridge, at your desk, standing up, or in the car — that's a signal that you won't take time for yourself.

Maybe when you're eating alone, you're bored, lonely, irritated, frustrated or angry, and you don't want to pay attention to your body.

Maybe you think you always need to be learning, taking in, understanding, achieving, fixing, accomplishing and you think it's not okay to slow down.

This is definitely my problem! I eat the majority of my meals at my desk at work in front of my computer. Come to think of it, this morning I ate my breakfast in front of my computer, and I do that just about every day. The only meal I don't eat in front a computer is dinner, and I do that in front of the TV. DOH!

Part of the problem might be my eating "schedule." I plan to eat 3 meals, plus 2 snacks each day. I feel like if I took the time out to eat each of those meals carefully, I wouldn't get anything done. And so I plan them ahead of time, and then eat them while multitasking. But if I eat only when I'm hungry, then I probably won't eat as many meals in a day. This will free up the time for me to enjoy each of my meals like they're special occasions on which I can concentrate.

Geneen says we all have a web of beliefs, feelings and actions. Our outward behavior is an expression of those beliefs. How we handle food can help trace the path back to what we believe.

So if I think about WHY I eat while multitasking, it might be because my belief that drives my actions is that if I'm seen as an underachiever or a slacker, then I'm a disgrace. I need to perform and succeed to be a worthy, loveable person. If I'm not superlative, then I should be punished and rejected.

Think about how you eat and why you don't concentrate fully on mealtime. Explore what beliefs you might have about yourself that fuels those behaviors.


Geneen says we were born whole. She says children come into the world with a sense of fineness with the way they are. "They're not self reflective. They don't know that they know they're fine." As children, we all had a sense that we're fine. There was an "unbrokeness" about ourselves. This is the biggest part of ourselves, and it's been with us since birth.

She says that by the time we're four or five years old, we've learned that some ways of being are acceptable and some are not. Some ways we express ourselves are loved, while others get rejected. Some behaviors are greeted with huge approval, some statements and expressions are met with anger, judgment, shaming or disapproval.

So we construct our identities and our self images based on what we discover is loveable and what's not loveable. By the time we're four or five, we have an ego, a sense of ourselves that's aware of what it takes to be loved and what will lead to rejection and disapproval.

The Voice

We all have The Voice: this is the internalized parent, the inner critic, the super ego, the piece of your personality that is watching, assessing, judging, and deeming what's right and wrong.

We learn The Voice from a collection of authority voices and cultural mores, including our parents, that tell us what to do. In the early years, The Voice is a protective measure and it helps us to learn to fit into our culture and society.

The Voice was a necessary part of learning how to grow up and how to embrace socially accepted behavior. It kept us from putting our hands on a hot stove. It probably helps us to look our best when going for a job interview and to avoid slurping our soup on a hot date. Sounds like a good thing to have around, right? RIGHT?!

Well, not always.

Why The Voice Isn't Cool

The problem now as an adult with The Voice is that it won't let you be in touch with the part of you that's not broken. You have a hard time finding those moments of ease, joy and happiness with that Voice nattering on, wearing its Judgey McJudge Pants.

For example, you might be on the beach, smelling the salt air, hearing the waves and feeling the sand beneath your feet. You're hanging out with yourself, feeling happy and free, just being you and feeling like all is right in your world. That's a moment of unbrokeness. But then The Voice tells you that your giant ass is casting a shadow on the sun bathers sitting behind you. Not cool, Voice. Not cool!

The point is that The Voice can be overly harsh, nasty and judging. It can make you feel small and weak and unable to accomplish your goals.

As we grow up and experience life and become adults, we have something that's better than The Voice. We have ourselves, our own clarity and what's never been broken. We have our own inner compasses.

The Voice likes to convince us that our inner compass is broken, that we don't know what's best for ourselves and doles out a hearty portion of self-doubt.

We Must Deal With The Voice

That's why it's important to address The Voice — so we can be in touch with what isn't broken and what's utterly fine and loveable about ourselves. In order to really know ourselves, to be open, curious, and allowing ourselves to explore our feelings about food, in order to feel it's ok to be ourselves and to live the life we know we're meant to live, we must deal with The Voice.

The Voice tends to keep us from changing, from being, doing or saying anything that will upset the status quo. Right now, let's call the status quo our conflicted relationship with food. Changing that relationship upsets The Voice.

When you try to change, The Voice comes in and stuns you. When you challenge yourself, The Voice can tell you that you aren't capable. It cautions that you're going to fail and it shakes your confidence. It cuts you off at the knees so you don't have far to fall. It cuts you off before someone else can so you'll be "safe" and powerless to undertake new changes and adventures.

When you're listening to The Voice, you often feel small, weak, shamed, paralyzed, needy or desperate. You think you're never going to get it right. You think you need an answer immediately and you rely on The Voice, which might tell you to go back on a diet, because you're never going to get it right by yourself.

If we let it, The Voice will stop all transformation. It will tell you that you're wrong and you don't know what you're doing. It clouds the objective truth with moral judgment that can be oppressive and discouraging.

First Step: Name The Voice

Unless we begin naming The Voice for what it is, we'll never change. Changes become impossible and transformation is doomed until we recognize and disengage that part of ourselves that says, "Don't try, what's the matter with you? Who do you think you are?"

Geneen asks us to consider five recent judgments The Voice might have thrown our way. Think about the judgments you had when you looked in the mirror and ate your meals. The Voice can strike at any time, and is usually more frequent that you can imagine. Think about the last 15 minutes or the last hour.

Here are some judgments I noticed:

1) Why am I eating noodles and ice cream for dinner? Is that really what I should be eating?

2) I won't be able to put the words together to write a good summary of tonight's retreat. Last week was a fluke, and I won't possibly write as well this week.

3) I can't type fast enough to take good notes of what Geneen is saying and I'll miss the point.

4) My belly is going to be so out of shape once I have this baby. (Ouch, really, THE VOICE? Lay off, man!)

I stopped looking for judgments after that last doozy. Geneen warns that the voice is vicious. Yowza!

So to elaborate on the first step, we need to separate out The Voice from who we really are. We're so identified with it, that we don't realize there's a "me" and an "it." When we're blended with it, we don't get that it's possible to separate from The Voice. We feel ashamed and like we can't change and we can't do it right, but that's just The Voice talking.

Name it. Recognize it. Be aware of its existence. Whenever there is a good / bad / right / wrong, The Voice is present and directing your experience.

When you become aware of The Voice, you'll see how compelling it is. If we tell it to shut up, then how will we know what to eat and what to do? We might think, "I need that voice! It knows what's right and wrong." We've been identified with The Voice for so long we can't imagine the freedom and clarity and unbrokeness we would have without it, because we keep being commandeered by The Voice.

The Voice is tricky. Sometimes it seems like we're simply asking, "What if I never get there?" But that's just another way The Voice has of saying we can't get there. The Voice is speaking to you and you're asking the question from the small place of, "I can't do it."

If we believe The Voice, then there's no chance at change.

Second Step: Disengage From The Voice

We wouldn't let anyone in the world talk to us like The Voice does. We're carrying on that ongoing conversation with such meanness, such vitriol. It's crucial that we learn to stop it, and disengaging comes when you stop it from speaking to you.

Separate from it and tell The Voice to get lost. Tell it to stop. Here a few tactics.

Remember that The Voice is powerful and nasty, so you don't need to be polite or gentle with it. You can shout at it, seethe at it, and tell it where to go. Address your voice the way it needs to be addressed; come at it with more force than it comes at you.

You can say something as simple as, "Go away! You are not my friend!" Or you can hurl obscenities at it at top volume. Roll your eyes at it and say, "There you go again," or you can just ignore it. But whatever you do, you need to disarm it and shove it out of the way.

Disengaging from The Voice is a practice, and it's not something you get immediately and completely. The Voice will continue to sneak up on you in your lifetime, but you'll catch it sooner and disengage successfully if you keep working at it.

Carve a New Path

Our brains are plastic and it's possible to change and create new pathways, habits and ways of being. However, changing requires discomfort. It's easy to fall back into old patterns and habits, because we've already carved those paths and our brains automatically follow those grooves without thinking. Building new pathways requires commitment and effort.

This is why we need to decide anew each day that we're going to carve a new path and ask our brains to help us do the work. If it sounds exhausting to take this on every day, remember that harboring old habits is exhausting in its own way. So either way you're exhausted, and you might as well put your energy towards adapting to your positive new life.

So we need to create a new path and the beginning of creating a new path requires a willingness to tolerate discomfort. That's why it's important to remind ourselves why we keep doing our practices and asking what you want your life to be about. You've got to want your life back more than you want to be comfortable in any given moment.

Soon, this new way of living becomes habitual and effortless so that when you find yourself wanting to eat and you're not hungry, you'll ask yourself, "What's going on? What am I feeling? Why am I thinking about turning to food for a reason other than hunger?"

Stay with yourself and notice how it feels to want to eat when you're not hungry. This is how food allows us to get to know ourselves and what we really want.

This Week's Practices

1) Living "as if"

Live as if you're worth your own time, love and attention. Live like you like yourself. Live like you like your body.

This is a direct, day-to-day experience. Ask yourself, "How would I get up in the morning? How would I walk? How would I eat if I were living as if I liked myself and knew I was worth my own attention? What would I do?"

2) Follow the Second Eating guideline:

Eat sitting down in a calm environment. This does not include the car.

Eat as if you're worth your time and attention. You wouldn't eat standing up, in the car, or tasting the food on your way from the stove to the table. You wouldn't eat a meal in hiding before everyone else sits down so that you're full when they get there.

Both of this week's practices are related to The Voice. When we live like we like ourselves, The Voice will squawk and make itself known. To follow this week's practices will require you to be aware of naming and disengaging from The Voice throughout the week.

Geneen says to remember that living close to yourself and the center of your own life is your birthright.

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Except as noted, all contents of this Geneen Roth Online Course is Copyright Geneen Roth 2013 and is for the sole use of Online Course students. All content on this blog requires express permission from Geneen Roth & Associates Inc. for reuse, display, republication or resale.

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