With sheltering in place …

and the vast amount of time most of us are spending at home in close proximity to the refrigerator, the question about how to manage our emotions and thoughts and therefore, our relationship with food keeps coming up. 

Here’s what I want to say: Treat yourself with utmost kindness. It’s really not any different than what I usually say, but all the ways we don’t do that are coming up loudly right now, so if there are ways you haven’t examined or questioned your relationship with food, those ways will be front and center as you walk through the impact of the coronavirus on your life. 

Utmost kindness is not the same thing as self-indulgence. It doesn’t mean snacking on foods all day that you ordinarily wouldn’t snack on because you deserve a treat. And the reason not to do that is not because it’s wrong or you’re wrong or you’re a failure or you are going to gain weight. The reason not to do that is because it’s kind for a second and then ripples into unease, being uncomfortable in your body, schlepping your belly around with you all day, as it walks in front of you and you lag behind. Kindness is asking your body what it actually wants. It’s so easy to turn to food for entertainment now. 

Overtime, for instance, I walk back into the house after being outside, my first thought (or my second thought, but definitely I’ve already had it by the fifth thought) is: What can I eat? When I don’t know what to do, eating gives me an activity. When I feel a bit at loose ends, eating gives me something to focus on. But I know, because I’ve been through this a hundred thousand times with myself, that it doesn’t fulfill its promise. It always doubles the confusion, the suffering, the lostness, the anxiety—it never ever lessens it, except for the few moments I’m focusing on what’s in my mouth (because then, I’m not focusing on or thinking about anything else).

When it’s over, though, and I’ve swallowed whatever it is, I’m back to living inside myself, inside this mind—and that’s where the real attention can be paid. What am I thinking that’s possible scaring me? Getting me angry or panicked or feeling sorry for myself. Or terrified. Naming (with utmost kindness, and not to nail myself) my thoughts, and watching the effect they have on my body. The collapse or the tightening belly or the sinking in my chest. It all begins with those thoughts. In naming them, I get to take a step away from them. I get to witness them and be aware of the part of me that isn’t my thoughts. That process is, in itself, calming because then I’m not drowning in the anger or panic or self-pity or terror. I’m who is noticing the anger, panic, self-pity or terror. That is such a relief. 

Notice how you are thinking about food right now—as that which comforts and soothes you? As that which you deserve to binge on because come on, this is hard. If there was ever a time you needed to treat your body with kindness, it’s now.

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