The exhilaration of shifting our weight after a long struggle with obesity is one of the most satisfying experiences we can have in life. It is beneficial to our health as well, since our Body Mass Index is an indicator not only of longevity but of quality of life. As diabetes diagnoses soar and reports circulate regarding the dangers of processed foods, many search for a successful route to a healthy weight and body image. When used effectively, tapping supports both.
If you haven’t yet read Jessica Ortner’s book, Weight Loss and Body Confidence, it is a great place to begin a food and body awareness practice rooted in tapping, one that helps us to develop profound self love and acceptance. So much of our relationship with food in the west has nothing to do with health and well being and everything to do with emotional comfort, protection, and even despair. As we begin to use tapping to explore our individual core food issues, we are frequently genuinely surprised when we discover, quickly yet gently, the range of emotions we avoid feeling when we overeat.
Logically we believe our relationship with food should be all about hunger and satiety, but these days logic doesn’t help us with our western food system and habits. Because of government agricultural decisions made over the last fifty years, food is now the source of serious addictions that can creep up on us when we unwittingly eat processed foods made with additives that some research has proved more addictive than heroin and cocaine. The most recent food/addiction findings have been pulled together in Fed Up, a documentary directed by Stephanie Soechtig and narrated by Katie Couric.
This documentary, released in early May of 2014, explores the dire consequences of an overload of sugar in the modern western diet. Sugar in one form or another is in everything from soft drinks to bread products to cereals as well as in a staggering number of dessert choices. The film outlines the reasons why we began to load processed foods with sugar, as well as the overall consequences of this dietary choice. Because sugar or sugar derivatives are in almost all processed items, finding healthful food has become increasingly challenging.
The answer, of course, is to follow Michael Pollan’s advice: “Eat real food, not too much.” However, developing new food habits can be an excruciating experience in the fun-house food landscape created by advertising and convenience store availability. When I chose to quit smoking several decades ago, I did so with the aid of Michelle Landsberg’s essay exploring the loss issues in becoming a non-smoker (see blog “Addiction, Grief, and EFT” Aug. 8/13 for more about the luminous Landsberg’s approach to smoking cessation.) Before I discovered Landsberg’s wisdom, like so many others then and now, I used food to kick the habit.
The first time I decided to quit smoking, I went cold turkey, replacing cigarettes with home-made Nanaimo Bars. At the time I didn’t understand why I chose this particular food as a cigarette substitute, but I do now. Chocolate releases serotonin, the hormone associated with feeling good. For the first couple of days without cigarettes, I felt amazing. And then I crashed.
After weeks of soaring and crashing, as well as gaining ten pounds seemingly overnight, I knew this was not the route to take and went back to smoking as the lesser of two evils while I sorted myself out; my sweet fix not only made me feel physically sluggish, it also clouded my thinking functions, something I needed for my professional obligations. That early experience warned me of food’s power when, forever afterward I was aware of a little voice in my head saying, “You’ll feel so much better if you just eat a Nanaimo Bar. Why don’t you make some.” It was like living with the devil.
I finally did quit both smoking and Nanaimo Bar bingeing, but my success had nothing to do with the rigorous and harsh denial and exercise regimens advocated by health and fitness gurus of the day. I stopped both my negative habits by cultivating mindfulness and by using my journal to record my journey into self awareness. I soon discovered that I used food as a source of comfort, especially when I was in danger of feeling any kind of threat.
In my younger years, any unwanted male attention triggered unsafe feelings that had roots in a rape I had never reported or dealt with in therapy or in my own mindfulness practice. I was ashamed of the rape, blamed myself for everything because I froze instead of fighting, and unconsciously associated the man’s attention with my being “too sexy”, a value I’d confused with being a healthy, vibrant woman. Putting on extra weight offered two solutions; the in-the-moment eating made me feel temporarily great, and the over-time weight gain gave me a false sense of security regarding how to avoid male attention.
Many women find themselves in similar circumstances. Had I had tapping during this time, I would have been able to address the rape head on, because tapping is so effective at increasing a sense of personal safety as we deal with threatening issues. Since discovering this tool, I’ve tapped on all the aspects of the rape and so feel empowered to be the healthy, vibrant woman I want to be, but I continue to work on feeling what my mother described as “a little to good for my own good.” Raised by a Great Depression Mom, I learned early from her that too much joy – what Henry Fielding calls high spirits in his rollicking novel, Tom Jones – is a dangerous thing. The unconscious learning I absorbed from her was that I couldn’t trust myself – or others – when I was feeling good.
Overeating, even five pounds worth, can be a gift in disguise because as we indulge in foods we know are unhealthy, we can tune into the unconscious programs we’ve unwittingly absorbed from our birth families and that these well meaning people unwittingly absorbed from theirs. A lack of safety when we feel “too attractive” is fairly common in our over sexualized culture, but what we have to remember here is that rape is never about a rape target being attractive; it is always about a would-be perpetrator’s fantasies regarding sexual entitlement, unconscious rage against a certain group of people, or a need to express power stemming from personal insecurity.
By tapping on our limiting beliefs about personal safety, joy, and the many other programs we’ve absorbed from others and our culture, we discover letting go of the last five pounds to reach a healthy Body Mass Index far less threatening. A healthy weight inevitably leads to great joy, and, yes, Tom Jone’s high spirits. We feel fully present and empowered when at our best, and so it shouldn’t surprise us when others genuinely delight in us and we in them. Happily, being authentic in our relationships helps to guard against inappropriate behaviours and crossed boundaries, because we are living our lives consciously.
When we use tapping effectively, concentrating on specific events, feelings, and physical conditions, we are able to rewrite old programs convincing us that feeling good in our bodies is unsafe or even traitorous to our families. As we develop the skill to use this empowering energy tool to explore feelings of our earliest food experiences along with our earliest and most emotionally intense fear experiences, we come to a place of deep self acceptance. No longer are we tempted to obliterate emotional discomfort with baked goods, alcohol, and any of the other comfort foods that can lead to diabetes, heart disease, and even serious depression. In place of stress, we find delight in choosing and enjoying foods that support even the loss of those last five pounds.
Until next week