On Food:: It’s Not About the Food
Updated: Jun 26, 2019
In matters of communication, those that study the art of such will tell you, the words we speak are only a mere fraction of what we are communicating. It is the meaning being conveyed under the words that holds the most weight. These metamessages can tell us a great deal about what this person wants us to know, without them having to say it, and sometimes without them even knowing they are communicating it. The same goes for our relationship to food. And what I'm about to suggest goes against the rest of the conversation our culture has around food, diet and health.
It is not about the food.
Sure that double chocolate fudge flour-less torte tastes amazing, but it isn’t what drove you to eat the whole thing. It’s what’s happening underneath the binge eating that is the real wisdom of what your body wants you to know through binge eating.
For the longest time, I couldn’t have told you why I compulsively ate. I just did. It was my security blanket in the world, the thing that soothed me and had me feel safe. But I didn’t know this at the time, I couldn’t see or hear that there was a metamessage about my relationship to food. All I knew is that I wanted to eat, almost, all the time. Whether it was a happy occasion, a sad one, and especially if it was a really uncomfortable one, I wanted to eat. And if I couldn’t eat in the midst of the situation, then for sure I was going to reward myself for getting through it with, you guessed, compulsively eating.
But slowly, and I mean very slowly, I began to see the metamessage more clearly. Even if it was “healthy” food, I would binge on it. I wanted whatever I could to numb the feelings I had in my body. As I began to get in touch with my body more and more, began to listen to it, pay attention to the signals it gave, I realized that compulsive eating was simply a coping mechanism. It wasn’t that I was bad, unable to stop, impossibly flawed or just plain lazy (as the diet and fitness industry loves to purport). The reason people gain all the weight back after a successful diet is because it's not about the food. Whatever drives us to eat is what has to be remedied. For me, I didn’t have the tools to make sense of my experience and the feelings in my body, and thus I found a really, really brilliant way to turn down the volume of all I felt.
Yes, I referred to compulsive eating as brilliant. Because really, our minds and bodies devise coping strategies that work quite well to get us through. Food had been a friend to me. It was always there, always available and it gave me such satisfaction, relief and pleasure when I overate it. The problem was, the return was fleeting. The satisfaction, relief and pleasure were short lived. They weren’t rooted in a deeper wisdom or love, or knowing and as such, I need to go back time and again to get more and more.
Maybe you can relate. So what I want you to know, if you are in the clutches of compulsive eating is that there is a meta message begging for your attention. And lucky for you, there are many many other ways to cope with that meta message, to learn to listen to your body and let that which the food covers up, be felt and revealed. You are not bad. You are not lazy. You have a brilliant coping strategy that while it does its job quite well, probably tortures you in equal measure. I know it did me. The next time you feel the urge to overeat, wait 5 minutes. Take 10 deep breaths. Notice if you can feel what is going on under the urge to compulsively eat.
The meta message of your overeating is where you’ll find the freedom from food you seek.