The Naked Truth: When food is comfort
Written by Margaret Floyd on 07/02/11 am28 11:19 AM
“We eat to feel or not feel something.”
A wise friend said this to me years ago when we were talking about craving unhealthy foods.
I spend a lot of time working with my clients on listening to, trusting, and responding to what their body is asking for. This can be rather tricky, especially when it sounds like your body is asking for something you know isn’t going to serve you or your health in the bigger picture.
Let me get naked with you: my favorite comfort food is pasta. I could eat vats of the stuff, but unfortunately, my body doesn’t like it at all. It inevitably leads to – well, let’s just call it “digestive distress.” I can always tell when I’m stretching myself emotionally or mentally because I start obsessing about pasta.
Early last week I experienced a considerable amount of stress. Immediately, all I could think of was PASTA!! What to do?
I’m not a believer in deprivation, but I’m also not a believer in using food to escape yourself. I decided to sit with the feelings I had, letting them flow through me, as Geneen Roth recommends in her powerful book, Women Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything (which I highly recommend), rather than bury my feelings in a bowl of spaghetti. I was sitting in LA traffic at the time, so I had plenty of time to let the tears flow, beat up my steering wheel, and stare woefully out the window.
By the time I got home, I had certainly felt a lot of very uncomfortable feelings. AND, I still wanted pasta.
That night, I decided not to deprive myself of pasta, but to indulge with heightened intention and awareness. I grabbed my sweetie and we went out to a nice Italian restaurant. Rather than just look at the yum factor, I took a lot of time with the menu. I imagined how each dish would taste, how my body would feel with it in me, and I picked the item on the menu that felt perfect for the moment.
When dinner arrived, instead of gobbling through it at lightning speed (my sure-fire body escape strategy), I took small bites. I put my fork down between each mouthful, not picking it up again until I had swallowed every little morsel of the first bite. I chewed slowly and savored every delicious inch of that pasta. I took nice deep breaths between each bite, I slowly sipped a glass of wine, and I made sure throughout the whole meal that I was completely inside myself, not wanting to miss a single moment of this comforting treat.
To my utter amazement, despite the fact that I just ate a bunch of refined wheat and dairy, I had absolutely no digestive upset. I left the restaurant feeling unburdened, fresh, and completely reinvigorated by the meal. I can’t remember the last time I ate a plate of pasta feeling so light.
Moral of the story? Ultimately there’s nothing wrong with food being a source of comfort. The key is to stay in your body when you do it, rather than use the food to escape yourself.
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