Better & Bolder the Blog

Grace Diaries 7: what am I building with all this food?

Marc David, the founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, writes about food in a way that’s stimulating and kind. 

In this post from last year, David encourages us to Eat to the Point of Energy. Below is the first part of his post (view the full article here 

Here’s a great nutritional strategy for increasing your vitality and mojo without necessarily changing anything you eat. It really works and I believe you’ll find it very useful. 

Most people eat until they’re filled with food. Makes perfect sense. If I’m filled with food, then that surely means I’m full. 

But with this technique, rather than eat till you’re filled with food, you eat until you feel filled with energy. 

The yogis of old postulated that there’s a hypothetical point in any meal such that if you stopped eating at that point, you’d walk away from the table with more energy. It takes a little practice – you’re looking for that point in the meal when you’d finish your meal still feeling a little hungry, but the kind of hungry that can easily be translated into a hunger to do the next thing. 

For months, I’ve been eating to fill my emotions with energy. It’s never enough. 

I’ve been eating to satisfy my hormones. They are insatiable.

Those are harsh judgements and largely untrue. What is true is that my physical body is full well before my emotional body is full. 

I get very upset with myself when I eat more than my physical body needs or even desires. I view this as bad, or as disordered. 

If I shift my view, if I look through the lens that David provides, I can see that I’m getting exactly as much fuel as I need, the whole I, not just my body. 

This is very challenging to me. I’m pretty linear on this one: eating until I’m satisfied is good, and eating until I’m overfull is bad. Eating enough to sustain my weight is good, and eating more and gaining weight is bad. 

I know that food fuels my brain, and this is literal. The brain runs on glucose just as our muscles do.  This may be a leap, but here goes. Menopause = elevated cortisol = a challenged brain and nervous system = additional cravings for foods that supply glucose quickly. When menopause, oh, that creeping transition, has finally paused, cortisol is more easily managed as are food cravings. So, I’m waiting. I may be eating more than my body wants, and I may be eating just as much as my brain wants. Maybe this year, my brain wins. 

I’m sure if I were super careful, I could keep my brain fueled amply without eating more than my body needs. It’s a tricky balancing act. I get tired; my prefrontal cortex needs glucose in order to make good decisions. I could eat something and then go lie down to rest and then calmly and with great ease, choose wisely what to have for dinner. I could eat slowly, by candlelight, having said a prayer of thanks. I could, except I can’t. 

I come home hungry and tired, and I start eating, and I go and go. I have no energy left for the thoughtfulness of slow eating. I can beat myself up about it, or I can observe it. I do a bit of both right now. Here’s what’s true for me: right now, I can’t eat just a bit and feel satisfied. Maybe I will soon. But not right now. Because I’m not just eating for my body and my brain. 

I don’t think it’s a metaphor to say food fuels our emotions or our spirit. We are inspired by the tastes and smells of our food. We are filled with desires and with nostalgia. These are actual sensations and feelings, and they are no less real and no less important than a hunger pang. Here, I’ll say that again. Being hungry emotionally and eating food to nurture the emotions is as valid as being physically hungry and eating food to nurture the body. 

There is a tipping point, a point at which the body is harmed or not nurtured well when the emphasis is on nurturing the emotions. True too is that the emotions or the spirit can be harmed when the emphasis is entirely on nurturing the body. 

Something in me desires more. I am consuming more than I need, more than my share. This could be carelessness on my part, which means thoughtful and compassionate observation is due. It could be I have a hole somewhere so that no matter how much I pour in, it’s not enough because too much is seeping out. In which case, thoughtful and compassionate observation is due. 

I am not a graceful eater. I do not eat with great relish. I sometimes binge, and it’s the act of eating quickly and continuously that is pleasing. It is freeing and rebellious. 

To be a graceful eater, I could slow down, and I could appreciate more. I could eat with more patience if not with more attention. I could simply say grace, again and again, before the first bite, in the bites in between, at the last bite. I could close my eyes as my mouth closes around the next bite, breathe in the pleasure and the satiety, and whisper grace. 

Something keeps me from this patience and this grace, whether that is habit or carelessness, or most likely and most often the thick desire of hunger added to the weight of tiredness. 

There is plenty. There is plenty of time. There is a plenty of food. There is plenty of pleasure. I do not need to rush through it or grab my share before others do. There is no scarcity. I am blessed. It is graceful to remember this and act as if.

Grace diaries 6: the hug

The December issue of O Magazine ran an article by skeptic (that’s her word) Meredith Bryan, who wanted to experience Amma’s hugs and find out whether they are as transcendent as others claim. Bryan speaks with Swamini  Krishnamrita, who has known and worked with Amma for over 30 years. A hug from Amma, say followers, “shows you the real you,” and Krishnamrita explains this. “You’ll never know who you really are with this shadow saying, ‘You’re too fat, you’re too thin, it’s this other person’s fault.’”  

A  hug confirms we’re worthy of being hugged, all of us, indiscriminately. That is our essence. All the rest is ego. 

I’ve been searching for me for months. I have less energy so I have to choose what I do more carefully. Why do I do what I do? Why do I write these blog posts, for instance?  I’m not sure if I’m searching for ego me or something more essential. 

Some days it feels as if I’m not sure of much anymore, which makes it really nice to have a job to go to and a family to come home to. I just put one foot in front of the other, in all the ways that have been expected by me, utilizing the structure I have created over the years. It works really well. It doesn’t feel inauthentic, though I wonder if I’m somehow focusing on the outside or the appearance of things. I suppose the real me is no more or less real than how I appear to be. 

Menopause has been called The Change, and I’m pondering how the shift in hormones and fertility status change my essential core of who I am in the world. For some years, I was a child. Then I became fertile, a woman, an adult. Soon, I will be a crone, the third phase of a woman’s life. Am I the same person I was as a child? Perhaps there are some core elements that are the same, unmoved, and perhaps experience has altered not just my mind but my very soul. Why else have a soul if not that the soul, too, should grow? 

My body changes, my hormones change, and in truth my reality changes. How others perceive me changes. 

Here’s a story of huge changes in hormones. In O Magazine, September 2013, “Can You See the Real Me?” describes why and how one man transitioned from male to female. Katie Arnold-Ratliff writes about Vivienne Ming, “Once she’d begun hormone therapy, Ming’s personality underwent a tremendous shift.” Ming slept better and felt better. She became more animated and enjoyed how estrogen helped emotions and tears to flow. 

It was a few years after the hormone therapy that Ming elected to undergo “GRS, a grueling series of surgeries that involved roughly 46 hours on the table (in the male-to-female procedure, a man’s genitalia and urethra are restructured to function like those of a woman) and a recovery time of about three months. The following year, she had further operations to feminize her facial features.”

Ming didn’t expect how deeply the surgery would affect her. “It really changed my thoughts about myself,” she says. “My body became aligned with my identity, and it was profound.”

I was struck by that one line. Her body and her identity became aligned. How beautiful she was able to have this. How many of us are living in bodies that are not yet aligned with our identity? Not because we are not aligned by gender or sex but all the other ways we may not be aligned. 

Am I moving in a way that aligns with my identity? Do I stand in my identity? Do I project the physical energy that’s aligned with my identity? Is my weight aligned with my identity? Is my hair color or my hair cut? 

Admittedly, these are far smaller changes, though the hair cut may be the simplest one to which we all can relate. When it’s good, when it’s right, we feel more alive and more ourselves. Sometimes a different hair cut can bring out another side of our personality the way wearing different clothes do. We may mark the end of something -- a relationship, a career -- with a change of hairstyle or cut. 

I’m in the middle of change, and I haven’t found yet how to align my body and my identity. Both are in flux. I’m slowly letting go of who I was and longing for who I was. I have no pleasure yet in who I will be. For the moment, mid-transition, I am ill at ease, and I am hungry. The hunger is physical, and the hunger is ego. The hunger is spiritual. 

The good grace of my hunger, and the gift of my longing, is that these are the vehicle on which I move through this change.  

the Grace Diaries 5: finally letting go

I’m exhausted.

Today was the jam celebrating Studio Sway’s renewal under new owner Ashley Biggers. Ashley is great. She loves Nia and knows how powerful it is in our lives. Her background in writing, web design, and promotion, on top of excellent people skills and extraordinary independence and drive, means the studio really is in excellent hands. She’s been helping me with promoting Hit Play and I feel, like, wow, I’m getting this help in a way that I just never have before, and it feels great.

When we signed the papers on 10/13/13 to sell the studio to Ashley, I expected to feel relief. I didn’t. I didn’t feel much at all. I certainly had no regrets, yet I also didn’t feel either the sweet sadness of a change or the giddy freedom we have when a relationship that no longer is working ends. You remember that feeling? You said goodbye to that boyfriend or whatever, and you were supposed to be all heart-broken, but really, this whole roomful of energy returned to you. 

I didn’t have any of that when we signed, and I didn’t know quite why I didn’t feel as if a weight had been taken from me. Since I teach there 5 times a week, I wasn’t surprised not to feel loss. Since my expectation is that the studio will continue to grow and thrive in ways it hasn’t yet, I wasn’t surprised that my main feeling about it was just good. I feel hopeful and I feel good. 

That’s why today took me a bit by surprise. First, I made sure to give to Ashley a token. When we first opened Sway, I had some pendants made that said “Sway” and gave them to some of the women who’d worked so hard and long to get that first studio open. I wore my pendant often in the first year or so, and then less, and then I put it away so it was hanging in one of my jewelry boxes, not getting much attention or love. Once we sold the studio to Ashley, I knew I would give this piece to her. What I had forgotten was how much power there might be in doing so. For me, today is the day that Sway became Ashley’s and not mine and Diane’s. 

At the jam, Sergio Salvador was taking pictures of all the teachers. Diane was there with her big, banging belly, full with twins, and I thought, oh, I want a picture of Diane and me together! But we’re not the owners. We don’t need a picture of us at the jam together anymore. I’m not sure why this felt so significant as it was just a photo op, and, sure, I could have grabbed my iPhone (and I should have because, honestly, that’s one hella cute belly). It was significant, though. This was Ashley’s jam and Ashley’s photographer, and I was there to be Beth, the Nia teacher.

By the end of the jam, I was cranky. (This is not an unusual state for me lately.) I also was catty, and I know better than that. Talking with Kate at the end, I was reminded that instead of being catty, I could choose to be compassionate. It feels much better and no good ever came out of being gossipy or mean. Except this: I was relieved that I could be catty. When I owned the studio, one of my responsibilities was to support everyone. There really isn’t any room to be less than gracious to any one of us for any reason. For a brief moment, I relished the freedom of being catty. Now, I’m over that because, really, who has room in her life for being judgmental? Being judgmental crowds out joy. 

It wasn’t until after the jam on my way home, I hit the Co-op to buy apples when I realized I was exhausted. I promptly bought all sorts of things I don’t buy when I am energized and in my right mind. It was that kind of grocery trip. I didn’t even wait until I got into the car before ripping off a piece of roasted chicken breast to eat on my way home. 

What exhausted me was that final release. I finally let go. There’s a small bit of sadness, the kind that comes from change, the piece that loved partnering with Diane and how we grew better and stronger together. There’s a small bit of sadness because for six years, that was who I was, the owner of Studio Sway, and now I am not that. 

I was exhausted from being in a room packed with people. I was exhausted from faking it while Sergio took our pictures. I was exhausted from pouring my heart and spirit into “Something to Believe In,” and handing the studio energy over to Ashley. I was exhausted from starting a whole new class format, putting my hopes and fears and skills into that and not being nearly as good at it as I know I can be and want to be. I’m early in the learning curve, and that place is exhausting. I’m exhausted from not calling and texting my daughter, who is taking space (she’ll call me when she needs me, and that time will be way past the time she needs me, which she won’t know until she lets down that guard, and it’s not happening soon). 

I’m exhausted from too many moments of self-disrespect and fear in the past six months. I am exhausted from living without grace. 

It’s this deep, deep, deep exhaustion that is valuable to us because there is no more energy left for faking it or fronting. When we are this exhausted, we can’t maintain our defenses. This is when the true practice begins. What emerges is the purest form. I stop fighting so hard. I rely on compassion.

Grace diaries 4: marathon

Dear Hormones,

F*** you. You suck.

your enemy,


I am really getting good at this self-pity thing, probably another sweet side effect of whatever my  menopausal hormones have decided to serve up this week. When things first got wonky a few years ago, I added in extra acupuncture sessions. I ate super well. My breasts stopped being tender. My periods came regularly. I exercised a lot and felt strong. I kind of thought I rocked at this whole transition thing. 

When I turned 50, my cycles stopped, like that. Like, ho ho! 50, are you? That’s it for you and your friend estrogen! Except, it’s not. What happens in the lead in to menopause is not that estrogen plummets. In fact, it amps up. That’s why we feel constantly pre-menstrual, crying, eating, crying about eating. 

Menopause with Science and Soul: a guidebook for navigating the journey by Judith Boice gets a  bit too wise woman for me (ah, the soulful indigeneous woman speaks her truth!). But the truth is that this is a journey. If I keep making it a fight, I lose. 

I haven’t gotten past mourning what my life used to be like, and that’s part of the journey, too, for me at least. I am feeling as if I just want to give up, curl into a ball and eat bon bons all day. I don’t want any responsibility for anyone or anything. It occurred to me tonight, however, that as always, I need to invest. If I want better health, I have to invest. If I want to come out of menopause into better health, I need to invest in not just physical changes but the psychic and emotional growth that the changes require. 

If you haven’t read it yet, Dana Jennings’ “My Brief Life as a Woman” is brilliant. Due to treatment for prostate cancer, he and his wife both experienced menopause together. He got hot flashes, experienced cravings, gained weight, and cried a lot. He doesn’t say whether his boobs hurt, though I wouldn’t be surprised if they did. When I read about his six months aboard “the Good Ship Menopause,” as he says, I felt a bit less crazy. Hormones drive us. They drive us to have sex. They drive us to create. They drive us to eat. I can be healthy and disciplined and I’m going to feel the effects of those hormones. None of us are immune, though we’ll all experience these changes individually.

Here’s what’s happening. First, before menopause, start saying goodbye to progesterone. That’s the stuff that helps your thyroid function well. It helps stabilize blood sugar levels. It calms the nervous system. When progesterone rises, so does libido. Progesterone balances estrogen. Progesterone levels drop to almost nothing by the time menopause (a full year without a menstrual cycle) settles in. Damn. 

I hear moaning and groaning about, oh, no, no more estrogen. Well, estrogen is a bitch. It amps up blood sugar levels. It tells the body to send fat to our hips (thanks). It signals the body to hold onto sodium so we bloat. Estrogen excites the nervous system, all the way into irritability and anxiety. During the transition, perimenopause, estrogen levels dip and rise, sometimes rising higher than prior to perimenopause.  

It’s unpredictable, too. I used to chart my hormones by the moon, and I miss that predictability of the cycle. I knew when it would come and when it would pass.  Sure, sure, that estrogen keeps us well-lubed, but I can buy lube.  By the time a gal hits menopause, those estrogen levels are about half of what they used to be, and I’m telling you, blessed be. 

I got this information about hormones from Menopause with Science and  Soul. Christiane Northrup also explains it here,

Northrup really pushes the idea that menopause is not something to dread. It’s a time in which “All the issues that weren’t resolved during puberty and early adulthood—such as body image, relationships, vocation, fear of aging, and self-esteem issues—now arise once more to be healed and completed.” ( Great! Every issue I ever had is staring me in the face. No wonder I miss how things used to be. Fear of aging and death, body image, self-esteem -- how am I supposed to deal with all that? I like the concept of resolving them. Right now, I’m at epic fail. Right now I am as self-conscious as a teen. I’m tired and moody. I don’t want to do the work.

Here’s just one of the things I like about writing these blogs. It keeps me focused in some ways on that work. I started Hit Play as a class format because it’s the workout I needed, and I won’t do it unless I have to teach it. I might skimp on this kind of self-reflection if I weren’t investing in writing it to publish it (thank you, once again, dear readers, for choosing to be on the other side of these marks on the digital page). 

On the whole, maybe not quite as fast as I’d envisioned I could do it, or maybe not quite as fully or gracefully, I’m moving forward with strength and intention. In the week between starting to write this blog and the day I’m finishing it, I made a huge shift, away from some of that anger and loss and toward a new patience. I don’t know if I’ll ever run a half-marathon or a marathon. My ego sure would love that to happen. But it doesn’t have to happen now or never. Right now, I’m running the Menopause Marathon, which, for those of who haven’t had the pleasure of this particular ultra, is really quite enough for me to handle. 

Grace diaries 3: the Tween years

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I thought I would be much braver about this. I was all ready for a better and bolder swing into 50. That’s because I thought 50 would be a helluva lot like 49, and I really didn’t start imagining how different 59 is going to be. 

Menopause and turning 50 is like adolescence. It’s that bad. The hormones are shifting and unpredictable. The funny thing is that on the whole, my symptoms aren’t bad. My hot flashes are more like warm pulses. Most of the time, I get a good night’s sleep. My mood swings are fairly calm. I’m going to give big props to the acupuncture I did, which I think saved my sorry ass from the depletion and intensity of some menopause transitions. Exercise and good nutrition helps, too, and there’s a certain luck of the draw as well. I’m not quite on the other side yet, either, so there’s still time for me to be hit upside the head.

It’s difficult to explain what makes menopause so bad. First, for sure, there’s the loss. Being young is great! It’s juicy. Now that’s all going away. I’m sad that I won’t cycle every month and know where I am in life by the moon. I’m sad my cycle won’t call to my partner, midway, calling “now’s the time! Quick!” and our hormones drive us together. What will call him to me except habit? Will there be any drive or urgency when I no longer ovulate? I’m sad that I’m turning old because, frankly, it doesn’t seem as wonderful as being young, or being mid-life, fertile, expansive. 

The other thing that makes the transition bad is that I don’t even know what’s next. Maybe it’s good, maybe it’s not. It’s unknown. 

It’s also a bit in-between. I’m not really old at 50, but I’m not young. It’s difficult to think of myself as the wise crone. I’m not a grandmother. I’m just an older, non-fertile working mom with older kids whom I expect will bounce between being home and dependent and being out in the world and out of my control. This is like the wretched tween years. I’m between being young and old, between parenting and empty-nesting, between the intense responsibilities of our mid years and not yet into the freedom of the later years. 50s just seem like a lot of work without as much energy.

When I took off my shoes to walk and to run, I found I could do it as long as I slowed way down. I used to be the fastest walker around. Now I am embarrassed that others should have to wait for me. Instead of owning my walk, I allow myself to feel bad about my choices. I know that it’s best for my body and spirit yet in many ways incompatible with the world in which I live. 

This is what 50 feels like to me: faint embarrassment. I wear ugly shoes because I value comfort. My waist thickens and I want to hide it under long tops and layers. My big nose sags, and I wish there weren’t more pictures being taken. I am slower, and I’m sorry I can’t keep up. I haven’t found yet a new badass me, one who dresses as she pleases and walks at her own damn pace and pleasure. I’m comparing today’s me to last year’s me, and last year’s me is totally winning. She owns me. It’s pathetic. 

I’m angry, though maybe that’s just the hormones talking. I am not sure at what or at whom I’m angry. Did I appreciate enough my youth? Did I spend too much time feeling not good enough, even as I knew that one day I’d look back and think, wow, that was more than good enough. That was great. Am I mad, or am I afraid? Terrified of slowing, of sickening, of dying. I know that 50 isn’t very old at all in the US today and that I could be around and healthy for decades. Fear is immune to reason. Fear is underneath our anger. 

Who am I if I’m not owning my walk? How much longer do I sit in my own stew and feel bad about myself? Feel alien to myself? Grieving is a mysterious process, one that takes us out of the present. 

I think you see what’s coming here. There is but one medicine more for what ails me. Along with my long walks, my interval and strength training, my breakfasts of grains and greens, along with good hugs and kind words from others, along with getting enough sleep, I need to bring in a big old heaping tablespoon of compassion. It’s the only graceful way to make these awkward tween years work. 

the Grace diaries 2: the missing medicine

Part 1 Defining Grace

The surest route to happiness is gratitude.

All the studies show this. Write down the things for which you’re grateful three nights a week. Soon, you’ll be happier, calmer, more satisfied. Go ahead. Try it for yourself.

Or think of this, its opposite. Lack of gratitude, anger, and resentment are the surest routes to unhappiness. Don’t bother to try it. You know it’s true.

I know it’s true. I am struggling with 50. As I complained to a friend, she noted I was really angry, and it’s true, and it’s foolish. What is there to be angry about? I’m healthy and all is well in my world. My body cannot do what it did even a year ago. So what? 

I do not lack gratitude but I lack a gratitude practice. Instead, I’ve been practicing my fears, and I’m getting really good at them

There’s one sure antidote to fear, and that’s love. With some chagrin I see that even 50 years on, I’m still hesitant to practice real, true love for myself. 

Perhaps what I need is not just gratitude but a practice of grace. Grace is mercy and pardon. Grace is a short prayer over our food. Grace is ease in movement and appearance. Grace is an unmerited gift, the one we do not have to earn, the one we simply must be willing to receive and able to recognize. 

It is easy and natural for me to be grateful. I am keenly aware of how rich I am: this Nia community and my work as a teacher, my family, my friends, the beautiful place in which I live. Thank you! Thank you for your part in making my life rich. I am immensely blessed, and knowing this, feeling this, is sweetly, deeply satisfying. Gratitude is one of my favorite feelings. 

It’s less easy for me to be graceful. Do you know the feeling? We work hard instead of embracing ease. We believe we must earn everything. We may be slow to pardon ourselves. It’s our heritage, perhaps, a Puritan ethic asserting itself. 

Here’s to practicing the ethic of pleasure. Here’s to pursuing the richness of forgiveness, a value that ties us intimately to everyone else as we all, everyone one of us, has reason to require forgiveness. Here’s to our acceptance of grace, a most worthy companion to gratitude, and a willingness to believe that sometimes we are very very lucky, very blessed, and we did nothing to deserve this. 

Part 2 Practicing Grace

Gratitude was easy. Grace, I’m not so sure. 

Last year at this time, daily I published a gratitude blog. It made me happy each day to note what made me grateful. I never ran out of people, places and ideas that filled me with gratitude. I’ve taken that with me all year. It’s an easy practice now. I notice every day what are my gifts: such a beautiful sunrise, toothpaste!, more great greens for breakfast, my car is working fine, I love my job, the sun is out, what a beautiful sunset. My dog. My family. Outside of me, there is an endless stream of blessings for which I’m grateful. It’s a beautiful world. 

Grace, though, is what’s on the inside. Grace isn’t about me acknowledging how great everything outside of me is. Grace is about being willing to notice that I live in a state of receiving blessings simply because. It is unearned. It is given without expectation. I cannot alter it with good or bad behavior. 

Since it doesn’t come as quickly and easily, I am practicing Grace. Understanding what Grace is and how to practice it is part of the practice. Essential to this practice is forgiveness. I forgive myself. I forgive others. 

I’ve noticed I’ve been a bit cranky this week. I’ve focused on whatever someone else did that I decided was not okay, and then I got a bit fixated. There’s one cure for what ails me: compassion. Really, it’s like a medicine, just as going for a walk in nature is medicine or hearing kind words from a friend. Exercise is medicine. Eating warm greens  with light grains is medicine. Sleep is medicine. Compassion is medicine.

the Grace diaries 1: discovering the practice

I wrote this post some time this summer and couldn’t finish it. I couldn’t get the very last part, and I was overwhelmed with the final judgement I had come to. Today, I was able to write the ending. 

Last night, and I don’t know why, I suddenly had the thought that I would die and what would that be like. I’d simply not exist and I wouldn’t know that I didn’t exist so how terrible could that be? Yet it felt pretty awful, maybe even lonely. I don’t want to die, ever. 

In “Sickness,” Stan Goldberg writes about the chronic, life-threatening, and life-altering illness that has robbed him of sleep, energy, focus, and some of the keenness of his intellect. He realizes that he “wasn’t grieving the loss of a specific activity but rather the feelings certain activities created.” Thus, playing the bamboo flute gave him the same serenity he felt being alone in the wilderness, the activity his illness now prohibited. He learned, he says, to adapt. I’m taken with the idea of finding the feeling I wish to have. What feeling do I have when I run? Running feels irreplaceable, just as dancing is irreplaceable and walking through the Bosque. I’m sure he’s right, and I hope I don’t have to find out.

I also wonder if there’s a way to substitute the feeling I get when I eat when I’m not hungry. Recently a friend challenged me (in the nicest possible way) to explain what I meant when I said my eating was disordered. It’s disordered when I’m eating when I’m not hungry. It’s disordered when I’m eating even when I’m full and my body says please, no more. It feels disordered when I’m eating dinner and thinking “well, this is good, but what can I have for dessert?” 

My friend reminded me that I am quite disciplined with my diet, and that’s true and I’m not sure that isn’t a sign of disorder. My husband eats what he wants. In the past few months, he decided to lose weight so he simply eats less. He still eats whatever foods he wants, just less. That sounds really healthy and normal to me. I can’t do that, and by can’t, I mean it never has worked for me. Certain foods seem to trigger the EAT EAT EAT response, the compulsive eating that feels both out of control and harmful. 

Still, I’m at a normal, healthy weight. I eat a lot of vegetables and enjoy them a lot. I check in with my body often and do my best to give my body whichever foods my body is craving. It’s just that on top of that, I eat more than I need to feel satisfied. I eat more than I need to maintain my weight so my weight creeps up on me and I have to beat it back down. 

When I eat when I’m not hungry, or I think about dessert while eating a perfectly yummy dinner, I think this is disordered and I also think it’s quite human, very normal. The only thing I can think of that gives me the same feeling as eating is shopping, a different kind of consumption. 

Is there something else? Is there another way to satisfy whatever’s going on in my brain or spirit so that when I’m done with a meal, I leave the kitchen and I’m done? As it is now, after every meal, I root around in the pantry for some chocolate or cookies. Okay, the cookies are tiny, raw, organic, date-sweetened cracker snaps made with coconut and sesame seeds, and the chocolate is either raw nibs or an unsweetened bar.

I bought myself some lovely pencils for coloring. I just colored for an hour. It’s not quite calming. I feel a bit impatient. It certainly isn’t as good as eating, though I felt less depleted than after an hour playing Solitaire or browsing the web. Really, that’s all I could think of that wasn’t eating, wasn’t shopping, wasn’t exercising, and wasn’t a hug or a nap. Deep down, I’m pretty sure a hug and a nap would do it, and I’m feeling certain I can’t swing it after each meal. Or maybe even that wouldn’t do it. I think about Stan Goldberg and how he adapted and I think maybe I don’t know what feelings I get when I eat like that. Maybe the whole point is that I don’t get feelings. When I was coloring, I was thinking about the book I’d just finished and I was feeling sad. Coloring is good for feeling. What I want is not to feel. 

I’ve thought perhaps that the food and exercise both feed my dopamine/serotonin/feel goods in my brain. Like any addict, I can substitute with something else, like that hour of Solitaire (and, yes, if you’ve ever hit Play Again when you’re way too tired and absolutely uninterested, then you know playing those games is absolutely feeding the brain’s reward system). Is there a way out of that loop? With food, I stay away from the foods that trigger that system most quickly. The whole process of eating, anything, is still part of the reward system, as it should be. That’s being human; that’s being an animal. 

I don’t want to ignore my body. Healthy animals eat until they’re full and then leave it be. Healthy animals who are fed processed foods and sugary drinks, by the way, totally don’t. They gorge. They’ll endure electric shocks to get to their ratty junk food. 

If those rats can’t do it either, I don’t feel so bad that I just can’t handle processed and sweetened foods. I don’t feel so bad that I crave sugar. Most of us do. I don’t know exactly what, then, makes me feel so bad. I think if I had a bit more control, focused a bit more effort, then I could eat well enough to drop these five pounds -- or, you know, maybe ten -- and then I’d be thin and this would be proof of...what? That I’m really disciplined? That I’m good? That I don’t overeat so I’m not a bad person because even though I don’t believe overeating makes me a bad person, apparently I totally believe that overeating makes me a bad person? I equate my eating too much with being bad. I equate eating too much with desire, and desire is bad. 

That’s the weight I carry from which I’d like to be free: the judgements around my eating. Listen, it would be great if I ate only the foods that my body likes best and avoided the foods that make my body feel less than great. My spirit and my emotions often are invested in some different choices. Why don’t I take pride in feeding and nurturing my emotions with yummy food? Why is taking care of my body the only thing that makes me believe I’m a good enough person? Enough with asking why. The practice is compassion.