You probably read this title over a couple of times thinking that you’d caught a typo. Perhaps you thought I must have meant end your love affair with food, not start one. But nope, you read it right the first time. It’s time for you to start a real love affair with food.
What you’ve had up to this point has been an obsessive relationship, and an obsessive relationship is not love. Whether with a substance or with a person, an obsessive relationship is a dance of the wounded ... a carnival of pain ... but not a real love affair, because there is no love there.
To think you need food that you don’t really need, to practically inhale food, to crave food, to obsess about food, to binge on and then alternately avoid food, to control food and need to be rigid around it
— none of these bespeak a love affair. Pain and compulsion and self-hate are not love.
The true lover of food is able to take time with it. She can savor food, and non-neurotically delight in it
. She can chew it thoroughly and actually taste it. She can eat without guilt and stop eating without too great an effort. She can celebrate how food is contributing to her health. She can wonder at it and appreciate its beauty. She can linger over a fruit stand and study the curves of a pear. She can gaze at a pomegranate and feel awe at the fact that thousands of years ago, people ate these, too. She can shop for groceries without wondering if anyone is watching her or judging her. She can gaze at a pretty bunch of grapes and consider whether she’d prefer them in her stomach or in a crystal bowl on her table. She can take one bite of something delicious, ecstatically breathe in the taste, and
enjoy waiting before taking another bite. For her, the spaces in between each bite are part of the joy of her experience.
No, the compulsive eater is no lover of food. When it comes to your enjoyment of eating, your best days are not behind you but ahead of you!
The eating patterns of an overeater
are chaotic, fearful, furtive and out of control. And yet, these dysfunctional patterns are not your deeper problem. They are symptoms
of the problem. Your deeper problem is the hysteria in your gut — the silent, traumatized shriek of “I’m empty! Fill me! I’m empty! Fill me!” — the irrational and irresistible energy that’s wormed its way into your brain, stationed itself in your nervous system and won’t let go until you’ve eaten the whole thing. Start dissolving your hysteria and filling your emptiness by replacing it with love.
The solution to overeating is obviously not to deny yourself food altogether; the answer is not to deny yourself at all (exception: the addict’s need to abstain from foods, at least temporarily, that trigger biological cravings). You don’t need to forget food, run away from food, deny yourself food or avoid food. And the last thing you need to do if you want to stop thinking obsessively about food is to tell yourself not to think about it! Doing so is an invitation for such thoughts to overwhelm you.
It is often said in Alcoholics Anonymous that “every problem comes bearing its own solution.” Food is not only your problem, it is also your teacher. It is a reflection of an even deeper problem, an opportunity and an invitation to face that which underlies your compulsive eating. Your only real problem — everyone’s only real problem — is a separation from your divine Source and thus separation from who you really are. Every step taken in love is a step back to your true self.
Put genuine love back into your relationship with food
: not counterfeit love, not substitute love, but genuine love. Love and gratitude that food nourishes and sustains you. Love and gratitude that meals can build bonds among families and friends. Love and gratitude that food is something you have the right to enjoy, once you learn to relate to it with divine detachment.
Detachment means that you can take it or leave it; you can enjoy food if you’re hungry, but you can leave it alone if you’re not. Love, as always, is the key to making things right. By learning to love food, you will stop obsessing about it. And the obsession, not the food, is your actual problem. Obsession, whether toward a substance or a person
, occurs when you’re open to give and yet don’t know how to receive. You keep grasping for more because you’re not feeling what’s coming in. As a child, perhaps, nothing was
coming back, so now you keep trying to get more of something you’re already convinced isn’t really there. As you build a relationship with food that does
give back, you’ll begin to experience a relationship in which love has replaced obsession.
Your problem may not be that you eat so often, but that you do not eat well. Particularly in today’s world, while it’s easy to eat poorly, it’s unnecessary. Today we’re in the midst of a food revolution
, and that is very good news for the compulsive eater. Restaurants feature the best in nutritious, organic, even vegan, meals. And even when they don’t, you can learn to order in a way that benefits you. Beautiful magazines feature healthy recipes and food displays. Raw food, organic produce
and other optimal food choices abound. Is it always easy, convenient or inexpensive to make wise food choices? Perhaps not. But let’s be very clear: it isn’t easy, convenient or inexpensive to be a food addict either.
It’s not time for you to give something up so much as it is time for you to take something on. It isn’t time to deny yourself but rather a time to gift yourself. Once you know what it is and how to do it, healthy eating
is not a punishment but a reward.
It’s sad to realize, but people who spend the most time with food tend to not
be those taking cooking classes, learning creative recipes
or eating the best meals. Even if the overeater is going to a fine restaurant in the evening, the chances are good she’ll have stuffed herself with so much junk food by late afternoon that the actual succulence of eating a good dinner and truly enjoying it will be denied her. By the time she eats the meal, she’ll be feeding her psychological appetite, perhaps, but not her stomach, because it’s already full. When it comes to the actual joy of eating, the overeater tends to be deprived.
It’s time to change that. Let’s begin your love affair with food.
Listen to a prayer for weight-loss success from Marianne's Meditations for Weight Loss CD.
To download the audio clip, click here.
Excerpted from A Course in Weight Loss (2010), by Marianne Williamson. Reprinted with permission from Hay House publishing.