The Missing Piece To Experience More Ease + Grace In Your Relationship With Food
As intelligent, ambitious women, we often impose this perfectionistic ideal upon ourselves about how our relationship with food and our bodies should look. And one of the biggest misperceptions I see amongst world-changing women is that once we heal our relationship with food, we’ll have this always consistent, always harmonious, always in-control relationship with food. But if you’re a woman desiring to use food simply as fuel, day-in and day-out, then you may be disregarding and disowning the dynamic, emotional, and ever-changing nature of life.
Though we may want our relationship with food to look like a placid lake, with little surprises or deviations from a serene and consistent state, it often looks more like a gently rolling ocean. Which makes sense when we acknowledge that food is just a mirror for life. Our life is marked by rhythms, ruled by seasons of the soul, and shaped by the cyclic and ever evolving natural world. And these seasons profoundly affect our relationship with food, our metabolism, and our wellbeing.
As we learn how to tune back into body wisdom and find our way through the food confusion using our intuition as our guide, we’ll find that the body is naturally guided through different phases of nourishment.
As we become more aware of these seasons, we can navigate them more skillfully - accepting their gifts and noticing when we might be lingering in a phase too long or resisting a phase creating dis-ease in the soma, psyche and soul. We bring more loving kindness to the inherent ebbs and flows of life, without seeing them as signs of our brokenness or symptoms needing to be fixed.
In the field of Eating Psychology, we acknowledge 10 different phases that we naturally and instinctively transition through, each one shaped by a different tone of emotionality.
Can you identify which phase you might be in?
THE CLEANSING PHASE:
The cleansing phase is time when we are drawn to “clean house” physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. We may be called to initiate detoxifying nutritional strategies, release sugar, caffeine, and alcohol, or start eating a vegan or raw diet. Many women, however, stay artificially locked into this phase, imposing rigid dietary or supplement strategies on themselves from a place of fear and control. Others try to artificially put the body into a cleansing phase, which only creates dis-ease in the soma, psyche and soul. We can also distort this phase by becoming overly fixated on purity, perfection, and clean eating.
THE BUILDING PHASE:
This phase often follows a cleansing phase. During this phase we are drawn to grounding and building foods like meats, oils, nuts and seeds, and root vegetables. Our strength and life force energy is on the increase in this phase and we are coming back into contact with our personal power. Because metabolism and appetite peak in this phase, we’re often surprised that, despite how much we are eating, the body is not gaining weight. When we get stuck in this phase, we get addicted to an overly stimulated, amped up state. We seek out stimulants like caffeine, meat, and high intensity exercise. Those who stay stuck in this phase are often resisting life’s inherent season of break down, slow down, and softening.
THE SUSTAINING PHASE:
After a building phase, we often transition into a sustaining phase. In this phase we may experience plateaus with our weight or health journey, that are unresponsive to dietary and exercise strategies. This is a phase when food, nutrition, and health efforts fall by the wayside as we focus our energy elsewhere. Many distort this phase by fighting against it. This phase can be extremely uncomfortable for the seekers, the self improvement junkies, and the health zealots on a never-ending quest for the perfect body or the perfect self care + dietary strategies.
THE EMOTIONAL PHASE:
Our feelings powerfully shape our food choices, no matter how much we want to deny this experience or insist on eating only for fuel. And the more we try to defeat, conquer, and fight emotional overeating, the more power it takes on. In this phase, our emotions override our inner nutritionist and what we feel has the final say in what foods we reach for. Many try to circumvent this phase without ever relaxing into it, receiving its gifts, and feeling the emotions that are asking to be acknowledged. When this happens, the phase becomes locked in. When one gets locked into this phase for an extended period of time, it is often labeled an eating disorder. Food becomes one’s only tool for expressing and releasing emotion.
THE CELEBRATION PHASE:
The celebration phase is often associated with the holidays. In this phase, we may be drawn to food, purely and simply, for the experience of fun, connection, and pleasure. Many fight against this phase due to a discomfort and fear with pleasure, lust, and food. And when we resist this phase, we often disconnect, disembody, and go into fear and anxiety around food. What happens when we disembody? We hold off on indulging ourselves with pleasure and then guiltily gorge ourselves on food once the body’s impulses take over. This phase asks us to mindfully CHOOSE pleasure, to come into right relationship with it, to practice the art of celebration, and to stay awake for the experience of indulgence. During this phase, we may choose to set healthy boundaries, if desired, so long as we do so mindfully and without taking on the role of victim. This phase can be distorted if we stay stuck in a relationship with food that is imbalanced towards pleasure and lacks a sense of personal maturity or self responsibility around caring for one’s health and wellbeing.
THE LEARNING PHASE:
This phase is highly intellectual, We are drawn to seek expert guidance, read new books, try new supplements, or follow nutritional and lifestyle protocols all in the spirit of experimentation. We are often attracted to transformation, growth, and personal improvement during this time. Those who stay stuck in this phase become overly reliant on external information and disconnected from their own source of body wisdom. Stuck in this phase, one lives in their mind, neglecting the power that comes from dropping into the body and letting it lead the way. There is a constant quest for the perfect diet and a lingering sense that once we have that one piece of nutritional information, we’ll finally be able to have the perfect body or health.
THE FANATIC OR FUNDAMENTALIST:
In this phase, we are driven to follow a diet, take up an exercise regime, or take certain supplements in a tightly controlled and purposeful manner. There is a higher goal in this phase of up-leveling one’s health and wellbeing. When one distorts this phase, they begin to turn off friends and family, creating an "us vs them" mentality. One becomes overly dogmatic, resting on nutritional studies like irrefutable facts. Unwanted symptoms and behaviors may emerge as a response to such a strict and tightly controlled approach, but one who is locked into this phase will be unable to re-examine their approach or respond to the body’s whisperings in a loving way.
THE DEATH/SURRENDER PHASE:
In this phase we come face to face with our humanity, our imperfections, and our humility. During this phase, even your favorite foods may lose their allure. You may feel completely uninspired in the kitchen, turning to takeout and dining out just because it’s the easiest option. You may eat mindlessly, skip meals, or have little regard for the nutritional value of a meal. During this phase we go into a hibernation around nourishment, self care, and wellness, preparing for the rebirth that is to come. This phase requires courage and often accompanies a time of loss and grieving in life. When distorted we can use food as a way to anesthetize and slowly poison the body as a way of checking out and refusing to be fully alive on planet earth.
THE HEALING PHASE:
This is a sacred time where we are using food, herbs, and movement as medicine. In this phase there is an opening to embrace a current challenge with food, health or weight as an opportunity to dig deep and consciously participate in our own personal evolution. When we are gripped with a health challenge, we come face to face with our mortality. This phase is about choosing life. We put comfortable habits with food, taste preferences, and pleasure with food second to our deep desire to experience radiant wellbeing. This is a time to slow down, to drop in, and to anchor back into the body’s wisdom. During this phase we fully accept personal responsibility for the life we are creating with our thoughts, our words, and our actions. We acknowledge the body’s innate healing capacity and honor the body by supporting it fully with our choices. When we distort this phase, we become fearful of eating certain foods and we feel like if we deviate from one particular way of eating, everything will go to shit. When stuck in this phase for too long, the stress caused by fear, worry, and hyper-vigilance around food begins to take a serious toll on one's health and sense of personal freedom.
THE ANYTHING GOES PHASE:
In this phase everything we believe about life is turned upside down, and we are reminded that nothing is certain. We are asked to let go of our deeply held beliefs, our perceptions of right and wrong, and relax into the unfolding (as crazy and bewildering as it can feel in this phase!)
In coaching sessions, I help clients identify which phase they are in, if they are being intuitively guided to relax into this phase or if it is time to consciously transition out of it, and identify strategies to skillfully navigate their nutritional journey.
If you're stuck in a painful and persistent struggle with food, weight and your body that pulls your energy away from living your purpose, sharing your gifts, and contributing to the world in a meaningful way, I’d love to talk.