Waging Peace is underway! It’s such an honor to gather each week with these nine open-hearted, courageous women to talk about what’s real when it comes to food and our bodies.
During our first group session, we talked about what it takes to really get free. The quick answer is that it takes a lot. You have to want to be free more than you want to be comfortable or thin. You have to want to belong to yourself more than you want to belong to anyone or anything else.
Don’t hear me wrong–it’s perfectly acceptable (expected even) to be ambivalent. It’s okay if you only want freedom a teeny-tiny hair more than you want approval or thinness. Because that crack will grow into a chasm once you get a taste. But eventually you do need to have that ardent desire.
As you may have noticed, we’re living in a culture that is absolutely mad when it comes to this stuff. It’s gotten to the point where we hardly notice. Diet culture is the very air we breathe; it’s bred in the bone. Which only makes it that much more noxious. It’s a slow poison and the people who are really suffering, whether it be from a diagnosable eating disorder or garden variety compulsive eating and body shame, are the canaries in the coal mine.
Which is why I see it as a very good sign when my clients start to get fed up. When, instead of directing their anger inward at themselves for failing to shrink their bodies and their appetites, it dawns on them that they’ve inherited an impossible task. Not only impossible but life-sucking and meaningless.
As Naomi Wolf put it,
“A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.”
Getting fed up with this toxic legacy is not only important, it’s required. We need to say ENOUGH to diet culture and to what food and weight preoccupation has taken from us, which is time and energy that we can’t recoup.
Connecting with the anger is important because we’ve been holding all that energy down in our bodies.
Shame is the great silencer.
I like Brene Brown’s definition of shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”
As women (and increasingly men, too), we learn to be ashamed of ourselves and our appetites. We do not learn to feed ourselves. In order to break free, we must unburden ourselves of this shame. We have to or it keeps us hungry and half-asleep, numb to ourselves and our world. We can live our whole lives from this place, friends, but we don’t have to.
Connection is the antidote to shame.
And connection is a big part of what it takes. Support. Likely more than you think you need or want to need (hello, shame!). Paradoxically, it’s confronting the shame of being needy head-on that heals the shame of begin needy. (In case no one has told you yet, we humans are the needy sort.) And we gotta feel it to heal it. This is not optional.
In the context of safe connection, we can begin to identify and reject diet culture. This is, not by accident, the first principle of Intuitive Eating. Before we can learn to nourish ourselves, we have to identify and begin to clear out what’s standing in our way. The messages we’ve imbibed about food and our bodies are far more devoid of nutritional value than the most processed frankenfood.
So, this is a beginning: you need to want to be free. You need to get good and sick of diet culture. You need a willingness to feel through what’s been repressed and stuck in your system, namely toxic shame. And, above and alongside all of this, you need a whole bunch of support.
I’m here to help with that. I’ll be back in the coming weeks with more on what it takes to get un-stuck with food and body obsession. My practice is currently full but I’d be glad to hop on the phone and see if we’re a match to work together soon. Otherwise, I can refer you to a host of talented colleagues and free resources. Find me at firstname.lastname@example.org.