Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Food and Weight and how Basic Buddhist Principles can be so Helpful

Michele Happe MA Certified Health Coach
August 4, 2015

I was fortunate to have extensive training in eating disorders.  I ran one of the first eating disorder units in the 80’s.  I learned that is more important to focus on the food and eating rather than weight.  Focusing on weight can be an attachment in itself.  Let me start with a few basic Buddhist principles that are helpful.


I prefer to call our issues with over eating attachment rather than addiction.  When we grasp or cling we are in attachment.  One of the most difficult things for the overeater to do is to contemplate letting go of that which has given us so much solace and pleasure.  We turn to food as our comfort.  It is soothing to fill our bellies when we are hurting or anxious.  It is hard to imaging having to deal with the emotions or life without our “friend”.  So we find fault with so many of the plans that provide help with this.  It is too restrictive, it is not real food,  it is boring, I cannot do this forever, I am a foodie, I do eat healthy food, just too much of it, it is too expensive.  The list goes on and on.  Ultimately we fear that we will fail, that it is an impossible task.  So we become attached to that which gives us comfort, to that which eventually may kill us. 


This is a tough one.  Many of us have to accept that we have an issue that is emotional/spiritual in origin.  We also may need to accept that we have a genetic tendency to hold on to the weight.  This theory was poo poo’d for so many years but now as more research is being done with gut bacteria we are finding that a genetic predisposition toward holding weight actually does exist.  I have had to accept, particularly in menopause that I can eat only very few calories of the right kind of foods to keep my weight in acceptable bounds.  It is tempting to feel sorry for myself, but ultimately, my health is more important than my physical limitations.  So I eat less because I want to live more. 

As a Buddhist, I accept that regular spiritual practice and meditation is key to becoming a happier person.  This form of discipline is no longer something that I resent.  We can resent having to brush our teeth ever morning and night but we do it because the dentist chair is not only painful but it is also expensive.  Having a disciplined life with regard to food is the same.  It is ultimately more painful the other way. 


When we become willing to get healthy in heart, body and mind, we actively become participants in how we think  We first learn mindfulness through meditation and the ability to become the observer of our mind.  When we look at that delicious dessert, we begin to dialogue with ourselves.  Is the prize worth the price?  These emotions will not kill me.  I will embrace them and let them come in so that they can pass. I began to see how my aversion to my feelings was the root to my compulsive eating.  When I realized that emotions are to be embraced and nurtured, I realized that they are impermanent. 


Realizing that everything is impermanent has been so helpful.  I can allow myself to be depressed.  With mindfulness I can become aware of what is causing my depression and work toward the remedy of the situation while not running from my feelings.  If I overeat, I can acknowledge that I am having a period of emotional eating and take better care of my self in other ways such as meditating, pampering myself with a hot bath or a nap or even indulging in a healthier distraction such as a good book, some exercise or a favorite show on Netflix. 

There is so much to cover on this subject so I will continue it in another blog post soon.  Rest assured that there is a way to be a healthy happy person with the development of healthy discipline and self regard.  My next blog post will deal with self hatred. 

Until then……be well