Monday, January 05, 2009

It's a Love Issue..... And Sometimes Love is Tough...

"Think about what you're really hungry for..."

Today when I watched the first segment of Oprah's "Best Life" series, I was struck by the simple truth of what she had to say. Ordinarily, I am not much of an Oprah fan because she simplifies very complex issues and doesn't seem to follow through.

Yet, in this case, I found the simplicity to be right on target. It really is that simple.

For those of us who are addicts of any kind ~ drugs, food, booze, relationships, ideas ~ you name it, the aphorism fits. It's a love issue. In my case, I switched an addiction to alcohol to an addiction to food. I use food inappropriately to fill me up in ways that can be filled in other healthier and more satisfying ways with a bit of mindfulness on my part.

Over the past month or so, I have gained five pounds. I don't have holiday parties or family gatherings to blame. I gained five pounds because I stuffed my face inappropriately. I felt isolated and the food comforted me. So every time my housemate baked fudge and cupcakes, I ate too many of them.

I paid attention to my body early this evening after having watched the show to really determine if I was actually hungry for food - or was I hungry for something else? I've eaten plenty today and there's no logical reason to want food. My body doesn't need food. My spirit needs comfort. My spirit needs love. And I need to love more openly.

So I thought I'd toss that out for everyone to consider. When you are hungry, feeling unfulfilled, what is it you are really hungry for? When you want a drink, what do you really want? When you feel like lighting another joint, what do you really need? When you tolerate unhealthy relationships in your life, how is it feeding you?

Armed with that information, we stand a much better chance of losing the grip of addiction. There are ways to fill our needs without destructive behavior.

Speaking only for me, I think we have to make a real commitment to stopping these behaviors. When things hurt, suck it up. When someone makes us mad, suck it up. When things feel bad, suck it up. When we feel isolated or alone, call someone. Watch TV. Listen to a radio show. When we feel stuck, move. Just move.

Better yet, learn to listen to our legitimate hungers and learn new ways to satisfy them. Getting on the phone for ten minutes to cure loneliness is much better than pulling out a carton of Ben and Jerry's.

I have recently set up a "buddy list" for those of us who find ourselves instantly heading for the refrigerator when things get tough. If it takes off, I'll write more about it here. (Things advertised on Craigslist rarely take off.. so I have no expectations.) I'm willing to let go of this fat ~ something that has protected me for a very long time ~ which I no longer need. This isn't about will power. It's not about determination, goal-setting or white knuckling. It's about transformation. It's about willingness to change and acceptance that sometimes we need to give up old coping mechanisms that may have been appropriate at one time ~ but not now. It no longer fits who I am today.




flutter said...

you are doing excellent work

Woman in a Window said...


I don't know why I eat? I'm going to try to work that out. I think I do it to thumb the world, LOOK how much I eat and yet I'm not huge! To be sure, but I'm not small anymore either. It's an addiction to being beyond the normal realm of rules, I think. Now there's not an easy one to cure, but then none of them are.

Thanks for this Chani. I think it might help me.

Laurie said...

I have lost a lot of weight, but due to recent events in my life, I have found myself heading to the refrigerator very late in the evening.

My solace seems to be cereal and skim milk, and even though the cereal is usually of the health variety, it is still putting weight on me. I've gained 3 pounds since Christmas with no end in sight.

I think what you've said is spot on. I've bookmarked this post and plan to refer to it late in the evening when my thoughts turn maudlin and I head to the fridge.

Thank you Chani. You are a wise woman.


citizen of the world said...

I think the buddy list is a good idea, friendship being a much healthier sort of comfort.

Anvilcloud said...

Food and fat surely are problems with many of us. I've listened to Oprah's view a lot, and I respect her a lot, but I'm not totally convinced that this diagnosis is the whole of it. I like chips blast it all. :)

jen said...

willingly embarking on a transformative journey requires much courage and self awareness. it requires grit. i am trying to work myself up to this too and so far, falling short. so good for you.

LittlePea said...

I missed that show yesterday. I think that many people who don't understand addiction would benefit from that point of veiw. I have a really close friend who is a recovering alcoholic and she says she can't count how many times she's heard, "Just quit drinking and you'll feel better!" When one finally realizes how much more complicated it all is than a chemical intake, it's easier to empathise. I can see how easily one can step foot on the road to addiction. The things that people will do just to avoid "feeling" when "feeling" is so important for us. Even the negative- well especially the negative. That goes with food too.

Ian Lidster said...

I love the wisdom and the truth in this, Chani. You have captured my basic philosophy in dealing with myself and whatever addictions I have had -- and I have had them. Right now I'm wrestling with smoking. Down to 6 a day, but not yet all gone. And hear keeps me from taking the final plunge.

Anyway, I am going to print this off, if you don't mind, and use it with a client this morning. Anonymously, of course.

Ian Lidster said...

I love the wisdom and the truth in this, Chani. You have captured my basic philosophy in dealing with myself and whatever addictions I have had -- and I have had them. Right now I'm wrestling with smoking. Down to 6 a day, but not yet all gone. And hear keeps me from taking the final plunge.

Anyway, I am going to print this off, if you don't mind, and use it with a client this morning. Anonymously, of course.

Defiantmuse said...

I have the opposite relationship with food. I rarely eat these days. I'm down to one meal a day with maybe one small snack. But that's my own f'd up body image issues that make me starve myself so I don't look in the mirror hating what I see. I am able to see it for what it is, even if I still fall victim to it.

Alcohol. Different story. I definitely turn to that first and foremost. But as certain changes take place in the next couple of months that will be off the table for me, whether I want it to be or not.

I'm actually looking forward to this break from alcohol and pot and pills and just focus on being sober and healthy. Now if I can just start eating like a normal person it would be all good :)

starrlife said...

It's much more elegant than filling up the hole! I think I eat to avoid whatever is next in the moment, often stress management. Love the post and where you've been going Chani.

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wheelsonthebus said...

hey. i love the idea of a buddy list.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

You're asking good questions in this post. I've been trying to figure out my own reasons for overeating too. I know I often eat to soothe jangled nerves.

yertle said...

I am right there with you. Just made a commitment to focus on loving myself this year and to let go of the focus on the scale. I am trying to listen to what my body really has to say, and really realizing how much I have ignored it for much of my life.

Angela said...


I think this is true, that our problems almost always lead back to a lack of love, but I also think it can be pretty damned complicated to figure out how to get there. Which is why groups such as the one you're creating can be so helpful. I wish us all a lot of luck and more mindfulness in every choice we make.

Leann said...

I dunno, I'll think about it.

Carol said...

I've been known to eat in order to numb myself from feelings I didn't want to feel. With inquiry into the thoughts behind those feelings, I'm doing less of that.

I applaud your awareness and resolve and I support you in your commitment.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I have thought for a long time that people who overeat are trying to fill their souls, not their bellies. Since ice cream and chocolate cake, for example, are not nutritious, it seems that a bite or two could satisfy the craving for taste without eating the whole thing if we understood what our real need is.

Also, many parents comfort children with edible goodies so when they grow up, they are programmed to turn to food whenever they need comfort. Wiser parenting could eliminate many of the problems people face as adults.

Mindfulness in all things is what we should strive for. in one way or another, we are all trying to fill our souls.

Mariposa said...

Thank you for affirming what's buggling in my head for a month now.

Food indeed is a convenient source of comfort, thus it explains my arratic weight change...I can get and drop weights in just days, and that is not healthy.

This post is just so timely...and I've been wanting to go on a personal retreat...and you just made it clear here what are the things I need to think about.

I am guilty of cheating myself by stuffing myself with things I don't need, including abusive relationships (mostly friendships) just to comfort myself that I have something, someone. It also explains the things in my credit card bills which are just stuffed inside a box at the corner of my room!

Will write about this after my retreat...thanks very much.

And Chani, I love the person you are! You are an inspiration...and next time you feel the urge of grabbing something to bite, think of that one girl from another side of the world, who is amazed by your wisdom...I hope it will help you decide if you really need the bite, bec I will do the same, I think of you and this post everytime I get manic and get stuck to an unhealthy rut.

sexy said...