FOOD: Pleasure or Pain?
Using this Essential Need To Live Well

by Shoshona Pascoe

Food is not an easy topic! The cultivation of well-being or alleviation of distress are the motivations for the articles in these newsletters. Food, and our relationship to it, is easily found along this continuum between well-being and distress. The taking in of life sustaining food is not a simple matter for many of us. Expectations of cultural norms and using food to cope with stress and uncomfortable inner experience, complicate the reason and the way we eat. When we lose contact with our inner sense of healthy hunger, dangerous health risks may be the result.

Nourishment, survival, satisfaction, delight... We eat to live, we eat to calm, we eat to celebrate being alive. We eat because we have actual physical hunger, we need to support this body/mind system. We eat with others, we share life's bounty, we appreciate food's beauty in color and texture. We eat not only to sustain our bodies. Food is a social activity bonding us, or not, with others as we share this primal necessity. We are fed by food's beauty as well as its nutrients. Food ties us to the cycles of nature, connecting us to the wisdom of changing seasons and natural forces. The strawberries of Spring, the apples of Autumn resonate with the light and temperature of place and timing.

When Food Is Love... Feeding The Hungry Heart (Geneen Roth).... Food is also used to soothe, or numb and distract us from experiences we are afraid to feel. The author and teacher Geneen Roth has been, and continues to be, an inspiring leader as she defines the field of compulsive eating and describes pathways out of suffering. Her newest book, " Women Food and God", expands and deepens her offering: "the way you eat is inseparable from your core beliefs about being alive". Rather than trying to get your food issues together so you can get on with the rest of your life, Geneen shares her own experience of finally and deeply surrendering to this source of suffering as a way in itself to deepen your own self relationship. This allows the reparative experience of coming home to what I think of as the center of gravity within, an inner compass. Here we contact true hunger and discover fullness that does not harm.

Ease in the body, ease in the mind, ease in the heart... We cannot stop eating. It is not like cigarettes, or alcohol, or drugs, or gambling. If food becomes an issue by eating too much or too little or by thinking constantly about it, the way out is a different journey than with other addictive behaviors. Geneen Roth delineates a path that begins with giving up the struggle in the old way, giving up the swings between dieting and bingeing, giving up trying to have enough will power to win the war. Giving up this war against ourselves is not such an easy step. Instead, she suggests we cultivate a kind and compassionate curiosity about how we use food to fill the empty places within. This process is similar to psychotherapy which brings attention to distress in our lives, an attention that weaves kindness and even a fierce inquiry into whatever blocks the flow of ease in the body, ease in the mind, and ease in the heart. Working with food issues in this way can bring insight and transformation to more than our relationship to food. Attitudes about what we deserve in life, abundance and scarcity, and our worth as a being can be mirrored by the patterns we act out in our eating habits.

©2005-2015 Shoshona Pascoe, Chinn Street Counseling Center; all rights reserved.