Part 3: From inner to outer sustainability - a transformative journey with food


Photo by Timothy Meinberg on Unsplash

Disclaimer: This article talks about food relationships and disordered eating behaviour. If you are diagnosed with an eating disorder or have the sense that you might suffer from one, this content can be triggering. My suggestion is to seek out professional help. If you feel like having a one-on-one conversation with me, please reach out at marlene.zehnter.tensionrelease@gmail.com



Happy New Moon dear one 🌑❤️ how is your heart doing? Today's blog post is going to evolve all-around food and the heart.


If you’ve followed this 3 part series “From inner to outer sustainability - a transformative journey with food” you know that I have had my fair share of insecurities, restrictive behaviours and binges with food. My relationship with food has been one of my biggest teachers, a catalyst for my growth and my muse to become a more environmentally conscious being and through this series, my hope is to support you in taking your first steps towards a nourishing relationship with food as well.


In the introduction of this series, I explained that systemic change towards more sustainability in our food chains starts with the individual. Because creating a world that nurtures all beings starts with learning how we nurture ourselves first. When I embarked on this inner journey with food I noticed myself naturally making more conscious and sustainable choices in my food consumption.


This first blog post also contained chapter one “connect to your why” - you guys in everything that you do, you better know why you do it, so when the rubber hits the road your motivation to change is bigger than the fear of changing.


Blog post #2 was all about how to create sustainable change. Little taster here: it’s not through forcing, restricting, judging or punishing yourself to act differently. That’s the old paradigm. Hop on over here to read about the new paradigm in which you understand that your eating block “is not in the way, it’s the way” (Alyssa Nobriga). You’ll even find some beautiful questions that will support you in shifting your eating behaviours and starting your transformative journey with food.


Now let’s move on to this final chapter: Food = Love.


Photo by Esther Wechsler on Unsplash

I went to my parents yesterday, where we met for our regular family game nights. My parents recently moved into their new home. It’s the first time they are living without any of their three children. By the end of the night, my mother went inside, came back out, and placed a packet of his favourite crackers in front of my brother, grapes & banana crisps in front of my sister and peaches, apple crisps and bananas in front of me. Can you feel the love? Food could well be the fifth love language.


Think about it: for babies, food and love come primarily from the same source: the mother. And it’s not only the love emotion that is coupled with food. As babies, one way how we are soothed is through being breastfed. Even when it wasn’t about needing food and the crying came from feeling unhappy, unsettled or else, being placed at the source of food and sucking on the mother's breast calms the baby down. Early on, we learn to associate food with comfort. It soothes us when we experience “bad” emotions. And the unconscious link ”food = love” is born.


As we grow up, some of us actually can let go of this association. If you are still here reading this, however, chances are that eating is one of your coping mechanisms - a strategy to comfort you when you experience overwhelm or when your nervous system senses that something in front of you is potentially overwhelming.


No wonder then that it’s so hard to change our eating behaviours…who would willingly want to feel overwhelming emotions?! I’d rather feel soothed, comforted and loved for sure. Yet letting go of these patterns and finally getting to what’s on the other side (aka being healthier, thinner, prettier, more confident, happier) is something we simultaneously so strongly desire.


In my last blog post, I already shared with you that our sticky eating patterns oftentimes aim to protect us in one way or another: from boredom, helplessness, self-doubt, abandonment, pain, and {insert whatever applies to you}. If you haven’t read this blog post, do so. It’ll help you create awareness for and transform your behaviour through the power of compassion and acceptance. It’ll also make this post here more understandable ;)


Today, I’d like to expand on chapter two and take a deep dive into our emotional world and how we can feel safe enough with our emotions so we don’t need to rely on the coping mechanism.

The truth is that it’s not the food that provides us with comfort and protection. We receive it through the love and care that initially came from our caregivers and that we learned to associate with food.


You can see: it’s not about forcing the eating pattern to go away - cause that would leave that part that strongly needs protection exposed, and unprotected - that’s the reason we go all yoyo when we diet. It’s about holding space for and seeing the part that is in need and allowing the vulnerable emotion to be felt.


This way you can reprogram this conditioning and rewrite the equation from food = love to...


Food = food and love = love.

Are you ready? Then let’s dive!



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Embracing your emotions

Last weekend, I understood something new about myself. For years, I wasn’t able to create a stable income with my business and feel fully successful in it. Whenever I started a new project or tried a new way to attract clients, it never seemed to work. I felt a sense of despair, coupled with unworthiness.


When I felt into this sensation this weekend I realised: I know this, this is so familiar to me and then I saw my 10-year-old version, standing on the scale looking at my belly, and collapsing into the realisation “I still haven’t made it, I still weigh too much, I am still not thin. I’m never going to be pretty”. For me not to feel the disappointment of being unattractive and unworthy, I judged eating certain foods, punished myself for eating others and forced myself to run.


Obviously, this completely backfired and then there I was again standing on the scale feeling miserable. I hated looking at my body, I hated being me. And bit by bit with each of these moments on the scale or in front of the mirror the belief “I’m never going to get there” got imprinted onto me until I became identified with it. I became this thought. So much so that, losing weight - didn’t even count because “I never got my dream body”.


From this time onwards, whenever I set myself a goal to fill up for my unworthiness, this memory was subconsciously triggered and I got scared of “not getting there” again. So I initiated actions, like creating workshops to attract clients, struggled to fill them and made that mean that I will never make it and that I am unworthy and miserable. And of course, whenever this emotion of despair sneaked back into my life, the only thing I wanted was to drop whatever I was doing, hide behind food and disappear behind Netflix.


Can you see that all of this was based on the belief that once I reached my dream weight, my dream body, my dream business, I’d finally feel good within myself, I’d finally like myself and hence be liked by others? And I finally wouldn’t feel the misery anymore?


Everything - the judgment, the punishing, the forcing, the binging, the avoiding - was meant to protect me from feeling misery, worthlessness, despair, and disappointment. However, it’s these behaviours that perpetuate those feelings. So because I’m trying to run away from feeling shitty, I set myself up to feel shitty. I don’t know what you think about this but it dawns on me that this loop isn’t effective at all.


Wouldn’t it then be much easier to learn how I can feel ok with these emotions?


So this weekend, I made a pact with myself: whenever the despair comes up and I want to binge I’m going to a) remind myself that I have achieved so much already and that I have many things in my life to be grateful for right now. And b) feel the despair, allow the tears to come as much as I feel safe with them, and accept that this is how I feel right now instead of running away from it.


Wuff. Isn’t it crazy how much our relationship with food can affect other areas of our life?!


So what are the main nuggets here?

  1. If you set a goal because you believe it will give you something that you don’t already have within you, you outsource your happiness and your power.

  2. If you set your goal because you believe reaching it will help you not to feel something you don’t like, that feeling will be perpetuated.

  3. When you realise that your desired feeling is already here, you don’t NEED to reach the goal to make you whole. However, you can still choose to move towards it now knowing that you are already worthy at this moment.

  4. When you learn how to feel safe with any emotion, you don’t need your protectors anymore. But they are still there, just in case you need them 😉


Photo by Dakota Corbin on Unsplash

A little note for today’s exercises:

If you don’t feel safe with the idea of connecting to a “negative” emotion, stop after step 3 and put a special focus on step 2! And as usual, I’m here for you. If you find these steps hard but are interested in doing them, please reach out. You can email me at marlene.zehnter.tensionrelease@gmail.com.


And last but not least I want to write a thank you note and credit my trainer Alyssa Nobriga. Much of what I have shared in all my blog posts is based on her wisdom and the tools she has created. I am eternally grateful. Her coaching has transformed my life and made me the coach I am today.


With so much love and care,

Marlene



 

Exercises:

✏️ Step one: What’s your external goal? And what do you hope to feel once you get there?


✏️ Step two: Besides your coping mechanism, what supports you in feeling safe, accepted, and nourished? Maybe it’s a walk in nature, taking a bath, hugging yourself, moving your body, talking to a friend, thinking about the person you feel most loved by or connecting with your faith. Resource yourself by connecting with these things either through actually doing them or through visualising that you’re doing them. Take note if you feel safer, happier, and more resourced afterwards!


✏️ Step three: Inquire: Is it absolutely true that you don’t have the deeper desire now? When was a time you felt the deeper desire? When we visualise memories our body will feel a sense of what it used to feel then. Athletes make use of this. As they visualise their run, jump or else, their bodies memorise this AND they improve their performance this way. That’s how strong the mind is. So can you feel your deeper desire now? Fill your cup with it and stay here as long as you want to.


✏️ Step four: What do you fear would happen if you DIDN’T get that goal? What do you fear would happen if you DID get that goal?


✏️ Step six: Bring your resources to the fear (aka how you feel when you connect to nature, a friend, your faith, a loved one)