I remember the rush of excitement as the cascade of shiny color spilled out of my pillowcase sack on to my bedroom floor. I would methodically separate the loot into its categorical piles: chocolate, suckers, hard candies, chewy cadies, chips, gum and then the miscellaneous pile of disappointment that usually included a toothbrush (we had a dentist in our neighborhood), a couple of pencils, an apple, some coins and homemade popcorn treats.
Awwww…The rush of Halloween, the total freedom it represented in the pre-diet years, when candy was fun and for everyone and not a representation of a taunting cruel desire disallowed for a fat girl like me.
Fast-forward 10, 20, 30 years and that excitement and rush of permission returned but it was also entangled with the shame and self-disgust of the late night handfuls of little tiny wrappers, (reminders of my lack of resolve) being pushed into the bottom of our trash cans so my family, roommates or husband didn’t see the carnage.
The above may be a familiar tale if you too are a chronic dieter who is caught between cycles of reckless chaotic permission and obsessive control and restriction with food. What may not be as familiar is a third possibility; one steeped in kindness, balance and freedom with food (even candy).
When I embarked on my own Deeper Cravings Journey of self-discovery and deep curiosity about the meaning behind my all-consuming struggle with food I began to see, with sweet self-compassion, that my compulsivity and overeating would often kick up in times that triggered ‘food freedom’ from childhood; like Halloween candy, or road trip gas station stops, or any time a pizza was ordered.
From the loving wisdom of a compassionate gaze I could see how there was something deliciously approving and irresistible about these times, like a sneaky opportunity to give myself a break from denial …but inevitably that would only lead to disobeying my body, getting out of control and then the icky shame spiral would ensue.
A mindfulness based approach to food (even candy) involves being present to the flavors, the textures and the subtle rush of excitement that harkens back to childhood. When we hone this skill we can then allow these sensory delights in a way that does not result in clattery teeth from too much sugar, a gross feeling in our gut or worse, the chaotic candy binge leaving in its wake the intolerable experience of self-recrimination and the unnecessary and unproductive internal speeches of self-hatred.
Learning the Deeper Cravings way of balance and joy and mindfulness in our relationship with food involves honoring the body always. By shifting allegiance from the diet, or the societal expectation or the external control to the trustworthy wisdom of our blessed body we develop an empowered stance. We begin to see that, yes, our childhood longings may call out for a few mini snickers or twix bars a night in the days after Halloween and we can respond to those mouth and heart longings consciously, with awareness, kindness and true permission in a way that does not make our body the sacrificial lamb.
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