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Soul Searching

Posted Aug 28 2009 12:00am

I went to lunch with a friend yesterday. It was my last day of vacation and it was a nice close to a couple of days off from work.  I’ve gotten over my crazy binge-y days (well, sort of) and for lunch yesterday had a nice Caesar Salad with grilled chicken, dressing on the side. It was yummy and filling. And the whole way home, I wanted ice cream. Cold, creamy and sweet. I got home and had a bottle of water, thinking maybe that was just thirst. But about 15 minutes later, I went for the ice cream… (in a controlled fashion this time, light ice cream, 1/2 cup.) But I wanted that sweet. And I realized, I always need want something sweet after a meal.

Bear with me as I digress…

Last night I was talking with my sister who had gone to a past life regression session. She’s been sick on and off for a number of years now and she’s trying different therapies to get to the root of it. Traditional medicine can’t figure out what the heck is going on and she’s been told on a number of occasions it’s all in her head. Actually it’s just about everywhere but her head. She’s been diagnosed with Sarcoidosis (oh wait, that’s not what it is…even though the telltale nodules in her lungs were there) Lupus (oops, sorry, not that either), Hypo Thyroid (nodules there too but well, no, that’s not causing the other issues…), perimenopausal epilepsy (huh? ok a stretch, but more or less impossible to diagnose or dispute, and most likely not that either.)

She is now going for allergy testing, and through the program she is in, NAET, is trying to understand her emotions and how they may play into whatever she is dealing with, and how that might be affecting her relationship with certain foods.

From there, she decided to try past life regression therapy. She’s been told she’s an old soul…

Her regression therapy didn’t take her back to previous lives really. It did take her back, however, to when she was a baby and had pneumonia. She was 6 months old and in an oxygen tent in the hospital. Visiting hours were over and they made my mother leave. My sister put her arms up to be picked up for the very first time in her life, and my mother was not allowed to hold her. It broke my mother’s heart, and she told this story on more than one occasion.

Apparently it broke my sister’s heart too. What was so interesting is that she remembered not just that my mother left her in the hospital (she would have known that because she’d heard the story), but how she felt at that moment. Scared, abandoned and confused. It was a tough for her last night to dredge that up. But maybe, just maybe, it will also release some locked away emotion or fear that has had an effect on her health. Who knows?

Ok, so that was the long way around to a food story. Her story last night made me think about my relationship with food too. Where did it start? Where did it go so horribly wrong? I don’t have a normal relationship with food. I don’t think any obese or formerly obese person does. Obviously these things start in our childhoods. I had a therapist once tell me that everything we do, situations we put ourselves in, are attempts to re-create how we felt as children, because that is where we are most comfortable. For example, I grew up with four brothers, a sister and one bathroom. :-) My childhood consisted of ordered chaos and I’ve chosen jobs along the path of my life that are chaotic. I am also the oldest and have always had a strong sense of responsibility. So in my chaotic jobs, I’ve always had roles where I am the one who cleans up and makes sure everything gets done.

Growing up with four brothers and a sister and not a lot of money also meant that when dinner was put on the table, if it was something good, you had to eat fast if you wanted more. Not to mention, there was always a loaf of Wonder White Bread and Parkay margarine there with dinner. It was the ’60s okay? White bread was good for you, and it was ok to smoke during pregnancy.

My mother was a wonderful cook and she believed in balanced nutrition. We got our veggies, even if we didn’t like them.  Her specialty, however,  was desserts. So when she made us eat something we didn’t like, like liver and stewed tomatoes (my Dad’s favorite) or succotash (lima beans anyone?) or Pork Butt and Cabbage (actually that last one wasn’t too bad), it was always followed by some yummy dessert.

It was how they would bribe us to finish our dinners. Finish your lima beans and you get sugar! That wasn’t bad for you then either. Sorry, at eight years old, it’s tough to comprehend the starving children in other countries thing.

Desserts would be creamy homemade puddings, cakes, brownies or cookies and even, yes–I went for one of these last weekend–Whoopie Pies. My mother made those from scratch. Sometimes the desserts would be from the store…Ring Dings (does anyone remember them in the foil packaging? We’d eat the Ring Dings and then spend hours ironing out the foil. I’m not sure why.)

I was so conditioned as a child to expect dessert after a meal that it is what I look for still to this day. And I don’t know if it’s possible to change that conditioning. I don’t know that I will ever not want something sweet after something savory.

What I can change though is how I handle it. I want something sweet. It doesn’t have to be a gazillion calories and laden with fat and sugar, although that’s the most fun. There are so many portioned snacks that subdue that sweet urge just as well as a Whoopie Pie (470 calories folks, almost all fat). And fruit, that’s sweet too! Who knew?

For this food quirk at least, while maybe I can’t control the urge, I’ve learned to manage it more or less. Maybe it means I still eat a little too much sugar from time to time, but I’m eating far less of it than I would have in the past. And I’ve learned to savor it too. Somehow when I take my time and enjoy my food (another behavior that is taking some work), the calories just don’t seem to hang on as long.

Can you pinpoint any childhood habits, pleasures, behaviors that are affecting your adult eating? What are you doing about them?

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