Eat what you like but don’t eat yourself up

Eat what you like but don’t eat yourself up….this sentence came to me when I was drifting off into a semi-sleep state.  Who or where did it come from?  I don’t really know. But when these things happen, which is not that often, I take it sort of seriously.

First, there’s ‘Eat what you like’.  That could mean ‘Eat whatever you feel like eating; do exactly what you feel like doing.’ This is how I first took it.

But for people like me who can get addicted to food this can be dangerous.  The more I eat whatever I feel like, the more addicted I get to the things that aren’t good for me.  In fact, it seems to be that the things you get addicted to are precisely the ones that you are hypersensitive to and don’t do you any good.

I’m a bit hypoglycemic, which means I don’t digest sugars well.  I should stay off sugar, particularly refined sugar. But if I don’t, sugar is very addictive to me, more even than to most people.  And if I eat a lot of it, I feel pretty awful, besides of course gaining weight, which I can do by just looking at sugar.

But ‘Eat what you like’ could also have another meaning: ‘Eat what you truly like. Eat what really nourishes you, rather than comforting you, or spoiling you. And slow down enough to notice how much you like it.  So: eat what you really like, and really like what you eat.’

I’ve noticed that people who don’t worry about their weight seem to do just this.  They eat what they truly like, and enjoy it. They don’t, like me, eat food that is left on the plate because it’s there, or make food quickly and badly and then wolf it down because they are hungry, or get in a bad mood and then go straight to the fridge.

If you’re one of these blessed people, I envy you.  If like me, this doesn’t come easy to you, then you’ll know what I’m talking about.

I am reminded of going away to a conference, with full knowledge that whenever I travel, I eat the wrong things and gain weight.  This time, I found myself telling myself “I will not eat for emotional reasons”. That was my only rule. It was the only time I travelled and came back having lost weight.

And then, what about “don’t eat yourself up” ? Ah, that is more obvious.  How much time do I spend in eating myself up with self criticism, regrets, shame, guilt, failure feelings, that sort of thing? And what a waste of good energy that is.

And, as it happens, when I do that, I also go straight for the food that isn’t good for me and gobble it down quickly, unthinkingly, and without regard to any decisions I’ve made.

I do it to quiet the pain of eating myself up, and of course, I then eat myself up some more, attacking myself for eating so much junk.  And then to quiet that pain, I eat some more. Does this sound familiar? As personal development writer Wayne Dyer put it, “You can’t get enough of what you don’t want.”

This is the problem of the addict. The more what you do doesn’t nourish you, the more you do it, seeking endlessly for the nourishment or satisfaction you aren’t getting. I went to the Caribbean and really didn’t like the food.  So I ate more and more, probably seeking that satisfaction that was eluding me.  When I was leaving, one of the Caribbean women told me I had definitely got myself a Caribbean figure!

I never knew whether she meant it as a compliment.

My friend Naomi , when I told her about “you can’t get enough of what you don’t want,” added this:  “And if you really like it, only a moment is enough.”

If we go back to the subject of food, that must mean that if you really like what you are eating, a biteful is enough.

I love that.  And I feel nourished by it.