Or more accurately: You feel what you eat.
I have recently gained a new appreciation for this.
My entire adult life, I have used food as a crutch or a panacea to change my emotions. It’s the socially sanctioned way to cope.
This is not me. But it may as well be.
Of course we know that food affects health.
We can all appreciate that a diet of junk food and candy is going to show up over time in the appearance and function of the body. Just like smoking cigarettes is associated with lung cancer, sugar is associated with negative impacts on health. You already know them.
And yet, at least so far in this culture, it is totally acceptable to use food in this way.
I have intellectually known this for years and years (as I’m sure you have too) and I still never let it get in the way of my own behaviors. Have a bad day? Get some Doritoes. Or more recently, donuts. Anyone who knows me knows about the donuts.
Or just come out of a tough meeting at work, and go for a cookie.
The hit is near-instant. The rush. The little elation.
What could be the problem with that?
After all, it’s only a FOOD. And totally legal, and not even anything to be ashamed about. (Unless you’re a person of size, and then heaven help you that you be seen eating anything in public.)
Heck, we celebrate big milestones with CAKE!
Birthday cake. Wedding cake. Retirement party cake. Any excuse for a cake.
Or cupcakes. Or cookies. Or jellybeans, or chocolate. Nothing that a little 50-carb morsel of indulgence won’t fix.
I saw nothing wrong with this, myself, given how much I thought sugar was my friend.
I’ve recently been introduced to Geneen Roth’s Eating Guidelines (thank you, Sue!) and what she says makes sense to me, but I puzzled over how it could be effective in really bringing about change in one’s weight. I haven’t exactly embraced them or started to live my life by them, and yet, they must’ve sunk in without me expecting it (as Truth has a way of doing). I was reflecting on what I perceived to be Geneen’s overall message: That food is a symptom. When we are out of alignment, then it is reflected in [how we feel about] our bodies.
Have you ever heard of an Enlightened Master who was overweight?
Oh. Well actually, yes. But I haven’t ever encountered one who gave a shit about his or her weight.
As Byron Katie says, “When I found The Work, cigarettes quit me. Overeating quit me.”
It’s not “me” doing the quitting. “I” am clearly incapable of that, or I would’ve stopped using sugar as a drug a long time ago.
And that’s what it comes down to. Sugar is totally a drug. I take a hit of a donut and I momentarily “feel better” — but it’s an absolute illusion. I don’t really feel better. There is a high that masks over the whatever-it-is that I didn’t want to feel.
And then later, whether later that day or the next morning, I feel like incredible crap. I feel bloated. I feel thick. I feel heavy, not in a physical way but like I’m living under sludge. I do not feel my best. I do not feel the high of happiness that is so often a part of my life.
But here’s the awful part: When I am in a down-cycle of difficulty, when I am in a rut of continuing to choose sugar (or whatever other drug – might also be red wine or beer or anything that numbs me) then I may continue to grab for that quick-fix relief from the challenges I am feeling. And I may be (seemingly) unable to break the chain and allow these substances to pass through me sufficiently where I can break through the surface of that sludge and touch the Light again.
It is (apparently) only when I have a certain modicum of balance in my life, when I’m doing the Right For Me things, like working out, and meditating, that I have the increase in awareness that lets me even perceive the horrible effects that sugar can have.
(It’s not actually just sugar for me – it’s carbs. Carbs are the problem. Almost all carbs are really tough on my state of mind.)
I say “apparently” in that sentence because there is a part of me (and of you) that is fully, completely, 100% indubitably aware of every single action I take. That knows, watching me, as I pull into the parking lot of the donut shop, what I am doing and what I am setting myself up for. That is not being listened to or heard in that moment.
Because in that moment, I think I am in pain, and all I want is relief.
There is no blame here. It’s only awareness.
When that Awareness is allowed to be living and alive and Present in my attention — at the forefront — then I make choices that make me live happier. When I only vaguely allow that Awareness to be felt from a background perspective, and I don’t honor it and bring it forth into conscious understanding, is when I will suffer.
This is one example of how suffering is a choice. I know consciously what will bring me joy and what will only be a (perceived) panacea.
I feel what I eat.
This is a direct cause → effect relationship. I eat crap, I feel like crap. I may pretend to enjoy it, that sugar rush of pseudo-ecstacy, but always, always, it has an effect on my attention. It corrodes my state of mind and makes me weaker, not stronger.
I know that there will be times when I choose the donut anyway, or that I intentionally go out with friends and order onion rings and a beer. It’s not like those are off limits or that I’m not being spiritual when I do that. It’s just that it has an effect.
When my one motivation in life is to be as clear in awareness as I can, so that I can be living the life I was put here to live, then those choices have consequences. Sometimes they’re absolutely the right choices to make. Drinking beer with my friends brings me great joy, because it’s something I do so infrequently.
The cumulative effect of drinking beer too many days in a row starts to make it more likely than not that I will begin to make poor choices elsewhere. And the cumulative effect of bringing awareness to my food choices means that I will be empowered to make more joyful choices a part of my pattern or routine.
These routines can be life-saving. It’s the awareness that makes them possible.