This is a very simple, yet very profound idea – and it’s one that, if asked consistently has the potential to transform your relationship with food, and indeed yourself!
What if you were to ask yourself this one question, each time you ate something. What might happen as a result?
Here’s the question:
Do I need nourishment or nurturing?
So simple and so powerful, don’t you think?
The thing is food solves one problem: the need for nourishment.
But it is often used to nurture ourselves as well. It stands in for the hug we ache for; the understanding we wish for; the love we’re missing; the rest we very much need; the solitude we long for; the connection that seems to have disappeared. But it doesn’t truly meet those needs, does it?
For a moment, the food does feel comforting. For a few minutes, it distracts you from what you’re feeling. But a short time later, you still have the unmet need, and in addition, the discomfort of unneeded food – discomfort physically, if it’s a lot, but also discomfort emotionally: disappointment, annoyance, frustration – possibly even anger towards yourself for not honouring your body’s hunger and fullness signals.
Of course the physical discomfort will fade with time and digestion, and you can deal with the emotional discomfort with generous lashings of self-forgiveness (highly recommended!) – but it’s still additional stuff to deal with, isn’t it?
So let’s look at what could happen if you were actually to take this on, and ask yourself, for a week (or two) each time you eat, whether it’s nourishment or nurturing that you need?
You might discover needs you hadn’t previously recognised.
While I was eating to nurture myself, I didn’t realise that I even had the need for solitude – I don’t mean wanting some space away from other people (though that’s also a need!), I mean time to retreat within, to be silent and still. I now meet that need with meditation, every day.
You might learn something about yourself.
The truth is if you keep meeting a range of needs with food, you won’t get to learn what you really do need! I learned that I’m not actually superwoman, and that I do have limits. I used to over-ride my limits, particularly my physical ones, with sugar and caffeine. When I was actively working on my relationship with food, I decided to rest every time I felt tired for a couple of weeks. I couldn’t believe how tired I was! And resting made a massive difference, not only to my eating behaviour, but to my mood and energy levels as well.
Just imagine what could be on offer.
Imagine a life where you really do nourish your physical hunger with food, and nurture your other hungers in a way that truly satisfies them. How would that transform the quality of your life? These are the possibilities I see:
- You would likely have more energy
- You would likely feel more connected to yourself, other people, and the world around you
- You would feel peace, more of the time
- You would reach your happy weight, without dieting or depriving yourself
- You would have greater satisfaction from your life
- You would feel more balanced and empowered
OK, let’s be realistic
The truth is, we can’t always meet all our hungers with just the thing that will satisfy them, at that moment. It might be when you really need a hug, there’s no one around to give you that. Or if you need understanding from the person you’re having an argument with… well, you’re not in charge of how they will respond. However, just recognising the need, comes some way to actually meeting it. Saying to yourself ‘I really need a hug,’ or ‘I could really do with a rest right now,’ is an acknowledgement of what you want. You can then think about how you can best give that to yourself.
If no one is around for a hug, perhaps you can give yourself one. I know, cringey, but I promise, it does go some way to giving yourself the nurturing you need. I like to make myself a ‘hug-in-a-mug’ (licorice & cinnamon tea) when people-hugs aren’t available. Or if a rest is just not possible, because you’re at work, or driving your mother in traffic to an appointment, at least acknowledge it’s what you need, and then make a promise to yourself when you will rest.
Then fulfil your promise to yourself.
That’s really important. Because if you don’t, then you’re just kidding yourself and not really making any changes. If you don’t follow through, you won’t actually be nurturing yourself, which means the needs will still be unmet… and that’s likely to lead straight back to the cookie jar.
A word of warning: the type of food does not answer the question: is it nourishment or nurturing! An apple is not automatically nourishing and if you want to eat chocolate it doesn’t automatically mean you’re trying to nurture yourself with food. This isn’t about the food. It’s about your reasons for eating the food, whatever it is.
So, are you up for the challenge? 7 days of asking yourself before you eat anything, ‘Do I need nourishment or nurturing?’ Let me know if you’ll join me, and what you learn from it!
PS: Do you know I run a free closed Facebook Group: It’s Not About The Weight. A closed group means your FB friends can’t see what you or others post unless they too are members. Come and join us!