I’ll be facilitating a mindful eating group or will be working with a client one-one-one and as I’m teaching skills and transformative exercises that help them become better at regulating their emotions, and their responses, thereby enhancing their ability to relate to food in a more positive way—I will realize how far I’ve come.
I remember heavy days of despair several years ago when I yearned to be one of those people who had so much freedom around food and were just healthy and thin and seemed to be at peace in their lives and in their bodies—and they didn’t have to think about it—they just effortlessly embodied it. Naturally. I put the intention out there into the Universe— to become one of those people, remembering how it was to be like that as a teenager.
While it wasn’t an overnight transformation, and it DID require effort and training…it did eventually happen. So now sometimes when I think back to those days and realize how far I’ve come, I am overcome with gratitude.
Then sometimes, while I’m riding my gratitude float, the Universe will decide to test me. Not just a written pop quiz with multiple choice answers, but an American Gladiator style obstacle course.
This test isn’t just making sure I still have things memorized, but thoroughly testing me physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. The techniques that had become automatic, the skills, the new ways my brain functions, the self-care that had become “easy”…. suddenly requires me to WORK at it again.
Then I realize there are still things for me to learn, and through it I will become even more resilient. After all, this testing and some of the anguish that comes with it IS still but a fraction of what I used to experience, and how I cope with it, and how much more quickly I cope with it, has dramatically improved, demonstrating that I have grown stronger.
I’m guessing there isn’t really ever a time we completely arrive and have nothing else to learn or master, and sometimes we have to repeat the same lessons over and over again until we finally get it, or figure out what’s underneath that’s keeping us stuck.
As I was going through this testing, I came across some Viktor Frankl quotes.
Serendipity? More likely.
Viktor Frankl was a holocaust survivor, neurologist and psychiatrist. When I read the quotes, I was reminded and re-grounded in the importance behind the words, and how these principles helped facilitate my freedom around food, so I thought I'd share in hopes that they would be helpful for you.
1. “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
Things happen that we can’t control. What we can control, however, is how we respond to them.
I’ve known people who move from one city to another, or hop from one job to another, or one relationship to another, blaming the cities or the jobs or people for their unhappiness. While I absolutely agree that our environment DOES play a role in how we feel, I also think that it’s too easy to blame external circumstances for internal discomfort, rather than taking responsibility and ownership of our internal discomfort.
We can make a choice to change things within ourselves—our thought processes, our beliefs - thus changing how we perceive the situation we’re in.
Once we change our perception, we then feel differently about it, and when we feel differently, WE WILL ACT differently.
When we act differently, we get more favorable results.
Which means, we then find ourselves in situations where we are content and happy. When we're content and happy, we're less likely to turn to food for pleasure or comfort.
2.“Everything can be taken from a man (or woman) but one thing: the last of human freedoms: the ability to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances. The ability to choose one’s own way.”
Choosing his attitude is how Viktor Frankl survived the Holocaust. Something I'm continuing to learn is that there is never a choice-less moment.
What’s probably the most profound thing of adapting this—choosing an optimistic attitude—is that after a while, it no longer is a forced choice, it’s how our brains naturally start working (we actually re-wire our neural-circuitry). It’s called Learned Optimism. This doesn’t mean you have to get all Pollyanna. But it does mean you start loving life more, your body more, and your approach to food shifts to one that’s positive.
3.“Between stimulus and response there is a space.
In that space lies our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
This is my favorite! It sums up my mindfulness training so beautifully, and can be applied to the first quotes. When you practice present-moment awareness, without judgment, but are simply tuned in—as a calm, neutral observer of yourself rather than being caught up in the middle of the storm of thoughts or emotions—you can find that space between the stimulus and the response.
You can notice when the stimulus triggers something within you. The stimulus could be outside of you; something that happened "to you". Perhaps it was something environmental like traffic, situational, something someone said, or it could have nothing to do with anything external and was a thought you were thinking (perhaps "should-ing" on yourself??). Either way, you find yourself triggered.
Now is the time to look for the space, and use that space to CHOOSE how you will respond.
It applies to everything in life, but given the specific work I do, I’ll use the example of eating food that you might beat yourself up for later….especially if you’re trying to stuff an emotion or anxiety down that you don’t want to feel.
If you’re about to eat, you can pause—find the space—and notice what’s really going on. If something triggered the desire to compulsively eat (maybe it was a simple as you smelling it, or maybe it was more complex as you feel sad about a breakup or stressed about work).
In that tiny little space, we get to choose.
Not just choose whether or not to eat it (because I know better than anyone that sometimes it feels like something larger than you takes over and MAKES you eat)
We get to choose our attitude and our thoughts.
We get to choose to be curious about what’s REALLY going on, and what we’re ACTUALLY hungry for.
Because we made the space, what really needs attention will have a chance to present itself and we get to choose to respond in a skillful way.
Ultimately, this is where we find our freedom.
4.“Those who have a ‘why’ to live can bear with almost any how”
I love this. This is powerful.
KNOW YOUR WHY.
We can get so caught up with the “whats” and the “hows” of life and of creating plans or going on diets--that we lose sight of our WHY.
Connecting with the WHY is where the magic happens.
Connecting with our WHY reveals our true desires, gets us aligned with our authenticity, our passions, our purpose—and from that place, the "how’s" will happen all on their own.
Get curious. Get clear. Who do you want to be, how do you want to be—but more importantly, WHY do you want that??
Here’s to finding the space, choosing your response and finding your why.