Friday, December 6, 2013

Self-parenting and your relationship with food.

Because you’re more than just dust and ashes.

How long could you have stayed in bed
with this look?
I was lying in bed contemplating this long overdue post, when he started to whine. “I’ll be up soon, go lie down”, I barked to my canine. If he really needed to go out or to eat, I knew I’d hear from him again soon. And so he hunkered down, curling up comfortably in his bed. And I scored one in an attempt to get my needs met, namely more desperately needed sleep.

Only my head was too filled with other things. There’s this post to write, for instance, and food shopping to do, household chores, and… So my need for sleep was bypassed.

And what does this have to do with you?

Get a little help from your friends.
Most of you, it seems, struggle with meeting your needs or are dependent on others to realize your needs. But I don’t mean simply your nutrient needs.

Regardless of your age, you need parenting of sorts. Or call it nurturing. And compassion. And validation. And if you no longer have parents, or your parents don’t rise to the occasion to provide these necessary supports, then you need to find them elsewhere—from your friends, your community, your providers. And you need to provide them for yourself.

Where’s the compassion? 

Can’t we treat ourselves they way we wish others would have treated us? Can’t we say things to ourselves like the supportive words we say (or wish we would say) to our close friends and loved ones? Consider this:

“A person should have two pieces of paper, one in each pocket, to be used as necessary. On one of them [is written] ‘The world was created for me,’ and on the other, ‘I am dust and ashes.’” 
–Reb Simhah Bunim, Przysucha Poland, (1765-1827)
You just might need to give yourself a hug.
I’ve always loved this saying, which emphasizes the need to be neither too haughty and self important nor to minimize your value in the world. The problem, though, is that most clients I see struggling with eating issues err on the side of focusing on the ‘dust and ashes’.

Must you, must we, dismiss the positives, focusing only on our failures? You are not just making excuses seeking to justify your behaviors, when you acknowledge your positives. Understanding informs you where you need to go next, where the barriers need to be broken.

Where’s your voice? 

I realize I have little experience with this one, as I learned a style of communicating that perhaps errs on the side of over vocal. I know, I know, filtering has its benefits. But keeping your thoughts and feelings inside does nothing to aid your relationship with food. It festers (I love this word), defined as eats away, gnaws away, putrefies, becomes infected).

Sure, you can plan what you’re going to eat, and you may follow through. You can organize your eating, and that surely helps. But failing to release those pent up thoughts and feelings only contributes to your struggle with food. Because overeating or food restriction—yes either one—can feel like the antibiotic that remedies the problem. Only the disorder has become resistant to this so-called antibiotic, and is ineffective as a long-term treatment.

The way I see it, communicating is a necessary component of recovery. But if you aren’t yet up for speaking your thoughts, at least express them—through journaling, music or art. Be creative—there’s not a right way to release what you are holding inside.
Not even aware of what you’re feeling? Just starting the creative process may make you aware. Or maybe you need one of these to identify your emotions.

Where’s the self-acceptance? 

Self-acceptance doesn’t mean staying stuck. It isn’t synonymous with accepting that you just can’t change the way things are. Rather, it means accepting what’s in your hands to change and knowing when you need to gather the supports to help you move on. It means setting realistic goals given the trauma work you’re doing, or the crises at home or the multiple hats you’re wearing day-to-day. It means appreciating even a gradual move in a healthier direction, versus viewing your progress as all or nothing.

He's got me at last.And we both really need it.
I think I’ll go snuggle with my dog now. He needs it. And I could use it too on this rainy, dreary day. The laundry and shopping will just have to wait.


  1. Great post. A lot of this is stuff I'm working on with my therapist already and slowly but surely making progress with.

    1. Glad to support the work you're doing in therapy!

  2. This post made a lot of sense to me. I often see how my providers are my pseudo parents, which at times makes me sad (and would certainly make my parents sad) but I am grateful nonetheless. If, as a child, I was not appropriately parented, then at least I can get some of those needs met now. I just hope some day I can do as you speak of in this post and be kind enough to take good care of myself so I don't need parenting. Being an adult in need of parenting hurts my pride, which obviously perpetuates the problem!