If I want to know how a person feels about themselves, I watch what they eat over a period of time. Food, I discovered in my profession as a healer, reflects our state of mind. What we eat feeds a psychological state and maintains the chemical balance that produces it. In my spiritual observations over countless years, I’ve been intrigued to learn how every physical manifestation in life is a metaphor for the deeper machinations of the spirit. In this post, I want to focus on the concept of dieting, what it really means, and why we are or are not successful in our attempts to lose weight. What we put into our mouths, and what our bodies do with the food, is a metaphor for the way that we think, the way that we process life, and when we start a weight-loss regime, our eventual success depends on what issues in our lives we are ready to confront. Dieting, I now know, is a metaphor for the initiation of deep inner change which is reflected in a life (and therefore a body) that we personally approve of.
Some time back, my daughter took a photo of me that had significant impact in making me confront certain issues that I had been avoiding. To others who saw it, it was a nice picture and they didn’t know what I was complaining about when I criticized it. But it didn’t matter what other people thought; what was important were the feelings that were evoked in me. The truth of our personal situations lie deep within us, and often when we try to avoid confronting them, there will be triggers that remind us that those issues are there, hidden in some place in the mind. As in my own situation, one of those triggers could be a photo in which we unexpectedly perceive a deeper aspect of ourselves: in that photo we see beyond the surface to the thing we are trying to avoid. Another trigger could be a person that you see on the street or on TV. Perhaps they look unhealthy; perhaps you unwittingly intuit that they look the way that you feel inside. When we have a deep and prolonged inner reaction to the way someone is behaving or the way someone appears on the surface, we can always look to an issue within ourselves that needs to be brought out into the open.
In looking at my own photograph, I saw the person that was hiding just below the surface. This person was holding onto issues that she didn’t want to have to confront, and as a result, hid silently in the shadows of her mind hoping not to be noticed. But Life itself doesn’t let us get off that easily. It makes us notice. The image made me uncomfortable, and it stayed in my head. I saw weight that really didn’t need to be there, and my face looked puffy and tired. The extra kilos and the retained water were playing their role in hiding the aspect of self that needed to be met with, head on. After much contemplation, I decided to embark on the diet and exercise regime that I’d been promising myself for months. It would be the only thing to do that would coax out the woman in hiding. Dieting, in effect, would make me face some hard truths about myself.
To those in the healing field, fat is seen as a kind of storage system for the issues which we carry in our lives and that for some reason we do not want to confront. Negative events that we have never processed in a healthy way can reach back far into childhood. Perhaps we had alcoholic parents, maybe we were sexually abused, or it could be that our parents did not allow us to have a voice. Perhaps our childhood had nothing to do with who we are now, and genetics did. We might have brought issues such aggression in with us; we may be prone to excessive fears that manifest as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or other anxiety conditions, or maybe we are just so passive that we live subservient lives. It could be the case that issues such as these are embedded in our DNA when we are born. Whatever the truth is, emotional matters that we do not want to deal with, find a place to manifest in the body. If they do not manifest as serious disease, they will manifest as fat. The more emotions we hide from ourselves and the more fiercely we work to stop them from surfacing, the fatter we get. And to get fat, we have to eat the foods that serve the purpose of hiding our emotions.
As we change our diets and excess fat is burned by the body, so those emotions are released in the form of hormonal reactions. We are forced to feel, to confront the reality of our situation. We can no longer pretend that we are feeling something else. If we are especially observant, we will also see that events will unfold as we lose weight, events that will bring everything out into the open. Take my cousin as an example. She has been very overweight for many years now, and every diet that she embarks on (they begin every two months on average) ends after a couple of weeks. She’ll be very diligent in her planning. She’ll clear her cupboards of junk food, and buy all the healthy products in preparation for the days ahead. About two weeks into the regime as she begins dropping the pounds, she’ll find herself in a conflict with a family member or colleague; a conflict in which she is required to speak her mind, stand her ground and take what she needs to make herself happy. This is a pattern which never fails to show itself. My cousin, to this day, refuses to speak up for herself, and because she will not allow her emotions to be expressed and therefore be released from her body, they instead swim around in her body system, making her feel deeply depressed. And in response to an unconscious direction from the passive person who hides in her mind, she runs to the pizza parlour to order the very thing that will pile back on the pounds, and therefore keep her emotions in check.
In my own case, I am now keeping a daily diary of the emotions I feel as my diet regime progresses. As I face the contentious issues that unfold as I lose weight, I allow myself to feel my own emotions without having to medicate them with food, wine, excessive shopping or any other method of avoidance. It’s not easy, especially since exercise helps burn off fat more quickly, and so the emotional reactions come on much more quickly and can be quite prolonged.
None of us can hide from ourselves forever. The desire to be slimmer than we are is more about our need to free ourselves of unwanted thoughts that hurt us, than about being beautiful. I’m not referring here to slender young women who want to look like skeletal runway models. That is another sad story of human pain that deserves its own blog space. I’m talking about the issues of being seriously overweight. If you are happy with the weight that you carry, then you can ignore the message of this post. But be sure your protests are not just another way in which you avoid your issues.
Each one of our lives is a dance of the spirit, a ballet in which the soul attempts to heal itself. To diet is to confront the demons that lie in the deepest recesses of the soul. In the journey to a better self, to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Think about your life, and be prepared for the possible issues that will rear their ugly heads. If you have the courage to deal with them, you can be sure of success.
More power to you if you’re on a diet!