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I recently witnessed a discussion on Facebook that made me sad and a bit angry. The conversation took place on a food related post that was geared towards diet and chronic illness. Essentially the discussion boiled down to “I think people who don’t eat right and take care of themselves are stupid. Why don’t you just make better choices?”
This discussion made me mad for a couple of reasons and again reinforced my belief that there is a MAJOR disconnect in both Western and alternative medicine when it comes to creating true health around food and body.
While yes, I do believe that we all have the ability to choose what we eat and how we behave, our habits and behaviors go FAR deeper than just “right” and “wrong”, “good” and “bad”. Our behaviors sometimes transcend common sense.
Sometimes we behave in ways that are unexplainable to us. We may have moments where we do something that we don’t remember doing. Or we may feel out of control and like someone else is in the driver’s seat instead of us. Ever had those “out of body” experiences?
This is called disembodiment and it’s something I talk a lot about because it’s important. It literally means that we have checked out of our bodies. That we are acting on a purely subconscious level and our conscious mind is not in running the show during these times.
Binge eating is a perfect example of disembodiment. Many people who find themselves dealing with binge eating will report that they don’t actually remember the act of eating. Perhaps they remember getting the urge to eat and walking to the kitchen. Then afterward, they saw the results of the binge, but if you ask them what they remember from the time during the actual binge itself they will likely not be able to remember.
While this post is not specifically about binge eating, I wanted to use it as an example because it is one that many people can relate to and understand. I’ll be writing more about binge eating in the coming months since it’s a topic that is near and dear to my heart and one that is highly misunderstood in today’s world.
Not Judging Others For Where They Are in Life
This post IS, however, about not judging people for where they are in life. It’s about recognizing that your view of the world is just that. YOUR view. And just because something feels right, clear-cut, or easy to you does not mean that others feel the same way.
The attitudes I saw in the Facebook discussion were just that — people who had one very specific viewpoint on life and the way they thought it should be. It’s very easy to dole out advice when you are dogmatic about a specific topic. It is much harder, however, to take a step back and realize that your way of seeing things is not the only way to see things.
In some ways, I admire those who exhibit a very clear-cut, black and white outlook on life. It must be wonderful to feel like everything is so perfectly clear with no gray areas. I imagine that, in some ways, life is easier because of this, though I do know that everyone has their struggles and hang-ups even when they seem to “have it all together”. I also find that often those who are militant about their beliefs are the ones who are suffering on the deepest levels.
That’s why, in other ways, I feel sorry for these types of people because they often seem to lack the compassion to understand that while their worldview might be black and white, the majority of people live in some sort of gray area.
I know, I know. This probably sounds a bit harsh, but this Facebook post got me fired up and when I get fired up, I hop on my soapbox. 🙂
One of the most important things I have learned over the years is that we have to meet people where they are at right now. Not where we think they should be.
People are where they are. If we really want to help, we need to meet them there.
“Why Don’t You Just Make Better Choices?”
Let’s get back to the issue at hand:
“I think people who don’t eat right and take care of themselves are stupid. Why don’t you just make better choices?”
The person went on to say that they don’t understand why people choose to eat “crappy food” and not take care of themselves. For them, it was very clear-cut:
- Eat healthy.
- Take care of yourself.
- Life is peachy keen.
I’m here to tell you that it’s just not that easy for a lot of people. If it were, everyone would be doing it! We would not have the epidemic of preventable diseases that we do now. Depression and mental illness would be rare, rather than the norm. People would be living their best lives to their fullest potential.
But that’s not happening, so something (or rather, many somethings) in our system is broken.
I’m not removing personal responsibility. We are all adults. We all have a personal responsibility to ourselves and others. I want everyone to nourish themselves well on a physical, mental, and spiritual level. I want people to act in ways that serve them, their communities, and the world to the fullest.
But again, remember, we have to meet people where they are. In many cases, we have to patiently dig a little deeper in order to help our fellow man get to where they may want to go.
You cannot simply tell someone to “make better choices” and expect them to do it. Sometimes people don’t know HOW to make better choices. Other times, they don’t even realize how self-destructive their behaviors are. And other times, they may realize it, but feel powerless as to how they can change them.
Yes, there may be a few people who can be told what the better choices are and they run with it and all is well for the rest of their lives. Hooray for those folks!
However, for the vast majority of people, true change does not come about simply because they are told to “make better choices“. There are any number of reasons why people behave the way they do. Simply telling somebody to “stop eating junk food and start eating healthy food” is often not enough to bring about lasting change.
It’s important to stop and remember that our behaviors around food and body exist for a reason. They didn’t just show up for the hell of it. They came into our lives to serve some sort of purpose.
- Perhaps the person was abandoned as a child and they started using food as a symbolic substitute for the love that was snatched away from them.
- Perhaps they were abused or sexually assaulted and food became a way for them to escape memories of the terror they endured. And as a side benefit, the food may have caused them to gain weight which serves as a subconscious protection against potential future abuse or unwanted attention by people of the same sex who assaulted them. In nature, the largest animals often have less to fear.
- Perhaps the person was never taught how to effectively deal with stress or powerful emotions, so food because a way to soothe themselves when they felt overwhelmed with life and felt like they had no other way to cope.
These are just three reasons why food can become such a driving force in our lives and our behaviors. There are hundreds of other reasons why people have challenges around food and body. But, as you can see, it’s not as simple as just telling this person to “stop x, y, or z“. That simply will not work.
Here’s What WILL Work
These behaviors are here for a reason. They are serving a purpose in our life. The purpose may not be one that we fully understand or even like, but that doesn’t mean that these behaviors are bad or wrong. Most often these behaviors come about from the brilliance of a very primitive part of our mind that is 100% focused on survival. Our brain has tried to keep us alive and surviving in whatever way it knew how to do at the time.
We have to be able to accept this, whether it be for ourselves or for someone we love. Or even for just the stranger on the street. Just because you may have found the key to an amazing life does not mean that your key is going to fit into other people’s locked doors.
Here’s what we need to do:
- We have to learn how to become compassionate — to ourselves and to others.
- We have to learn how to dig deeper — for ourselves and others.
- We have to be open to uncovering wounds and injuries that have been pushed into the darkest recesses of our minds.
- We need to be open to raising our consciousness to a higher level, even when it may seem overwhelming or impossible at times.
We have to be open to learning why our behaviors are there and then discover new ways to cope with the emotions that might be driving those unwanted behaviors.
Inner change MUST precede outer change. Humans do not respond well to force. In almost all cases, we cannot force a lasting change to happen on our timeline. Lasting change happens when we are open and willing to let it in. When we feel supported, loved, and confident enough to take those brave steps forward.
Lasting change does not happen when someone shames us or makes us feel bad for whatever it is. Most of the time, that shaming will lead to even deeper issues.
It’s moments like this that remind me that it’s important to speak up when we see things like this. It’s important to pay attention to how people are being treated. And this goes for how we are treating ourselves too. It also reminds me of a powerful quote from Wayne Dyer:
“The greatest technique for bringing peace into your life is to always choose being kind when you have a choice between being right or being kind.”
Today, I want to ask that you be a warrior for your fellow human. If you see someone being shamed or not being supported in a healthy, speak up. Let them know that they are not alone. Let them know that they are not a bad person — that they are not wrong. Let them know that they are supported and loved. Let them know there is help available if they are open to receiving it. Even if you change the life of one single person, you can consider that a job well done because the life you change will go on to change other people’s lives.
If you’ve been struggling with your relationship to food and body and are ready to find the peace and freedom you’ve truly been craving, I would love to help. Whether you’re dealing with binge eating, overeating, yo-yo dieting, body shame/hate, or a combination of the above, know that these symptoms are holding a deeper message for you.
Come join my 7-day Food & Body Freedom eCourse (it’s free!) here. This eCourse came from my passion for helping women transform their relationships to food and body. What you desire IS truly possible if you are ready, open, and willing. It is time to say goodbye to the years of control, compulsive behaviors, limiting beliefs, scarcity of joy, and actions driven from a place of fear and feelings of unworthiness, once and for all. Learn more and sign up here.