A few weeks ago, I launched a series of free virtual group coaching for Latin women. In preparation for the first session, I asked participants to describe their fight with food.
With a few exceptions, most of their responses noted that the issue relies on their inability to fix a problem and their frustration around the many solutions they’ve tried. Not surprisingly, the problem to solve is their weight, their body. They feel frustrated and confused because they don’t understand how to say no to foods they love but know are “bad” for them, they can’t figure out portion control, they don’t get why cutting calories doesn’t do “the trick” anymore and are curious to learn whether a low-carb diet is better than a low-fat regime.
Trying to find solutions to your problematic relationship with food in external behavior changes (like figuring out whether a good amount of rice is the size of your fist or a deck of cards) is like trying to extinguish a wildfire with a bucket of water: You’re ignoring the underlying causes of the fire. It will continue to grow unless you address it with the right strategy.
You won’t experience peace with food unless you reconsider the places where you’ve been looking for answers.
What if the answers weren’t in your portion size, carbohydrate consumption or willpower? If you want to make peace with food and have fallen for the common mistake of “extinguishing the wildfire with a bucket of water” start correcting it by asking yourself:
What is food doing for you? What service is food providing you?
All human beings have basic needs that need to be met. The “desires of the heart”, as Buddhists call it, are permanently looking to be satisfied. When we go to the food to satisfy these basic needs —comfort, love, connection, certainty, recognition, growth, significance, stability, among others— the fix is temporary. Food provides a temporary service, but the real need —to be loved or recognized, for example— is never satisfied and will continue to arise.
When the craving or compulsion to eat isn’t caused by physical hunger, food will never be the solution.
Understand that every time you go to the food to satisfy a human need that can’t be met with food, you’re preventing yourself from understanding what’s untangled inside of you. Your emotions are valuable information and are giving you hints about other issues that must be addressed. The solution isn’t in the size of your portions, your willpower or metabolism. It’s inside of you. You’re simply not trained to listen.
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Written by Lina Salazar.