Eating disorders, obsession with food, and perfectionism do not always end with a nutrition degree or a 100% raw vegan diet. Yes, removing toxins and processed foods helps—sometimes tremendously—but the pressure to look healthy, thin and beautiful can continue beyond education or dietary shifts. Often, it actually increases. As a Medical Intuitive and Life Coach, I’ve encountered many nutritionists and raw fooders who feel ashamed and embarrassed of their ongoing issues with food. As health advocates, they’re “not supposed to have these problems anymore!” “Why can’t they practice what they preach?” “Why the self-sabotage?” Secret cooked food binges, bulimia (overeating followed by regurgitation or excessive exercise), dangerously long fasts and detoxification attempts, uncontrollable cravings. This dark side of radiant health can plunge people into a sea of shame and depression—which, of course, they’re also not supposed to feel. “What if my clients or readers find out?” they worry. “You’re human,” I say. “And it’s more common than you think.” So common and under-reported, in fact, that I decided to write an article.
Fortunately, our bodies never betray us. They work on behalf of our souls—trying to grab our attention when nothing else has. As with any health concern, once we decode and accept the message, we can let the symptoms go. Most psychologists recognize these patients’ tendency toward perfectionism. Therapy attempts to negate self-judgment. This helps to some degree, but most “recovered” anorexics or bulimics privately confess that the disorder returns whenever they feel out of control. Best case scenario, they can manage the stress and not return to old behavior patterns—but the thoughts remain. Telling someone to “drop the perfectionism” doesn’t provide a cure. In fact, it prevents the cure! Because, truth be told, these people know they can do better. They know they can live bigger, brighter, more influential lives—perhaps more than anyone around them imagines. The quest for perfect body or perfect health reflects a deeper urge to perfect the Self. Successful treatment of eating disorders needs to honor this inner drive—and create a safe space to explore unusual gifts and talents. In a society that feels more comfortable with mediocrity, it often seems easier to transfer the soul’s mission to the body.
Thus, the anorexic who holds within her a fully compassionate, radiant, healing presence feels less conspicuous as a walking skeleton. The bulimic whose potentially bestselling words of wisdom could transform millions of lives finds it easier to throw up food than to write her book. The personal trainer who intuitively knows how to heal his clients’ self-esteem puts all his energy into pumping iron—so that people notice his body rather than his soul. The overweight psychic piles on pounds in order to subdue her too-bright inner glow. I’ve noticed a complex yet consistent dynamic in people with eating disorders. Yes, they exhibit perfectionist tendencies, but not in the way most people assume. The shame of imperfection stems less from impaired body image than from living below their natural capabilities. On some level, these people recognize that they have gifts to share, but they get scared. Maybe the world won’t accept their unusual talents. Maybe family tells them they need to live a certain way. Perhaps some people find their message offensive. What if everyone thinks they’ve lost their minds? Whatever the rational for avoiding their gifts, these perfectionists intuitively know they’re not sharing what they could. The shame they express with regard to their bodies or eating habits really mirrors a deeper shame at not living as authentically and compassionately as they could. It doesn’t matter if people tell them they look good or consider them experts in their field. It doesn’t even matter if they are experts in their field! These people know they could do more, and they feel ashamed for slacking.
Ultimately, it’s not really about perfection, though. It’s about the “r” word. Responsibility. Having the kind of influence that changes lives can feel scary. Self-sabotage provides both distraction and “proof of unworthiness” to wield such influence. But physical/psychological symptoms can only distract for so long. Eventually, they demand attention, forcing people to deal with those latent gifts.
The good news is that people do recover from eating disorders, and you can, too, by augmenting your traditional treatments with targeted personal growth exercises:
1) Practice mindful eating. Pay attention to your food. Notice the flavors, colors, textures and how these make you feel. Ponder all the people and processes involved in the growth and production of your food and express gratitude for the gift on your plate.
2) Start a meditation practice. You can buy a CD like Yogiraj Alan Finger’s Life Enhancing Meditations or Deepak Chopra’s SoulofHealing Meditation CD. Both offer excellent guidance in forgiving yourself and others, allowing you to open a bigger, more influential you.
You can also try a kundalini yoga meditation called Sa Ta Na Ma. The words “sa ta na ma” translate roughly to birth, life, death, rebirth, and are thus a powerful transformative mantra. When chanting Sa Ta Na Ma, sit on the floor with your legs crossed and press your elbows to your ribs, so that your arms each form 90 degree angles at your sides. Press the fingertips to the pads on your palms and stick your thumb s up like a hitchhiker. Inhale deeply and then exhale all your air, sucking your navel towards your back. Holding the belly empty, chant silently within yourself four rounds of “Sa Ta Na Ma.” Inhale deeply and repeat this process at least six times, up to eleven minutes. The combination of completely emptying and then filling the lungs and belly, combined with the meaning, make this a super technique for people with eating disorders. 3) Whenever you feel “too big” physically, explore your spiritual gifts. If you don’t consciously know what these are, ask for guidance. They will reveal themselves! You can also take a 60 question inventory here:
(If you are not Christian, modify the questions for your personal belief system.) People often feel “huge” not because of actual girth but because they have so much unused “stuff” inside of them.
4) When you feel the urge to purge, release in other ways. Honor pent-up energy, words and talents that seek expression. Write, paint, draw, volunteer. Share something beautiful!
5) When you want to starve yourself, “feed” the world. Look at people around you starving for emotional or spiritual nourishment. Offer random acts of kindness as support. Clean house and donate old clothes. Give until you feel balanced to receive again.
6) If you feel ashamed for your “issues,” remember where you’re headed. Shame will dissolve as you embrace your deeper purpose and share that beauty with the world. We change the world and our lives one small step at a time. Each day, concentrate on one small step—a journal entry, conversation, or application essay. An outfit of older clothes put together in unexpected ways. A walk in nature. A letter to the editor.
7) If your stomach bothers you, focus on your heart center. If you have trouble getting into your heart, imagine green, gold, or pink light moving in and out of you with your breath. Follow your breath and feel a pulsating warmth in the center of your chest. Let that warmth envelop you and radiate from you like warm, honey, emanating sweetness. Your heart’s just one step above your tummy, but that one step lifts you out of ego and into communion.
Laura Bruno is a Life Coach, Medical Intuitive and Reiki Master Teacher who works with groups and individuals: www.internationalrenaissancecoaching.com She also wrote the soon-to-be-released eBook, If I Only Had a Brain Injury: A TBI Survivor and Life Coach’s Guide to Chronic Fatigue, Concussion, Lyme Disease, Migraine and Other “Medical Mystery.”
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