Developing a Healthy Relationship to Food and Digestion
On the first day of my Feldenkrais® training program, the directors arranged to have a wholesome, catered luncheon. It was great, tasty and healthy…until I ate way too much of the scrumptious gourmet brownies for dessert. I felt terrible the rest of that day and the next. All my excitement for beginning a new adventure buried in an overdose of sugar, just because I didn’t have what it took to enjoy my excitement without reverting back to a childhood pattern. That was 30 years ago and the last time I ate to such discomfort.
It was a memorable day because of my struggles with food and body image. I was going to Overeaters Anonymous at the time, using the twelve-step program to work through conflicts surrounding food and eating. The only thing, I can see now, is that I was controlling how I ate, not creating a healthy relationship to food or myself.
In OA we would talk about how we need food to live and so we can’t just stop eating. Going cold turkey and white knuckling it are possible with cigarettes and alcohol, but not with food.
Over time, while trying to stick to a food plan, I realized what I wanted was friends, close friends, the kind that knows each other well and can pick up wherever things were left off. My friendships in OA weren’t going deeper. I did know that. I wasn’t doing what it took. I didn’t know what it took. I was keeping to the program and not getting the feeling of success or satisfaction.
As I continued my Feldenkrais training, the grip of using food to deal with my emotional life, or lack of emotional awareness loosened. I stopped going to OA the second year of the training. Linda Delman, one of our assistant trainers said, “You will re-evaluate all of your relationships…to money, people, love…” Untangling my relationships to food, exercise and self-image became my journey.
Over the last 30 years in doing Awareness Through Movement® lessons, taking advanced trainings, going to conferences, teaching and studying with my colleagues, I have learned. What was once challenging and painful no longer holds me in a grip. The familiar becomes easier. As I move forward in life, life itself provides the material for challenges. New frontiers not yet conquered bring new worries, hardships, questions. I get tripped up, no doubt. We all do. But now I know there is a path forward and I know how to look for options. I navigate my life with the ups and downs, and the twists and turns. I have learned that certainty and guarantees are fleeting and space and form provide the playground or prison to my experience.
Food has become a part of the journey for nourishment, fun, and enjoyment and less of a barrier to noticing how I feel and addressing what is happening in my life that challenges.
Over the years, more has been discovered regarding the gut-brain connection and the microbiome that is unique within each of us. It’s fascinating to learn more about how the gut-brain connection affects us. And it can be overwhelming: Keto, low carb, high or low protein, plant based, supplements. ARRR! Where does one begin or know who to turn to or how to access?
My interest has become the mechanics of digestion and what I can do to support it. I want to be able to change to changing circumstances. I want to feel good. If what I am eating doesn’t seem to be helping me feel better, I reconsider what I am eating. I have turned to other professionals, friends, books, and yes, sometimes the internet, to help sort through the array of possibilities.
Besides understanding food and supplements and making choices that work for me, I love incorporating what I have learned in doing Awareness Through Movement lessons to ease tension and help with digestion.
I began to think about teaching what I have learned over the years 9 months ago. One, because I do it myself daily and two, it seems like it would help others. In addition, it is easy, feels good and doesn’t take a lot of time. And there is no end to what can be discovered and improved.
In this video, Courtney Jackson describes the balance of the nervous system for the best use of nutrients. It is a great introduction to optimizing digestion.
Our digestive system forms in utero and is functional at birth. That is, we ingest and excrete. As growth and development occurs, children learn to use sensation while gaining motor control for independent toileting. Because of the dependency of youth, patterns that are formed in relation to satisfaction and nourishment are based on early exposures to food, safety and comfort. Because this learning is imperfect, our conditioning is imperfect and we all learn ways to cope and function that interferes with health and well-being, affecting ingesting, digesting and elimination.
Taking time to notice our habits and patterns, how we think about food, how we ingest and doing it with greater awareness gives more choice. Earlier this year, I had gotten into a pattern of eating while web surfing or reading, eating quickly, and not listening to what was enough. After a few months of that, my gut and I weren’t so happy. Backing up, taking stock, doing some more research, I had to make some changes.
Slowing down, eating smaller portions, being more attentive to how I was eating, changing some foods, and deepening my practice of gut-awareness health made a difference and gave my gut a break from overworking and distress.
I am fascinated by what can be learned that makes living a life a bit easier. Food is nourishing and fun! How we go about keeping it healthy and avoiding the traps of toxicity is worth the exploration!