Ways to Healing: Nourishment

nourishment

Nourishment: the food or other substances necessary for growth, health, and good condition.

Over the past couple years I have been working on maintaining a diet that is more in line with what my body needs to be healthy. With both Fibromyalgia and PCOS reeking havoc on my body’s various systems, nourishing my body with the good food it needs is important to my long-term health management. I’m enjoying preparing homemade food for myself and my partner, learning new healthy recipes every month. I eat more fruits and veggies than ever before, though I still need to eat more. I eat very little processed food.  And I am almost entirely wheat and sugar free…

Except when I’m not.

Except when I binge.

Food and I have a dysfunctional relationship when big feelings come into play. I am an emotional eater. I crave the warm comfort of sweetened espresso drinks (though I’ve traded coconut milk for dairy). I crave all forms of cheese and bread and very particular kinds of ice cream. I crave chocolate, both the quality kind and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Much like an alcoholic that can’t have just one drink, when the craving takes over I can’t have just one ice cream bar. It’s a box of three ice cream bars, or a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, or the combination of an ice cream bar, a big grab bag of Doritos and a sugar-laden coffee drink all at once. Once I let myself go there, I can’t stop until I’m satiated.

I also have a compulsion to eat until I’m more than full. I think it’s about being highly stimulated. If I’m so full that it’s uncomfortable, then it’s another way to distract myself from the bigness of my emotions. If I don’t have junk food available to binge on, and I’m unwilling to go out to feed my craving, then I’ll binge on dinner, or yogurt, or dried cranberries. Whatever is available.

When life and my heart are calm, it’s now easy to choose nourishment over quick dopamine fixes. I do give myself credit for how far I’ve come on this journey. While I struggle, it’s not like before when I didn’t try to eat healthy and my binges were bigger and more often. I go grocery shopping and only buy nourishing choices, which forces me to make a conscious choice to go out to satisfy a craving when it comes. I prepare meals and limit my consumption, either by making a small recipe or putting away leftovers for the next day’s lunch before I sit down to eat dinner. I drink tea and lots of water. I have reached a point in my food journey were it comes naturally to make the right choices most of the time.

But when the dark descends or a hurricane rages deep inside, the cravings are powerful. There are nights that they are annoyances I can sit with or push away, no more significant than mosquito buzzing around my head. And then there are nights where the need is so strong that its relentless. No matter what I do to focus my attention, the thoughts keep pressing in, demanding I pay attention, demanding I give in because it will all feel better if I do.  There is an inexplicable sensation, as though my body is calling for what it believes will take the pain away. It will feel better, it will feel better, it will feel better is the promise that sings through me.

And it does feel better for a hot second when I give in, for as long as it takes me to enjoy the flavor and texture of my treat. Then it’s over and I’m back where I started, except now I’m also feeling ashamed for eating three Magnum Double Caramel ice cream bars. I’m ashamed for being unable and/or unwilling to sit with the discomfort and the emptiness. And on top of it all I may experience physical discomforts from binging.

I’ve seen my stomach change in size, shape and prominence several times over the past two years. My belly is prominent right now. It feels bloated. This may be from pms, and/or it may be because I ate more wheat last week than in the previous several months combined.  I’ve also seen my weight go down by 35 lbs of baby weight and then back up again with 15 lbs of grief. I am literally bearing the weight of my heartache.

In my quest for healing I am choosing to become more aware of what it means to be nourished, starting with the foundation of the body that carries me through this life with such incredible strength, endurance, and capacity for pleasure. I deserve better than how I’ve been treating myself. I intend to shop and eat with the concept of nourishment on my mind, allowing only what truly nourishes me to pass my lips. I intend to focus on activities that nourish me and stimulate positive hormonal responses rather than addictive reactions. And I intend to learn to sit with the hardness and emptiness when they arise, wherever it may lead me.

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