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Food is Medicine

I have used food all my life to hide my pain, soothe my pain, create distraction, fill boredom, reward behavior, ease difficulties and celebrate accomplishments. I am a food addict and have used it to cope with my life.

Facing Fibromyalgia forced me to look at what I was eating since nothing else was working to offer relief. On the advice of a professional, I went gluten free and found the war eased up in my digestive track. I was astounded to discover food can cause such body pain. It is then I adopted the idea that food is medicine.

While training as a Spiritual Director, I had to develop a daily spiritual practice. What better challenge than to look at my food issues from a life lesson point of view.

My food tolerances increased over time and my safe food choices became fewer and fewer. I worked with nutritionists and gastroenterologists. I could not overeat or enjoy old comforting foods. If I did, the penalty was incredible pain and discomfort. I was unable to sit in meditation. I couldn’t go forward with my thinking and I couldn’t lean in to old behavior. I was cornered.

I cried on the inside and the outside. Eventually, I experienced some relief in my physical symptoms. The truth was, though, I felt let down and abandoned by my old friend: food. I finally could see clearly—I felt a deep abandonment and shame and I was using food to fill these chasms in me. I knew what my direction would be: fill my void with something other than food. That’s when I turned to silent meditation.

Overeating hid my pain. Sitting in silence allowed me to witness my thoughts and feelings. I could see it all clearly.

Silence offered me a chance to see beyond my addiction.

Silence forced me to practice presence.

Silence meant I was listening to me.

My journey with food hasn’t ended there. I adjust and move on, adjust and move on. I move through the layers, witness and remedy what I need for next steps.

These last six months have challenged me as my food intolerances increased. Every day, I discover more as I untie the emotional knots I have with food.

I am still discovering and dismantling old habits, old rituals.

It’s a layer by layer process.

Every meal honors my process

I’m very aware Thanksgiving is approaching.

I’m grateful for my quiet time

I’m grateful for silence

In honor of Thich Nhat Hanh, I’d like to offer his meal chant:

“This food is the gift of the whole universe – the earth, the sky, and much hard work. May we live in a way that makes us worthy to receive it. May we transform our unskillful states of mind, especially our greed. May we take only foods that nourish and prevent illness. We accept this food so that we may realize the path of our practice.”

Participants’ Reflections

  • Thank you for talking about the subject of food. It brought me back to my childhood. When I was a child, food was a comfort because it was something I could control, but it was a weapon as well. I realize I have no control over food but it has a lot of control over me. I became aware of this during meditation, and it was interesting. I look forward to exploring it more. Thank you for sharing that.

  • I went to a place around ‘I have enough.’ I noticed that the reading triggered an awareness that I have a habit of fighting with people for things I want. I argued with a relative over something from a deceased family member, and I realize that things represent love. It shifted into ‘I have enough.’ I can let go. If my judgment on this relative is that he needs to take all the best, I can find it in my heart to say ‘I wish for you all that you want and desire.’ And I have. It was very powerful.

  • I’ve always struggled with food and at this point in my life, it represents to me the family members I’ve lost, my grandmother, my mother. It represents good times in my life. It’s like a memorial to keep these old recipes. But now I’m realizing I don’t even like them anymore. All the cream, and meats. I guess what I am trying to do now is hang on to the recipes, but make healthier versions of them. I live alone and I can let go of having so much food around because my habit is to have square meals, three times a day. I don’t need to do that. I’m finding ways to cope. Also, alcohol was in my life for a long time and it helped me cope and relax and be less shy because I’m an introvert. I’m discovering my body will no longer tolerate alcohol. I’m hungover before I finish a four-ounce glass of wine. So I don’t drink anymore. That’s been bringing up more repressed feelings. I feel better physically. Exercising, doing art, being with friends have helped a lot. Not perfect yet, never will be. But it’s better.

  • I appreciated the reading, especially Thich Nhat Hanh’s prayer for Thanksgiving. It was so peaceful and thoughtful, as is all his writings. I want to read it again and keep it, and reread it on Thanksgiving Day. The prayer made me feel peaceful. He is one of the first Buddhists that I was exposed to. When I contrast his prayer to the Thanksgiving prayers I had growing up, I was so filled with peace. I’ve been realizing there is another path other than Christianity. I’m sorry for people who never get exposure to looking at another way of life. I felt sad about that thought. If I hadn’t been exposed to his writings, my life would have been so different. I have way more peace now since I’ve adopted a peaceful approach to my spirituality.

  • Thank you. Everyone I know deals with food and has issues around it. I can easily eat a whole bag of candy corn, knowing I’ll be sick for several hours afterwards. My mom recently gave me her small green recipe box with the tarts and other menus. Things I’ve never made. I thought I would try to make mince tarts and take them up to my mom. Food can be a bridge also, something that is shared. My neighbors, who are wonderful, said let’s get together outside to share dessert and cider for anyone who can’t be with their families. Food can be comforting but also nurturing. It holds many roles.

  • Thank you for allowing me to walk out on this diving board and talk about something that is such a hot topic that I am working to embrace. Thank you for your trust. Thank you for your time and sharing your space. I am inspired in my silence by knowing you are practicing silence as well.


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