(This appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of NAKED FOOD Magazine. Enjoy)
I see clients for awareness work, for stress reduction, for mindfulness. One man called me to help him with what he called “the butter cream thing.” He kept gaining weight. He couldn’t get himself to go to the gym “as fat as I am.” He couldn’t stop eating canned lemon frosting. Unusual for a man of 54, it was his secret. He had told no one. He suffered in silence. Yet we know he was not alone in this world of proliferating junk food. (1)
We didn’t start with his reasons for this compulsion. The “why” would come later. I wanted to have him experience this fake food deeply first, with all his senses, to slow down while taking bites, to see what insights might arise. I had a feeling he didn’t eat out of a can with any kind of soulfulness and I wanted to find out. “Let’s get to the source,” I say to everyone. To him I added, “Bring some in. Let’s see what’s in it. Awareness is the first step to change, (2) so let’s look at what you’re consuming.”
He left saying, “I think it’s all about the lemon, sugar and the butter. You know about addictions to that stuff, right?” (3)
The next week he brought in a can. A picture of a yummy-looking yellow spread graced the outside. I said, “Let’s track the source of this food, follow it back to the earth, the nourishment of the sun, the rain and soil, all of which help our food grow.(4) Let’s see if we can see the elements in this.”
These were the ingredients:
Sugar, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oil, Water, Wheat Starch, High Maltose Corn Syrup, Contain 1% or Less of Salt, Distilled Monoglycerides, Colored with Artificial Color, Yellows 5 & 6, Polysorbate 60, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Citric Acid, Freshness Preserved by Potassium Sorbate
Sugars, trans fats, and lots of hard to pronounce compounds. No lemon. No food at all, nothing grown from the ground. No elements.
He said, “Wow. The source is a chemistry lab. What am I eating?”
“Do you want to taste some?”
“With my fingers as I usually do?”
“How about we go really slowly. First look at it. Smell it. Touch it. Get intimate with what you ingest. See what your senses have to say.”
He did. Then he said, “”EW! It’s so greasy. I don’t even like it. Why do I eat this crap. What’s wrong with me?”
“Nothing’s wrong with you,” I told him. “Let’s consider what might be addictive about this substance. ”
In that ah-ha moment, his work began. One answer seemed clear. Eat leaves, roots, fruits, tubers. But before he could let go of the old, he had some serious “sourcing” to do. What was the source of his drive? Was it only food addiction? What was the source of his human tendency to work against what Taoists call the natural order of things? What were the sources of his not being able to live in alignment with Nature, with the Tao? What were his obstacles?
Eventually he got to the “why.” Late night boredom after his divorce. Loneliness. Fear of being alone. Anger at his ex-wife. All Emotions that were “no fun,” he said, that he’d rather not feel. This particular client started with his awakening to the chemical factory he was consuming. Of course, awareness of ingredient sources does not alone heal dis-ordered eating. But returning again and again to Source is never a wrong first step.
- Kessler, David. The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite. (2010) Rodale
- Prochaska, J.O and Prochaska, J.M. Changing to Thrive. 2016 Hazeldon
- Moss, Michael, Fat, Sugar, Salt. 2014. Putnam
- Bhagavad Gita, 3:4. “From food come forth beings; from rain food is produced