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5 Ways to End Your War with Food

4. Believe that you deserve happiness

I want people to see that overcoming their problem with food isn't just about willpower or thin thighs or a flat belly. It's not a banal problem that can be fixed like that. When people turn to food when they're not hungry, they're using food as a drug. And the question is: Why? It could be an expression of boredom or loneliness or sadness or anger. But to me, people who use food when they're not hungry, and don't stop when they've had enough, are indicating that they've given up on themselves. They're basically saying that the only pleasure or the biggest pleasure I have in my life — all that's left for me — is to eat. And that's a spiritual issue, as well as a psychological and emotional one. All of us are longing for something that we can't even name. You can call it the meaning of life, or wonder, or mystery, or you can call it God. But there's a longing for something many of us can't quite put into words. I want people to see how they are filling that longing with food — and that if they stop, they can rediscover themselves and realize that there are other, healthier ways to feel good and to really, truly live.

5. Eat when you are hungry

We're conditioned into the diet mentality of what we're supposed to be eating. So when I first tell people at my retreats that they should eat what they want, there can be an initial "Oh, wow, she's telling me I can eat everything in sight!" That's not what I'm saying. There's no way of skipping through that stage of feeling like you've suddenly been let out of prison and now you're going to eat brownies. But I know that when I first stopped dieting, I ate a couple weeks' worth of chocolate chip cookie dough, and I felt sick. That's what happens. You'll find very quickly that a diet of brownies and ice cream doesn't give you energy. It makes you sick and spaced out and depressed. Your body will gravitate away from sugar and fat, and you will reach your natural, healthy weight.

Once you're ready to try this, start ­slowly. Begin by saying, Okay, I'm going to eat when I'm hungry once a day, and I'm going to be very kind to myself. I often say to myself, What's the kindest thing you could do for yourself right now? It's not kind to stuff your body, to walk around with that discomfort. But it's important that people understand that what they really need to do is develop a way to treat themselves with utmost kindness. And food is, in many ways, the most obvious and the easiest place to start, because we all have to eat a couple times a day. So yes, start with food. Because if you say to yourself, I'm going to eat when I'm hungry today, once today, that means you'll have to ask yourself if you're hungry. And if you're not hungry and you want to eat, then you have to ask yourself, What's really going on? It's as if your relationship with food has a story to tell you. You need the information in the story, not just to stop being compulsive about food but also to live the life you want to live. And that's possible no matter how many times you've tried, no matter how many times you believe you've failed. As long as you're above ground, it's possible.

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