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Geneen Roth

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Eating Disorder Awareness Week: The Answer To Everything Is On Your Plate

Posted: 02/26/10 08:42 AM ET

Since this is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I wanted to say something about the connection between eating disorders and spirituality.

Those of us who are utterly focused on food and weight never consider that we are ignoring the most obvious solution. We tell ourselves that the answer is Out There and our job is to keep looking, to never give up until we find the right solution. One month it's about white foods. The next it's about brain chemistry, finding the right drug, the fat gene, LAPBAND surgery, alkaline and acid-forming foods . Or it's about being addicted to sugar and eating for our blood type.

Although attending to one or some of these issues might indeed ease our struggle, we use the hunt for answers to abdicate personal responsibility--and with it, any semblance of power -- for our relationship with food. Underlying each frenzied bout of passionate involvement in the newest solution is the same lack of interest in acknowledging our own part. The same conviction that "I don't have the power to do anything about this problem." We want to be done, we want to be fixed. But since the answer is not where we are looking, our efforts are doomed to fail.

Freedom from obsession is not about something you do; it's about knowing who you are. It's about recognizing what sustains you and what exhausts you. What you love and what you think you love because you believe you can't have it.

During the first few months after I stopped dieting some 30 years ago, any food or way of eating (in the car, standing up, sneaking) that spaced me out, drained my energy, made me feel terrible about myself, soon lost its appeal. It quickly became apparent that eating was always about only one thing: nourishing the body. And this body wanted to live. This body loved being alive. Loved moving from place to place. Loved being able to see, hear, touch, smell, taste--and food was a big part of how I could do that. It became apparent that the way I ate was another way to soar.

You can sneak food, for instance, hide what you eat from friends and family, but you can also sneak your true feelings. You can lie to people about what you believe, what you want, what you need. And you can examine your life by either looking at the way you live or the way you eat. Both are paths to what is underneath and beyond the eating: to that in you that has never gotten hungry, never binged, never gained or lost a pound.