A month ago I was in the midst of an epic trip to India. If you didn’t see pictures, head over to instagram and take a gander. It was so fun, just new adventures every day, beautiful weather, so much sun, and a long time away from the normal routine.
I went with a group, which is unusual for me. A yoga friend of mine organized the trip and made it a tour of her home state of Kerala, India, with a few days in an ashram as well. If you want to go to India, you should definitely check this trip out. (And she says that if I ever want to lead a trip there she’ll help me plan it. What do you think, guys? #India2017?)
But the interesting thing about traveling with 17 other people is that you really get some quality people watching in. And I particularly noticed how everyone related to food.
I am not exaggerating when I tell you that at every meal someone commented on how they were worried about gaining weight, someone else commented on too many food options (most meals were buffet style), and someone did some metabolism mathematics to determine if they’d earned what they were about to eat.
It frustrated me, to be honest. These types of thoughts truly don’t have a place in my mind anymore. I don’t show up to food wondering if I’ve earned it, or afraid of what it’s going to do to me, afraid of the weight I may gain from eating, or how much pleasure is too much. It bothered me to have my delicious meals interrupted by these toxic narratives.
But it also showed me how I think about food and travel and new experiences. I tell people all the time that when you come to eating psychology, it’s not really about food. And it probably never was. Food is just the doorway.
What’s more, these questions didn’t show up because the answer would fix you. It’s not like you’re a 500 piece puzzle with one piece missing, and once you figure out food you’ll live happily ever after. These questions, and your exploration of them, are here to change you and help you evolve.
Remind yourself that the underworld journey was not supposed to fix the life you were living beforehand. It’s actually designed to disrupt that life, to ruin it.
– Bill Plotkin, Soulcraft
Life demands a certain willingness to live, a willingness to let life happen without trying to control it into a specific existence. I think travel is a really interesting playground for some of that to come through, because you’re in new situations, you’re experiencing new places, new cultures, different people, new routines, dealing with the unpredictable. Some of it just requires surrender. It requires a “resistanceless suffering,” as one book phrased it.
So when I was listening to all these people complain about food or their weight or too much pleasure or feeling guilty, it showed me my stuff about how I view travel, but I think it also showed me all my pain and regret for all the years I spent not letting life happen to me because I was too afraid of being changed. I spent a long time not eating out because I had a safe zone at home, or not going out because I was self-conscious.
I remember one trip to Germany where I’d weigh myself every day, and I thought that to convert kilograms to pounds I just had to multiply by 2. (That’s not the case, you need to multiply by 2.2.) I thought I weighed 20% less than I actually did, and I had no mirrors in the house to corroborate that idea, so I was happy and kept eating ice cream, and then crashed back to earth when I got home. If I’d had an accurate conversion factor on that trip my experience would have been very different.
I’ve been thinking of this experience since I got back, actually. I can’t get it out of my head, the amount of energy and time and attention we spend trying to make sure life doesn’t change us into someone we don’t want to be (or someone we don’t want to look like).
This is not a paradigm we set down easily. It’s easier in many ways to believe the buck stops with us and us alone, for better or worse. At least we retain some power and control that way.
All the same, I invite you to mull this one over today. Maybe notice how you talk about food when you’re eating out, or eating pleasurable food. The next time you look in the mirror and wonder if you’re gaining weight, see if you can investigate that thought a little bit and find the emotions around it. See if you can find little pockets of your life where you could explore the idea that the point isn’t to get fixed, it’s the change completely.
This is one idea that we explore in more detail in the Beyond Emotional Eating online course, which starts in May! Join us!