Maintaining a healthy body, particularly as we age, is often talked about in terms of the practical and the ‘should’. We should exercise more. We should eat better. We should indulge less. Then, we will be healthier. It’s that simple, right?
This can result in the never-ending quest for good health becoming mechanical, impersonal and potentially unsuccessful as we try to ‘fix’ ourselves. While sound education and healthy habits are undoubtedly important, author Geneen Roth offers a different perspective – what lies at the heart of true health and happiness is, in fact, liberation, rather confinement to a set of rules.
Geneen’s focus is on food. Acutely in tune with eating disorders and mental health concerns on a personal level, Geneen urges all women to take a step back and reclaim their own power and truly understand why they eat the way they do.
“You express your core beliefs in everything you do, and eating is not different. How you eat is how you live,” she explained.
“For example, if you feel you can never get enough through your relationships, how that is expressed through food is by taking more than your body needs or eating quickly and feeling like there isn’t going to be enough for you. If you believe you are not allowed to have true joy or pleasure in your life, you may not focus on the food that is in your mouth, but instead focus on the next bite and the next.”
Geneen has written over ten books that link eating disorders on varied levels with deep personal and spiritual issues. Through her work, she has helped thousands of clients understand old beliefs that shape their eating habits and allowed them to confidently move beyond the voices in their head and once again enjoy life. For Geneen’s clients and readers, understanding how these old beliefs impact food choices has become the key to liberation from the need to ‘fix’ themselves (or as Geneen dubbed her own struggle, her ‘Me Project’). Food is the doorway to what is really going on.
Her latest book, This Messy, Magnificent Life, opens up about the everyday challenges that people face but seldom talk about; the ordinary moments that make up a life but that we often get lost in or overwhelmed by. How these challenges are tackled, can either promote a positive relationship with food, or sabotage our efforts to maintain a healthy body.
“It’s about living with and through the everyday challenges that people hardly ever talk about, such as what it’s like to wake up in the middle of the night with your mind going a little nutty, to hear the voice of self-criticism that most of us deal with every day, and the fact that we don’t really inhabit our bodies but we live in our minds. You need to know what it’s like to actually live in your body.”
Learning to live in your body, rather than in your head, is built firstly around acceptance. If you can acknowledge and look more objectively at the issues affecting your daily life, you are in a better place to make gentle, appropriate changes rather than forcing some new diet or exercise regime. For example, as you age, ask yourself what it is like to watch your body change and how you are reacting to that. Are you sad and longing for youth? Or, are you proud of your body and what it has achieved?
“It’s about not fighting what’s happening in your life, but instead using what’s happening. I will sometimes say to women, if this very thing that’s going on was an answer to your prayers, how would your thoughts change? So, essentially, it’s just turning it on it’s head and rethinking your reaction,” she said.
To become more in tune with your body, Geneen recommends taking time each day in quiet contemplation.
“I recommend people have short morning and evening practices where they pay attention to the way their minds are galloping along and learn to harness that attention in ways that serve them rather than ways that diminish them. If it hurts – it doesn’t serve you. If you are feeling diminished, small, collapsed, it doesn’t serve you, let it go.”
She also advises each of us to take regularly take a moment during the day to note what’s not wrong. We so often focus on what is wrong and how to change it, rather than appreciating what is right in our world.
“Ask yourself many times in the day ‘what’s not wrong’ so that you learn to switch where you pay attention. Our brains are wired to pay attention to what is wrong, but instead begin seeing what isn’t wrong.
Do this five times a day for 12 seconds each time, particularly at night when you are going to sleep and first thing in the morning.”
“Disengage from what I can ‘the crazy aunt in the attic’ which is the critical voice you have in your head. Understand that this is not your friend.”
By letting go of these old habits and thoughts that only impart negativity and control in your life, health and wellness can follow in a more balanced and free way. Be at home in your mind and body, relinquish your own ‘Me Project’ – you don’t need to ‘fix’ yourself.