I have worshipped at many altars over the last 20 years, at least…..food, bulimia, disordered eating, excessive exercise, starvation, strict paleo, strict vegan, atkins, juicing, organic, fat-free….I’ve done it all. Funny thing is, none of these altars “saved” me from my struggle with myself. I thought if I ate the right foods, that I would be skinny, happy, have more money, be more popular, get a better job, etc. Not surprisingly, none of these things happened. Sure, I got “skinny” and maybe felt a little happier, if only temporarily, with my accomplishment, but it wasn’t real happiness. The thing that I really wanted, acceptance, can’t be solved with the latest diet, with being thinner, or eating the correct combination of foods. Depression, at least at this level, cannot be alleviated with the right vitamins or foods…it can’t. I hear it all too often. Take this or that to help with this or that. I’ve done it all. It’s not the answer, at least in my experience with myself and patients. And, ultimately, it just further depresses those with depression or those that are looking for the answers in these altars of chaos. Because, when the right combination of foods and vitamins don’t work to make us happy, we feel even more unfixable. Broken. Worthless.
The third lesson in “A Course in Weight Loss” asks us to build a new altar. Suggestions were made to build an altar in your home. A place for meditation. A place that reminds you of love, of beauty, of peace, of surrender. We are asked to build a physical space, but I am tired of physical alters, and I can’t easily take this new altar with books, candles, flowers, music with me everywhere I go. So, after much thought, I decided on something that was more than physical and more mobile….myself. Yes, I am part physical, but I am also a being with feelings and emotions that is beyond the physical. My altar is within me…whether you call it love, self, God, or the hundred other names. It is with me even if I don’t call upon it, it is there. Even in chaos, sadness, joy, disappointment, or peace, it is still there, I am still there.
So, now that my altar is built, I need to use it. I have decided to take a moment, as little as 30 seconds, before eating to focus on centering, peace, and calm. To focus on acceptance of who I am and how I am feeling for the moment, recognize frustration or disappointment, and let it go. To ensure that I am choosing foods because that is what sounds appetizing, and not because I am feeding an emotion. To realize that I am not what I eat, it does not define me, whether its an avocado or a cupcake, it does not make me good or bad. I am more than the food I eat. I come to my altar so that I may eat with mindfulness, savoring each bite and flavor, stopping when I am satisfied, and knowing that I can eat again when I am hungry. My altar goes with me. It is beautiful. It is light. It is love. It is me.