You Are a Hero!
Have you made a decision to eat better? To transform dietary patterns that hurt your body and the earth and torture and kill animals? To take on a lifestyle that promotes vitality for you, a sustainable human presence on the planet, compassion toward non-human animals, and the cause of everyone everywhere being able to be nourished? If so, my friend, you are embarking on a journey of transformation and you are a hero! What you are doing is so counter-cultural that you will need great information, effective tools, lots of support, community, and the fortitude to sustain your new lifestyle for the long haul.
Like the heroes of every hero’s journey story ever shared through oral tradition or written down, you are venturing forth in the cause of bringing forth a new way of being for yourself that will also benefit the community. And like those heroes, you will face challenges along the way. In many of the old tales, the challenges showed up in the form of fierce and terrifying dragons, blocking the way, breathing fire, and threatening to tear the hero to pieces! And in many of those tales, in order to reach the Holy Grail or whatever great treasure was sought, the hero needed to slay the dragon.
A Kinder Approach
In our metaphysical revision of this journey, we recognize that there is another approach. As people committed to adopting a lifestyle that is kinder and gentler to the human body, the earth, and all lifekind, we don’t want to kill anything! Yet, in order to be successful on our journeys, we must find effective strategies for facing the “dragons” that appear in whatever form they take, and engaging with them in a way that results in victory for ourselves and our cause of a better world.
There are many ways that dragons manifest in our path in any transformational process. Some of these dragons are internal. Such dragons as trepidation, inclination, gratification, and adaptation arise from within our own consciousness and emotional selves. It is true that they may have formed through external messages we have heard throughout our lives. Indeed the external dragons of indoctrination and enculturation prey on these internal dragons, further reinforcing their grip on our psyches. Then there are the mega-dragons of manipulation, exploitation, and addiction, which have succeeded in blocking many a hero’s path, but not yours! Regardless of the addictive concoctions that the food industry creates to hook you, regardless of the subtle and not so subtle methods of Big Ag, Big Pharma, Big Medicine, and their friends in government use to confuse you about nutrition and to lure you into hurting your body and all life, you cannot be swayed from your commitment. You are a hero!
One of the common dragons
that many Heroes face on their journey to the great jewel of Vibrant Health is Temptation. In an un-evolved way of conceptualizing the Heroes Journey Story, we might have imagined the Hero slaying Temptation or at least taming it or bringing it under control through will-power. The problem with attempting to kill, tame, or control temptation is that there is a missed opportunity to learn and go deeper. We may succeed in temporarily bringing our temptations into compliance, but the deeper need that the temptations were bringing forward is not necessarily addressed. That is a set up for falling off the wagon, substitute addictions, splitting off parts of ourselves, and other adaptive actions that can undermine our progress.
The solution is to transform our temptations,
rather than attempting to control them. Transformation is an alchemical process in which everything is used. It honors the Divine impulse that is driving the behavior, and is integrating rather than separating.
Another way people often attempt to deal with temptations is through resistance. Because of the Universal principle “what you resist persists,” it is likely that attempts to resist what tempts you will only make it more compelling to indulge. It is important to focus on what you do want, rather than what you don’t want.
The Six Powers to Transform Temptations and Halt Addictive Eating are all techniques that we can learn and practice over time, building our capacity, while simultaneously healing the underlying issues that are driving the compulsions and addictive eating.
1. The Self-Love Power:
Problem: Unfortunately, we often attempt to create change by taking a punitive effort towards our slips. We may beat ourselves up for giving in to a temptation, and perhaps even go into a shame spiral. If we take this approach, it increases the likelihood that we will want to anesthetize the pain of self-hatred or disappointment, and may turn to food for this purpose.
Solution: The Self-Love Power counters the unconscious cycle of eating, feeling bad, and eating some more. It also gives us time to consider other possibilities. You invoke the power when faced by a temptation by affirming that you will love yourself no matter what, whether you eat a little, a lot, or none at all. Your love for yourself is not dependent on your action in responding to the temptation.
One mistake is to do it by rote. Really feel into the love. One secret is to listen for the voice of the part who doesn’t agree that “I’m gonna love myself no matter what.” Get curious about what wisdom that part is bringing forth, what Divine impulse is guiding it. Make a space of compassion for that part to fully reveal and be heard.
2. The “So What?” Power:
Problem: The things that tempt us project the appearance of desirable qualities, even things we need, such as fulfillment, enjoyment, safety, comfort, protection, etc. In truth, the object of our temptation is a mere projection and will never give us what we really want and need in a sustainable way. Looking for fulfillment in a pint of ice cream is like looking in the art supply store for organic food; it just isn’t going to be there.
Solution: The solution is two-fold. The first part is to recognize the projection. Say to the tempting thing: “You are a projection – so what? You don’t have what I need and you have no power over me.” Then, get curious about the underlying need. Invite the part that is feeling needy to share, and listen with compassion to the wisdom it is bringing. Figure out healthy alternatives to meet the true need that is being expressed.
This power is courtesy of New Thought pioneer Joel Goldsmith. Goldsmith writes a metaphor for how our projections function like a white poodle that a hypnotized man has been induced to believe is on the stage playing with him. In truth, there is no white poodle, only the illusion of one, but the man’s acts as though there is actually a poodle, because he is under a spell. Break the spell that unhealthy foods have what you need and they will no longer have power over you!
3. The Aversion Power:
Problem: Our unexamined temptations seduce us to do things that harm ourselves, others, the earth, and all living things.
Solution: Once the projection has been exposed as a projection by the “So What” Power, we can Get Real about the cost of indulging in the tempting food. We can then Get Info about how these foods are produced and marketed. We begin to see the foods more honestly. No longer is the chocolate ice cream my secret lover or my savior. Rather, it revealed as a concoction created for profit, often through exploitation and greed. When seen as the product of enslavement, kidnapping, and greed, the ice cream no longer tastes as sweet.
One secret to getting the most out of the Aversion Power is to use the alchemy of Education to learn about how your most tempting unhealthy foods are produced. What you discover may shock you. It is important to bring a lot of compassion and self-love to this process so that you don’t overwhelm yourself.
4. The “In the Presence of My Mentor” Power:
Problem: Through the mechanisms of denial and magical thinking, we sometimes talk ourselves into thinking that we can get away with things. The Universal law of karma is absolute however. For every action there is a reaction. We don’t truly get away with anything. What actually happens when we do fool ourselves into thinking we can do things that do not align with our values is that we experience a lack of integrity within ourselves that can undermine our feeling of self-worth. That can start the shame spiral mentioned earlier.
Solution: One way to more consistently engage in behaviors that align with our values is to conjure up the image of a compassionate mentor we admire when we experience temptations. Having our mentor “in the room” with us mentally may give us insights and inspiration to make a choice that aligns with our values.
5. The Not-Food Power:
Problem: As Michael Pollan points out in his book In Defense of Food, much of what passes for food today would not be recognizable as such to our great grandmothers. Chemical flavorings and other additives, preservatives, dough conditioners, food colorings, etc., are indeed not food, but substances you might find in a chemistry kit! We have been duped into thinking that junk food, animal flesh and secretions, and highly refined and modified food-like objects are food, but they are not. It’s like when we were children and we mixed together dirt, water, leaves, and perhaps some parts of small insects and pretended to eat our concoction. It’s posing as food, but it’s not-food.
Solution: The solution is to rewire our mental associations that tell us that not-food is food. As we carve out new neural pathways by telling ourselves that the enticing object is indeed not-food, we will eventually see it as such and it will completely lose its appeal.
One secret to success in implementing the not-food power is to refrain from purchasing not-foods. If they are not around, you won’t feel tempted to eat them in a vulnerable moment.
6. The Work with Your Physiology Power:
Problem: Sometimes we attempt to make changes without taking our physiology into account. This is one of the reasons that calorie-restriction diets fail to provide sustainable weight loss. Restricting calories is an attempt to subdue our physiology, rather than working with it. We get hungry on purpose, and if we don’t appropriately respond to that hunger, we will continue to feel hungry and continue to experience an impulse to fill ourselves. Unfulfilled hunger is a set up for compulsive eating, so far too often, when we attempt to restrict calories we find ourselves indulging in just the foods we were hoping to avoid.
Solution: There are many ways to work with our physiology instead of either ignoring it or trying to subdue it. Dr. John McDougall encourages the consumption of starchy carbohydrates such as whole grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables such as winter squash, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. These foods fill us up so we feel satiated, but they carry a much smaller caloric load by weight and bulk than foods such as meat, dairy, and oils. Since we feel satiated, we are less likely to indulge in addictive eating.
Another example of working with our physiology applies to our relationship with addictive foods such as sugar, cheese, and other dairy products. It is much easier to avoid getting into an addictive pattern with these substances if we quit them completely than if we attempt to eat them in moderation. Finding alternative ways to stimulate our dopamine response is also helpful, for instance exercising, connecting with others, or listening to music.
Which are your dragons?
Enculturation, indoctrination, manipulation, exploitation, trepidation, gratification, inclination, adaptation, addiction, trepidation. Which dragon is yours, and how will you transform it?
 I use the word “hero” in a gender neutral fashion. Women, men, girls, boys, trans people, and anyone who falls anywhere on the gender spectrum can be a hero, and in fact, I would argue that we are all heroes in our own lives!