I collect 78rpm records, specifically Yiddish and Hawaiian records, but part of that work is reviewing general auction lists, and I take great delight in some of the song titles I encounter there from the 1920's-1940's. Today my attention was caught by "I'm On a Diet of Love," a fox trot recorded by George Olson in 1929.
Let me begin my musings with a disclaimer. Green Mountain at Fox Run teaches a non-diet approach to weight management. By discussing this song title, I am NOT advocating any sort of "diet" -- heaven forfend. I have NOT gone back over to the dark side!
In fact, this song uses "diet" in its original sense of "habitual nourishment" and includes lines such as, "Breakfast kisses by the bunch, sweet as raisins for your lunch." This is certainly not about deprivation; in fact, it is about the very opposite of emotional eating. (Though the song does play on the other definition of diet. The next line is "One thing that makes it great, you can eat more than your share, it won't affect your weight.")
Much has been written on all the reasons people eat that aren't physical hunger: to stuff down feelings, to comfort, to fill an emotional or spiritual emptiness, to feel in control, to reward oneself for a job well done, to console oneself for an opportunity lost, etc. etc. I've experienced them all, at various times in my life. I think that a lot of my life-long difficulties with weight management were the result, first, of seeing my mother use food in all the ways I just listed and second, of using food to stuff down my grief after she died when I was 13 and not allowed, encouraged or helped to mourn her. It took a round of therapy to get past that one. Later, I also stuffed down feelings of anger and betrayal after being disowned by my father and stepmother. I was finally able to exorcise that demon during one of my visits to Green Mountain. I've used food as a buffer against the shame and hurt of rejection, the frustration of dealing with the fallout from having a partner with undiagnosed attention-deficit disorder, and countless slings and arrows that have flown my way during the course of living a fairly interesting life. I've been working hard to deal with all of those issues in ways that don't involve eating when I'm not hungry, with some considerable success.
Yet here I am, grappling on a daily basis with strong compulsions to put food in my mouth when I don't need it for energy.
My life is full and fortunate; I am much loved and appreciated by my wife, my family, my friends and my colleagues, and I have a list of passions that I am able to pursue with much greater ease than most of the people I know. Probing into the nooks and crannies of my mind, heart and spirit, I find no hidden voids, no cluttered closets needing attention. So what exactly is going on?
I've been thinking about this question and meditating on it and discussing it in counseling sessions for a few weeks now, and I think the problem is that I need to be on a diet of love, or at least of connection. My tendency, when things aren't going so well, is to turn inward, go back into my shell, circle the wagons, and every other metaphor that paints a picture of willful isolation. And that isolation feeds on itself; the more cut off I am, the worse I feel and the less likely to reach out to connect with a warm hand that can help pull me out of the hole I've dug for myself. Recognizing that tendency in myself was one of the reasons I decided to start this blog. It means more to me than I can express to know that people from all the corners of my life are reading my words, responding to my feelings and experiences and reaching back to me with love.
To change metaphors: Yesterday, Carol and I went to Auntie Marjie Spenser's Advanced Ukulele Class at www.tutushouse.org in Waimea, as we usually do on Tuesday morning, and Auntie Marjie began by telling us that, to put it simply, she loves and needs her students. "I think of you, I see your faces, and each one of you is a rose in my heart," she said. "I love to spend time in that garden."
Personally, I prefer the tiare (Tahitian gardenia) to the rose. You are all tiare in my heart, and I need to spend time in that garden.