Enough

I work with peo­ple who are chang­ing their rela­tion­ship to food. Mostly they are obese and don’t want to be. Most have had surgery under my hand to give them a tool to help them relearn two sen­sa­tions that their bod­ies have lit­er­ally for­got­ten. The two sen­sa­tions are full and hun­gry. Because of the dis­ease process of obe­sity, the body lit­er­ally expe­ri­ences hungry/full in a faulty way, much like some­one with dia­betes expe­ri­ences sugar in a faulty way. Mak­ing the stom­ach in to a small pouch changes the expe­ri­ence of hun­gry (reduces hunger dra­mat­i­cally) and full (increases sati­ety). The effects are dra­matic most of the time.

What does not change is the emo­tional com­po­nent of the rela­tion­ship to food. If food has become the person’s expe­ri­ence of love or con­nec­tion, that does not mirac­u­lously change. When I say some­thing like this to a room full of physi­cians, some of them do what I imag­ine you are doing (only they lit­er­ally do it right in front of me); they shake their heads. These physi­cians believe that the prob­lem of obe­sity is eat­ing, and they are wrong. The endgame is eat­ing, like the endgame of alco­holism is drink­ing, but the prob­lem is one of empti­ness. My patients are not hun­gry. They are empty, like we all are empty. They fill up with food the same way an alco­holic slakes his thirst with a drink: not at all.

If a child is abused (over half of mor­bidly obese peo­ple were sex­u­ally abused as kids) and finds warmth when it’s cold from food, that mes­sage gets deeply imprinted. Relearn­ing hunger then also means under­stand­ing that what the body needs and wants from food is not what the heart will ever get from food. Love is not there, in the end. The truth is that love hap­pens within a per­son, and it is for that per­son and it is received and given between peo­ple (ok, and dogs). When the part of us that needs love and con­nec­tion gets filled with the right stuff, even small amounts of food are enough. This is what my coura­geous patients are learn­ing every day. As cool as it is to see a per­son lose a hun­dred pounds and watch the dia­betes go into remis­sion, the high blood pres­sure nor­mal­ize, and to see them walk in a 5K for the first time, it is even bet­ter to watch them do this deeper work and find the real gold: themselves.

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2 Responses to Enough

  1. JonniJonni Neal says:

    This is so true…thank you Stephen, you are help­ing me see the light at the end of the tun­nel. It is a dark and scary jour­ney and I’m glad that you are will­ing to help lead me and oth­ers on this path.

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