Talking with and hearing other inquisitive, seeking women on the path to body and food health and sanity is quite the gift.
For the last few months, I’ve been privileged to attend a Women & Food Group organized by my friend Jill (over at Sober Truths: The Making of an Honest Woman). We meet monthly at meetings that last 1 ¼ hours (though the more loquacious types like me could easily go on for twice that time). Today we had September’s meeting.
Usually there are 4-6 of us. I’m in a writing group with two of the women, knew another many years ago, and was brand-new to two others. We talk about food and food challenges, but each of is on a different food and eating paths. We are all different sizes and weights, and within 10-15 years in age.
The meeting mechanics are simple: we say our hellos, then settle down (and in). Jill rings the chime, and says a short centering invocation (today’s including thoughts for those who did not have enough to eat, and for those who eat too much). Next, we each check in, review progress on the intention(s) we set the previous month. For example, I set four intentions last month, including getting Martha Beck’sThe Four-Day Win: End Your Diet War and Achieve Thinner Peace, and writing a list of 50 pleasures.
I did write the list (on the bus to the meeting!), but didn’t do the others. There’s no shaming about what we do or don’t, whether we add intentions, change our minds, or anything else. Usually there’s no commenting on someone else’s check-in or intentions. If there is, it’s usually of the general variety.
We then have a general discussion (most of the women are reading and doing the exercise in Beck’s book, so that’s a common topic), and close with setting the intentions for the next month.
The group provides several benefits to me. One is that I get to hear myself outside of my head, talk about where I am with my body and food. Today, for example, Shannon talked about how she eats better—prepares better food, eats more regularly, and more appropriate portions—when people are staying in her home. We all had similar experiences, and discussed why we don’t give the same care and attention to good food for ourselves when we are alone.
I talked of a different difficulty: taking care of myself when eating with others. I’d previously mentioned how I over-ate “good” food at a Chinese restaurant (even though I’d planned to take half the food home). Today I talked about making dinner (tofu curry) recently for my friend Michelle. I didn’t make anything for myself (significant as I am not now eating soy), and ate the curry (which was good). It caused a bit of “gastric distress.” I also have been measuring my food and logging the info, and I didn’t do either one that night.
I was aware of all that before the meeting. What I didn’t recognize until the meeting, however, was that I haven’t measured or recorded any of my food since that meal (the last three days), and have been snacking a lot on nuts (especially cashews).
In the telling, I got to see the string—what followed that experience of not taking care of myself. I didn’t have to get into or create a story of the why. The meeting gave me the opportunity to be again awake about my food consumption. I started measuring and recording my food after tonight’s dinner.
Having others bear witness to my changes is another gift of being public with the same women about food. Lily mentioned she is getting a new, smaller refrigerator (to replace the 30-year-old one that is now “talking” at night), and how she’s now comfortable with seeing less food in it—and her pantry—after years of having them both well-stocked with food (and being fearful at the prospect of them not being so).
I mentioned it was easier now for me to look in the fridge and not be anxious at the smaller amounts of food inside. Jill reminded me what a change that was for me. True that. A few months ago, I would never have imagined being able to look into a near-empty refrigerator with anything but anxiety and a sense of loss.
A big gift, of course, is learning from each other. I usually jot notes down at each meeting—nothing extensive, usually phrases or ideas that resonate for me or are ideas I want to explore. Today, for example:
- It is OK to be small
- Doing a 4th step inventory on my body (Stephanie Covington, A Woman's Way Through the 12 Steps)—inventorying beliefs, behaviors, attitudes
- Changing eating is not about food, but being happy and satisfied in our lives
- Pathways to reducing attachment disorder
We also share resources. Today Jill loaned me her copy of David Kessler’s The End of Overeating:Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite. When I finish, Pam will get it, and then Shannon. In between meetings, we sometimes email one another with links to resources.
I don’t prepare much before the meetings, and now see that I can both make better use of them and learn more about myself if I do. For example, both Jill and Lily generally come to each meeting with observations about themselves they’ve made over the month. In contrast, I fly in there with ideas I’ve gathered on the bus ride over. As I want to be even more conscious (more awake) about eating and myself, I’m putting weekly check-in appointments (just 7 minutes) on my calendar. I’ll see how that goes.
Jill invited me into this Women & Food Group, but the model is a simple one that any group of women (or men) could easily adopt (and adapt). I would encourage anyone getting conscious about food to consider participating in or starting one.