Do you eat when something is troubling you? Why is it that most of us would have difficulty admitting that? Somewhere along the road we managed to add guilt to the basic need of eating. To eat food for comfort is for many of us equalled to eating junk food, to not being in control of our lives, to suffocate our real longings with unhealthy cravings. On the other hand comfort is good and food is necessary, so what if we could enjoy the fact that life’s necessities could be a comfort? Are we perhaps not taking the time to understand what really comforts us?
The woman in my office that fall morning was crying. This was her third visit. I knew her story, out of work, old, almost out of hope. She had told me of her usual tools to get back on track. She would go for long walks and she would sort her priorities. She would go to bed early and she had talked to all her friends. Still her tangles was worse, she did not see how to go on. As I looked closer on her, I saw that she was trembling. Did you drive her, I asked. No I am too tired to drive, she said. I suggested we stopped looking for solutions for a while, perhaps we had jumped into the surgery without doing the first aid, what could we do now, just to give her strength?
I poured her a cup of tea and pushed the tray of biscuits over. She did not touch them.
“Do you eat?” I asked.”How could I,” she retorted,” if I got fat nobody would hire me! ”
As she was neither fat nor thin, this was a field that I had not thought would be essential to tackle. I realized I had been wrong. Until she was able to love, accept and cherish herself, her tangle would be a mess even when she got a new job. I am not an expert on eating disorders, but as our psychiatrist was out-of-town, I wanted to give her just a small tool, to tidy her over until she could have another appointment.
“Let us forget about your troubles, just for a moment, while you are having your tea,” I continued. “If your best friend came to you and was exhausted, what would you do?”
“I would let her sit with her feet up, give her a blanket and go make a bowl of creamy soup,” she did not have to think long about her answer. “My grandmother used to do that, she always made food that was healthy and good tasting, we all felt that she loved us through that food. But then she died and my mother never did that to me” she said. We talked for a while on how it was to miss her grandmother. We talked even more on how she missed a mother that never mothered her.
“So who is the grown up in your life now,” I wondered.
She just sighed, “it is just me I guess.”
We were silent together as she was realizing that she was responsible for her own comfort.
“How should I do that,” she mumbled. She already knew the truth, and together we put it into words, as an exercise for the next week.
“This week I will be my own best friend and serve myself comforting and nourishing food” she decided.
She left me and is now in therapy. I met her on the street the other day though, looking healthier and happier than I ever saw her before. ” I think I could be the best-of-friends and the best mother there is,” she told me and smiled.