In a trance-like state I went to the refrigerator and quickly took out one raw ravioli and ate it. Then I walked away, shame-filled, only to be back for another less than a minute later. I did this until every one of them was eaten.
That’s how I spent one Thanksgiving some years ago.
That year I wasn’t making the trek to be with family and no local invitations had materialized.
While I was lonely and sad to be spending the day solo, I had intended to make a special meal of fresh butternut squash ravioli with browned butter.
The meal never came to be because leading up to it I was overtaken with shame about my out of control relationship with food, guilt for planning a “carb and fat-laden” meal, and intense feelings of sadness I didn’t know how to experience.
So I mindlessly ate cold raw ravioli until they were gone and my belly ached and I crawled into bed to watch something on television that would take me as far away from my reality as possible.
When I think about what’s changed in my life that makes that night feel like such a distant memory and such an impossibility today it boils down to peace.
And peace isn’t something I declared in one broad sweeping moment from which I never looked back.
Peace was something I had to declare moment by moment. Urge by urge. Frightful thought to frightful thought. Peace became my practice and like any practice there was no expectation that I perform flawlessly right out of the gate.
To this day calling for a truce is one of my favorite disarmament tools.
Here’s how it might go:
Recognize that you’re in opposition, afraid, or feeling threatened. You might be feeling opposed to your feelings, to your thighs, to your dinner plate, or to your scale. Make a point to learn the symptoms of being at war. Notice what it feels like so you can recognize it better next time.
Name your experience. “I’m feeling at war” or “I’m feeling like I’m on the opposing team playing against ______.”
Breathe. Feel the sensation of your breath entering and exiting your lungs.
Pause. Even if for one minute, decide to stay put with your experience. Don’t get up. Don’t distract yourself. Stay. If you can only do ten seconds, then start with ten seconds.
Inquire. Be curious. Ask with sincerity:
Sweetheart, how are you? What’s hurting?
How does the tug-of-war feel?
What are you resisting?
Where did you learn that [what you’re fighting] is something to fear/resist?
What would/could it look like to call a truce?
What if you’re actually on the same team at what you’re fighting?
What if, just in this moment right now, you put down the weapon and proceed from here gently, holding your own hand?
Can you, just for now, choose peace over everything else?
Another helpful addition to this practice, one that came in handy in interrupting my lightening fast dash to the kitchen, was designating a special chair as a my remembering chair. In my living room I have a big, oatmeal-colored linen wingback chair that I love and I used it as a sacred place to pause and remember myself. Many times I would only pause there for a moment before I would get pulled gravitationally toward food, but over time those moments got longer, the choices more plentiful, and my own ceasefire grew deeper roots.
I don’t know if I’d have been able to stop myself from eating all the ravioli in their cold, raw state had I asked these questions or sat in that chair. I don’t know if I would have made it to the table with a hot, lovingly prepared meal that night had I just hit the pause button.
I do know however that I practiced this for years after that Thanksgiving and over time it worked. It allowed me to slow things down enough to have a choice in what was happening. This practice allowed me to slow myself down enough to see that what I thought was the enemy (myself, my body, food) was actually an ally. This practice allowed me to see that there was nothing to fear in the present reality of my experience.
Pausing for peace is a favorite practice and when paired with self-compassion I’ve seen it move mountains.