Hi! You may have heard me mention Eating Psychology, but you may not know why it is so important to me personally.
The story of transformation that I’m sharing today is my own. Eating Psychology is very personal, and I feel I can share in the deepest way about my own journey.
In 2012 I heard about the Institute for the Psychology of Eating when I was at the end of my rope. I literally fell to my knees in my apartment living room in Walnut Creek, CA., and I prayed (correction, begged), to a God I barely knew. I was asking for help. I was asking for a sign, anything to stop the constant, repetitive, empty monotony of my then desk job that felt way out of alignment. I thought I would be helping people in HR, but it really missed the mark. There had to be more, I thought. I had to be made for more! Was I really given the gift of this life to feel.. uninspired, to feel stifled? I wanted God to help me find and follow my calling because I wanted to feel enthusiastic — from the Greek word entheos — meaning God within, and not bored anymore. So, that night, I begged for it.
Eventually, I got up off my knees and started to write. If I could do anything in this world, what would it be? I wrote, I circled, I underlined, and I dismissed most of it and finally went to bed.
The very next morning I awoke to an email invitation to an Eating Psychology Certification program. Where did this even come from? I wondered. Regardless, it was a full-body yes.
I question a lot of things, but I don’t question the call! This was calling me.
IPE offered a business planning portion of the program, I wasn’t “ready” to take the leap in business, so I took the leap in my own personal healing. I dove right into the content, which totally lit me up, and I applied every single thing I learned to myself, as a Guinea pig. After years of studying, reading and listening to the audios, completing the quizzes, and reading assignments, I came to learn that the eating disorder I developed in high school and the disordered eating that continued after my collegiate athletic career ended, carried a message that was asking for deeper healing — and it was not that I was broken, or a failure, or just couldn’t figure out food.
As I started to turn inward and look for clues, trying everything I was learning, my inner self was now the one begging for more healing, love, and attention. That was also a full-body yes!
I dug in deeper…
Maybe my food issues were based on more than the social pressures I faced in high school, I thought. Maybe my dependencies on certain foods and my overeating were parts of me that were actually asking to be healed, instead of something I needed to hate about myself, or something I needed to hide and feel ashamed about.
I mean, WOW. Just considering those things opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me.
I continued down the path…
Why did I have this complicated relationship with food? What was that relationship supposed to be like? I wondered.
As I started to become more curious, I learned about the messages in my symptoms, “body wisdom” and “body image” in particular, as those are some of the biggest areas of focus in Eating Psychology. This was a game-changer, I thought!
As I explored more, my shame lessened. I was on a mission. The part of me that wanted to feel called, that wanted to feel alive, was definitely activated. I listened to the various case studies as well as to my fellow students, and I started to realize, maybe I wasn’t the only one struggling. I wasn’t alone, I thought.
A weight was lifted.
The beautiful thing about what I learned is that it covered both the nutrition side as well as the psychology and behavioral side. For me, both needed attention.
- My hunger levels were crazy because of my erratic eating patterns.
- I hadn’t ever heard of an “eating rhythm” before, and I certainly needed one.
- My poor blood sugar levels (and liver and pancreas) were all out of whack.
- My eating was a reflection of my inability to care for myself well and to understand my needs.
- A snack here, a pizza there, maybe just chips and salsa for lunch, coffees (of course), a block of cheese, ice cream, and then a coffee-fasted work out in the morning.. and I wondered why I was so tired. HA!
I actually look back on those times with a ton of self-compassion.
Once I “bonked” during a run from low blood sugar and physically fell off the trail. I tore most of the skin off my leg, and I still didn’t get the message – or the call for help – from my body.
I didn’t like to slow down, I was someone who just kept pushing. “Bandage it up and keep going,” I thought.
I didn’t understand how to have balance with food, and the nutrient balances I learned about almost immediately helped me start caring for myself properly with how much food to eat and what types. What a relief!
With my energy levels beginning to stabilize, I was now better positioned to do some of the deeper, personal work that takes place in Eating Psychology. That’s why I also have my clients focus on food first — then we go deeper.
They say that Eating Psychology introduces food habits a doorway, and that’s exactly what it created for me. I opened that door and started to ask some bigger questions. When we do that we don’t know where it will lead until we get there! That’s why it is a unique journey for everyone.
Eating Psychology helped me connect the dots with my self-soothing around food, and tied that back to having an unstable home environment growing up. It highlighted how I wasn’t comfortable talking about my pain or struggles at home because I had learned to not rock the boat. So when I felt sad, or lonely, or upset, or tired, I turned to food. I eventually learned how growing up with an alcoholic parent didn’t set a good example of self-care, boundaries, or a relationship with feelings and emotions in particular for me. It wasn’t because I was broken!
It was not because I just needed to just stop eating carbs (eye roll for all the diets that said that)… all those diet-lies that became very clearly not the answer, which was a relief because they never worked anyway, in fact, they just made me feel worse!
Eating Psychology brings us to the root of what is happening and makes healing possible again.
Upon further discovery, wanting to keep the peace at home and earn my parents’ love through my achievements had developed into perfectionism for me. Fear of being abandoned. Big time. I remember learning in my studies that “perfectionism is one step away from self-abuse.” That got my attention. I didn’t want to hurt myself anymore.
It was time for me to get in touch with my imperfections, and eventually love myself for those, too. I needed to feel my feelings, my fears, and practice loving and accepting myself fully. I had no idea how to do that, but I dove right into trying! I read several books a month (as I still do). Lovability by Robert Holden was a game-changer. I deepened my relationship with Spirit during that time, and have only gone deeper with the more research has come out around faith and healing — and that is now what helps me define holistic health; mind, body, and spiritual alignment and fulfillment. My company is named Feed Your Spirit, Incorporated for that reason!
So, yes, I did decide to launch my business — because how could I not after what I discovered. I felt a new obligation. As my personal healing deepened, so did the work I was doing to help guide others toward their healing. Still, my opportunities are almost always evolving and deepening, as I do.
Over the years and the personal work, my shame melted away. I don’t have to carry it anymore — and in discovering that, my desire for overeating and disordered eating melted away as well.
I have a higher standard for self-love now, and I am not interested in self-harm in any way, shape, or form. Last year I co-authored a book and shared my struggles involved with having a suicidal parent with a disability, and my journey through that. Healing my broken heart from that experience became something I was willing to talk about. It was something I had to talk about to heal.
Now women come to me, courageous and brave in their healing, and willing to open up, willing to release the weight they are carrying in their hearts. It’s a dream that I could not have ever dreamt of myself. I’m really thankful I asked for a sign.
Sometimes I feel like this work saved me.
Either way, I am so glad I answered the call because this is the work that I was born to do.
It’s food for my Spirit!
If you would like to talk more about this, I’d love to hear from you.
If you’d like to speak with Vanessa about Eating Psychology, reserve a free phone consultation, here.
Check out Vanessa’s recommended reading list, here.