The id, ego, and superego of food.
Let’s be honest. There is nothing that can make us feel more down about ourselves than not feeling good about our bodies. I am all for inner beauty and being high frequency, but what we look like largely impacts the way we feel about ourselves. If we do not feel good about our physical self it is difficult to fully express a happy emotional self. Our self-hate will be experienced in our energy. We are a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual being. The physical is the first level with the others proceeding up the hierarchy. If we do not love ourselves at the very base then subsequent levels will be impacted.
Food and weight are pertinent topics because they create emotional problems for many of us. Anyone who is worried about their appearance will have some sort of a conscious relationship, good or bad, with food. I believe there are six core emotions: mad, sad, glad, afraid, ashamed, hurt, and I add the seventh to be FAT. I view fat as an emotion. When we feel fat it induces an emotional state of frustration, low self-worth, shame, lack of self-control, hopelessness, helplessness, fear and anger. Food is what we see as the culprit of stealing our power. How can something inanimate have such a power over us?
Food is a “frienemy” (friend/enemy). A wise man once told me “the tongue is like a two-year-old.” We battle often between our two-year-old tongue and our stomach. I will use Freud’s id-ego-superego theory to explain this battle. The id is the set of uncoordinated, uninhibited drives based on pleasure only; the ego is the organized, realistic part; and the super-ego plays the critical and moralising or parenting role.
The tongue is the id. Oh, does it love pleasure and instant gratification! The tongue loves food, nachos, cheese, chips, ice-cream, chocolate you name it. It loves pleasure, taste and excitement. Who doesn’t love the way chocolate melts in their mouth or the crunch of something salty? The tongue always says YES, but like any two-year-old it does not know when enough is enough. Even when we are full the tongue still wants to pick at whatever is in front of us because it tastes so good! It wants more, more, more!
The stomach, which is likened to Freud’s ego, is attempting to establish control and authority to say no to the two-year-old, who keeps feeding it. The stomach will say “we have had enough; I am full down here, please stop eating!!” We don’t hear these warnings but we can feel them physically. At the first sign of fullness bells and whistles go off when the stomach has reached its capacity. Herein begins the conflict because the tongue does not listen (like most two-year-olds) because it is all so yummy! Once we are beyond full-capacity the stomach will get violent and more severe with the warnings. The stomach begins to hurt, pants begin to feel tight, or the ability to breathe comfortably is labored. Often the tongue heeds no warnings and keeps on eating!!
The mind is like Freud’s superego, or referee between the two-year-old tongue and the stomach. It is emotional chaos! The mind (superego) tries and tries to tame that two-year-old typically using some form of punishment or guilt. The superego/mind begins to implement plans like “ok tongue, you ate chocolate-molten cake and nachos last night, so to make the stomach happy you now have to work out for two hours to make that food not count.” Or the superego would say “you ate bad last night, so for the next three days you have to eat low calorie.” The tongue is always being punished a little too late; the stomach is ignored until enough complaining and physical pain is reached; the superego/mind then tries to come up with some sort of crazy balance to get these two parts of us to get along. It is easy to get caught in this trap. Can anyone identify? Many get into this exact vicious cycle of internal argument. All the argument compromises us emotionally, mentally and spiritually. How can we be internally centered with all this going on?
On some level we have figured out through much pain, frustration and chaos that we will be in a permanent relationship with food for the rest of our lives and we had better figure out a way to find a balance. There has to be a way to have a better balance, right? It is impossible to fully love ourselves under this type of duress. The middle place can be discovered where we are not totally deprived and yet we are not indulgent either. Deprived and indulgent are two low frequency emotional states. The middle place would provide us with abundance and balance. What is this middle place?
Solution: What I have found is that I probably will not ever have a perfect relationship with food, but I have found a ‘good enough” relationship with food. Now that I know that my tongue is two-years-old it is easier to discipline. I do not see it as a food issue but rather as a tongue/toddler issue. This makes the ego/stomach easier to hear. I no longer walk around with the “why did I eat that’s,” the “what is wrong with me’s,” the “why do I not have any control?” or the “I hate my self’s:” I would not let my child overeat so why would I treat myself with any less love or care? I try not to look at my life as being stuck between the extremes of food control or a lack of control. I look at it as parenting. The discipline of my two-year-old. I have strategies to parent my child, so I parent my tongue in the same way. To be a good parent I have to listen to my child, so I also need to listen to my stomach and discipline my tongue. We cannot give a child what it wants whenever it wants it and have a good kid. The same goes for the tongue. We cannot feed it what it wants, whenever it wants, and how much it wants, and not have a self-esteem problem around body image.
It is simple in concept. We have to commit to learning when enough is enough. If we are abundant we know when enough is enough. If we are excessive or indulgent we do not know when enough is enough. Think about seeing a toddler throwing a tantrum in the store and how repulsed we are by that behavior. When we are eating with excessiveness we repulse ourselves and others in the same way. Excessiveness is anti-seductive. It pushes others away.
I have learned I only need to eat half of any portion of food I am given at any restaurant. At home I try and feed myself in a way that I would want to feed my child. I also think about my brain and about the true size of my stomach. The stomach is the size of your fist with your other hand wrapped around it. The tongue eats like it will never eat again and turns eating into soothing or into an emergency. We can eat stomach sized amounts every three hours, so remind your tongue that there is no emergency. As far as soothing, we are only soothed while eating but the guilt afterwards is far from soothing. Remember toddlers do not think about consequences!
Further, if our stomach has the same chemical make-up as our brain then anything we put into our stomach will effect the way we think, feel and behave. The minute we put something toxic into our stomach we are literally dumbing ourselves down. We not only poison the stomach but we poison the brain. We do not supply the brain with the proper nutrients to think clearly and efficiently. It is no wonder our stomach’s have such big ego’s! It is trying to protect us from being unhealthy. I am not suggesting a no-treat policy because we all need treats. I am suggesting a non-indulgence policy.
The other solution I use with my dear “frienemy” is to be grateful when I have successful tongue-parenting days where my pleasure principle was satisfied and my ego was satisfied. It is possible with a little creativity. I do not believe in lack, I believe in abundance. To have a balanced internal relationship will produce a balanced relationship with food. If we are balanced we are abundant. If we are abundant we are more attractive as a whole person. We walk with a sense of maturity, dignity and pride in ourselves. If we are out of balance with food, we will be out of balance emotionally. When we are out of balance emotionally we are not attractive. Here is the good news… it is within our power to discipline our two-year-old tongues. It may not be easy but, it is possible! Always reach for the possibilities and live in abundance!
Little life message: Think of your tongue as something you need to parent, and get rid of the dreaded emotional state of FAT.