Free Yourself Forever From the Tyranny of Food
By Shirley Billigmeier.
The process of Inner Eating is at once an elegant gift to the reader, and a very personal process of reclamation of self by the reader, in which she or he identifies and then pares away all the issues irrelevant to food. But more than that, it’s a revolutionary concept in the field of weight loss, control and eating disorders. It is not a diet. It requires no rituals or meetings.
The goal of Inner Eating, the author says, “is to help you separate your act of eating from all other peripheral issues and own that act and take charge of it.” Recognizing and accepting ownership of when, how and why one eats effects a reunion of one’s inner and outer self into a harmonious system.
Inner Eating is based on inner management, the opposite of dieting, which is external control. External controls can work as long as the dieter submits, but rebellion against outside control is normal and predictable, Billigmeier says. The process begins by “accepting yourself.” That doesn’t mean you have to approve of your body size or shape, but “why wait”? Who deserves to be accepted more than you? This acceptance makes the rest of the process more fluid.
To reach inner management, we begin to identify the reasons we eat. Nutrition is only one reason, she shows. The identification process begins with drawing circles—one circle for each eating occasion, large or small (a grape or a banquet). The circles identify, isolate and validate each eating occasion, and make it visible so we can see our own eating pattern.
Next, we begin to identify why we eat. Perhaps because we are still living with childhood eating boundaries “clean your plate and you can have dessert”, and need to create adult boundaries. “Boundaries,” she says, “are limits we set between our personalities and others’. . . our emotions and others’ (etc.) . . . Flexibility and wisdom are essential for boundary maintenance”, she insists and demonstrates that we already have that wisdom.
We may be eating-not-to-eat. That is, nibbling to forestall eating a meal that we fear will get out of control.
We may be eating one or three meals a day from habit but perhaps six small meals would be perfect for our metabolism. Individual requirements vary, and we don’t even have to eat when we feel a little hungry unless we want to! No one else’s choice but ours. Hunger comes in various sizes, she says and shows that enormous hunger doesn’t necessarily call for an enormous meal. She helps you recognize and rate your hunger on a scale of 1-10 and learn to respond to it in a variety of ways that are appropriate for you. We may be eating as a transition between one activity and another, or for something to do when we are bored, or as a means of gratification.
Eating and not-eating may express achievement or perfectionism, or be an attempt to maintain control because we fear lack or control for any number of reasons. Billigmeier discusses incest and abuse, bulimia and anorexia briefly. She has, she says, dealt successfully with clients with both in terms of their effect on eating, but she declines any expertise beyond that.
We may be eating simply because it tastes so good.
Balance is implicit in the entire Inner Eating process: the balance between taste and nutrition, between the inner and outer self, between past and present, between body image and self-image, between acceptance of reality and “I wish I looked like.” Once we see “the relationship between food and the act of eating to weight” we will feel like a “fog”) around the food and eating issue) has lifted,” she says.
“Your right to make choices (will have been) affirmed; your ability to set healthy boundaries (will have been) strengthened; and you will feel more self-possessed and… inclined to thank God for your life.”
Each chapter has a summary and Steps To Build On to help the reader work the process. There is a bibliography, but no index. Excellent resource for health professionals and therapists, and a gift for lay people.
Foreword by Michael D. Jensen, Associate Professor of Medicine, Mayo Clinic.
— Review by Audrey De LaMartre