National Eating Disorders Awareness Week was the last week of February. Eating disorders are too often minimized and overlooked. I know this because back in the early 1980’s, I worked as a social worker in the Cleveland Clinic’s inpatient eating disorders unit. Many people don’t realize that eating disorders can be lethal. Too often, our patients were ensnarled in a struggle for their lives. And their families were caught in it too, along with relationship blighting shame, guilt, fear, embarrassment, and anger.
These serious eating disorders exist within a larger societal context where if we could observe from afar, it would appear that the vast majority of us have some kind of disordered relationship with food and eating.
This week, like every week, there are media reports about the purported benefits of eating small meals throughout the day, or about juicing, or eating raw foods, or about some new super food that will grow your telomeres and keep you young.
Recently, I attended 2 events that captured our distressed attitude towards food and towards our health. First, I was a guest presenter at one of the most well known health spas in the country. This is a spa known for its focus on nutrition and healing. Because so many of their attendees have food sensitivities (a sobering snapshot of our society in itself), they provided the food alternatives we’ve come to expect: gluten-free, dairy free, organic when possible and vegan. They don’t serve meat. And sugar was hard to find. I felt like I was an apostate when I added my preferred teaspoon or so of sugar to my coffee. Coffee!!!!
The other event was a gathering of spiritual leaders. At a dinner out with a number of old and new friends, I was struck by the fact that about one-third of the people there were eating a restricted diet. They sat and were served separately. Here, a group of people who shared a deep and shared passion about their spiritual journeys could not fully share in a communal meal.
We’re more and more separated from each other because of our distinguishing food restrictions.
This cannot be right.
Now, I understand that for many eating gluten or dairy free can relieve food cravings, and can provide relief from chronic digestive, mood and a host of other health problems. Up until recently, I believed that these dietary changes were the best we could do. And I know that there were some people who after eliminating problematic foods for a time later found that they could tolerate reintroducing them into their diet.
But now after studying Chinese Medicine and teaching the Dragon’s Way®, I see that our fixation on identifying problematic foods, our focus on identifying external problems produces superficial benefits. It does not lead to full healing. And it is not natural–not from a nutritional standpoint and not from a larger social perspective regarding the value and purpose of eating in family groups and other social gatherings.
As I’ve come to understand, the deeper problem behind food sensitivities can be found in the fact that our bodies have lost key functional capacities. This is not a narrow deficit but rather a serious breakdown in how vital organs function and in their harmonious relationships internally and externally—with others and with Nature. It is a direct result of our stressful lifestyle and the significant Qi deficit it creates.
The problem, then, is not the food we eat, but our own inner wellness.
As Dragon’s Way® participants experience, most food sensitivities, digestive problems and many health issues can be addressed by doing Wu Ming Qigong to build Qi, open meridians, and help our organs regain their lost function. Eating becomes natural again. You can trust your body’s wisdom to know what to eat. You can eat what you want.
More importantly, your digestive function becomes stronger. Once this occurs, you find that you can digest whatever comes your way, without restriction, without fear. This includes “digesting” troubling situations and emotions, too.
Healing in this way can go beyond symptom relief to an awakening of life purpose and a rediscovery of expanded capacities–like increased intuition–that are natural expressions of greater inner connectedness.