In our society, restriction is perfection. It is beauty. Restriction is seen as a correct, desirable approach and path. We glorify it. We yearn to adhere to it. We see it everywhere. Restrict the number of calories and carbs you eat. Restrict the amount of dessert. Restrict your portions. Don’t even think about having pasta, pizza or ice cream. Don’t even think about eating past 7 p.m. Restrict what you eat during the holidays. You don’t want to blow up, do you? Restrict how much you weigh. Restrict the size of your clothes. Diminish yourself.
Margarita Tartakovsky is an associate editor at PsychCentral.com, an award-winning mental health website, and the voice behind Weightless, a blog that helps women deal with body image issues and disordered eating. She also writes a monthly feature for Beliefnet.com, covering topics such as patience and procrastination.
Editor: Muhammad Talha
Restrict how much you reveal to your closest friends. You don’t want them to think you’re nuts, right? Restrict your range of feelings. Swallow your anger. Sweep away your sadness like it never even existed. Get over your loved one’s passing. It’s been long enough. Restrict your support. Forget seeing a therapist. You’re not that weak, are you? These are just some of the spoken and unspoken rules around restriction and deprivation. And it’s tempting to follow these rules. Because they’re sold with so much promise and hope. Promise that your life will look and feel a certain way if you restrict yourself. That it’ll be OK. That it’ll be beautiful. And you can bypass the pain. Or we might not even realize we’re doing it. We might not even realize that we’re narrowing and limiting our lives. What I’ve realized, after too many years and too many bumps, is that I prefer the words of Derek Walcott in his stunning poem “Love After Love“: “Feast on your life.”
What does this mean?
To me, it means using my senses fully to experience and savor this world. It means tasting all kinds of foods, fruits and flavors. It means feeding my body nutrients (without focusing on calories or points; on fat free or sugar free). It means moving my body by practicing yoga, walking, riding my bike and lifting weights, because that’s when I feel most alive. It means spending the day creating a handmade birthday gift for my aunt while watching my favorite shows on HGTV. It means being silly with my husband even when I want to be serious and responsibilities pile up (and wow is this hard sometimes). It means taking my time while reading to really taste the words. It means keeping a separate folder of gorgeous sentences. It means paying attention to the details and marveling at the magic that’s all around me. It means holding onto my sense of wonder.
This doesn’t necessarily look pretty or rosy or uncomplicated. It doesn’t necessarily taste good all the time. Sometimes, it feels like I’m eating cardboard because it’s just been one of those days. But even on those days, we can still feast in a way. Because we are feeling the full range of our emotions. We are giving ourselves permission to see the whole rainbow. To live life not with black-and-white, all-or-nothing, either-or thinking. But to live with and. It’s a beautiful day and I’ve had a tough week. I don’t like how my belly looks, and I can act with compassion toward my body. I’m upset about a mistake I made and I don’t have to punish myself. Below are some questions you might want to explore on how you’d like to feast. Because our definitions will be different.
- What does feasting on your life look like to you?
- What foods and flavors do you love to eat? Why?
- What life experiences do you want to seek out?
- What things do you want to savor that are already in your life?
- How do you want to express yourself?
- How do you want to connect with your most important people?
- What makes you come alive?
- What do you want your days to look like?
- How do you want to feed your senses?
In addition to (or instead of) the above questions, you can create a list of words that instantly come to mind when you think of “feasting.” Or you can create a collage with images you’ve plucked from different publications, which radiate feasting. It’s hard to stop restricting and depriving ourselves in a culture that reveres these behaviors. So consider taking a playful approach (which is helpful any time we’re trying something new). Think of yourself as simply exploring and experimenting, as simply playing with the question: What if I started feasting right now?