Women of all ages struggle with food and body conflict challenges. Many believe their value is measured by some commercially generated standard of beauty. The popular media suggests women can be whatever size they want to be, if they would just try hard enough. The truth is we each have a unique genetic code, and our body size and shape is primarily influenced by our genes (not jeans!)

Many of us spend countless hours trying reshape our body to fit the fashion template of the day, only to be disappointed time after time, when the reflected image in the mirror tells us the same old story.

If any of this sounds familiar then read on......
The root cause of food and body conflict for women is a void inside; a disconnect from the true self. When we as women buy into the illusion of beauty, we become blind to a more profound reality. Because we spend so much energy trying to sort out our endless, complicated food and body issues, we never even consider what lies beyond the mirror.

Each one of us keeps secrets, but the secret relationship a woman has with food and her body can overshadow all other aspects of life, filling her with shame, obsession and fear. This relationship is intense and intimate and the compulsion to maintain the secret can become the driving force behind everything she thinks or does. On the surface she may appear extremely “together” but inside she’s engaged in a never-ending tug-of-war, putting unrelenting pressure on herself to effortlessly maintain a contrived look. For many women a sense that life is good, that they are valuable and accomplished, is directly tied into their external appearance.

Influenced by cultural standards and pressure, messages from the media, the warped feminine psyche that emerges in a patriarchal society, are among the many components that contribute. The media is ruthless in their messages that scream, “the way you are is not okay.” Most magazines advertisements use parts of a woman’s body to sell their product reducing women to mere objects. The diet industry is a multibillion dollar a year industry who’s financial viability depends on our dissatisfaction with ourselves the way we are. Since the average model or actress is thinner than 95% of the population, most women know the frustration of living in a body that refuses to conform to society’s determined ideal.

We might ask ourselves why so many females are dissatisfied with their bodies. Is it because there is such an emphasis on thin, angular bodies, which very few women come by naturally? If so, why has a naturally masculine shape (broad shoulders, no waist, narrow hips and a flat belly) become the ideal for the female body? Why is it that those aspects of a woman’s body that are most closely related to her innate female power, the capacity of her belly, hips and thighs to carry and sustain life, are diminished in our society’s version of a beautiful woman?
The answers can be found by taking a look at history from a perspective much broader than the patriarchal history we were taught as children. Researchers tell us the experience for women was very different than it is today. In that world, the spirit of the feminine was recognized as the creative life force of the earth. Its symbol was the circle; a shape with no beginning and no end. That which was round or curved was considered beautiful; the earth, the naturally rounded, curved shape of a woman’s body. Women were respected for the power of their intuition and their understanding of the earth’s ways.

Time passed and things changed. A hierarchy developed and all things came to be valued according to position. What was made by man was considered to be superior to what was made by nature. The earth was no longer viewed as the sacred source of all creation. Women’s connection to the wisdom of the earth through her body and the cycles of nature were rejected and the power of her intuition was ridiculed.

Have things changed or are women still living in a society where what is masculine, linear, and logical considered superior to what is feminine, circular, emotional and intuitive? Is today’s woman a round peg trying desperately to fit into a square hole in order to survive and flourish. If so, she may do this by trying to shape her body into a more angular, masculine form AND by quieting her intuitive voice. When we banish our feminine spirit, we live in a state of perpetual spiritual hunger. Our starving soul yearns for nourishment and only food is available. Spiritual hunger is misinterpreted as physical hunger and THAT is ultimately the catalyst for food and body conflict.

Accompanying this underlying sense of division, conflict and exclusion is a feeling of emptiness. There is a longing deep within for some elusive satisfaction. If we are to fill this void, we must start by asking ourselves what the source of this emptiness is and are we fulfilled spiritually?
When we have lost a spiritual connection in our lives, we may unconsciously eat in attempt “to fill” our inner void. Satisfaction comes only when we are able to rediscover our connection to whatever holds deepest meaning for us.
The truth is that inside most women, there is a small voice that may get amplified when we are finally fed up: it says that we do want much more out of life than just to look good.

Growing up in our Western society, we are programmed to believe that every problem has a quick and easy solution. Have a headache? Take an aspirin. Feel overweight? Go on a diet. Problem solved. Traditional Western diets fail to resolve food and body conflict because they don’t deal with the root cause. What the Western perspective neglects to take into account is our free will, stemming from our soul with all of its messy, illogical, ethereal needs.

According to the Eastern approach, you must treat the internal root cause to heal an external symptom. If you simply eliminate the symptom, the fundamental issues that caused the problem will remain only to resurface at a future time.
Eating with awareness brings us into the moment, helping us understand what it means to be alive and connecting us to the mystery and source of all living things.

Staying conscious in this way is especially challenging when you are observing habits and patterns that you would rather not see – like your most despicable food habits. But consciousness is essential if we are to free ourselves from the well-worn ruts that keep us stuck. Applying mindful strategies will lead us to eat food that feels healthy rather than those based on an external standard for health.

Food, when elevated to the sacred, provides what we need to make our lives more meaningful and complete. It strengthens family bonds, encourages love, creates a caring environment, connects us to our community and blesses us with good health. Food offers conclusive evidence of our interconnectedness to living nature.

Dieting is a game, an illusion at best. It has nothing to do with lasting happiness. When you submit to another’s diet, you give up the most important part of yourself – your compassionate, inner knowing self. This is one of the greatest sorrows of our time for women. We can’t even get on the path to pursue our true potential because we are so distracted by the torturous riddle of how to find happiness through the perfect body by restricting food intake. Some women stick to a diet whatever the consequences even if it results in illness. We may think we are “in control” but actually we are passively relinquishing our control to something outside of ourselves. There comes a point in all of our lives when it is time to stop perpetually putting off happiness until some future date when our thighs will finally be in order.

Who you are today, inside and outside, is your home, your starting place. The problem for many is we find our “now” so unbearable. What keeps us stuck, however, is trying to start from where we are not instead of where we are.

Women on the road to integrating body, spirit and food must leave behind old perceptions of themselves and reclaim their own inner authorities. They must listen to the voice within for guidance and support as they search for their true thoughts, feelings and desires. They must reclaim the power of their emotions and intuition.

There is an old saying, “you can run but you can’t hide”. We may spend an entire lifetime running from the truth of who we are. It is so much more deeply and ultimately rewarding to stop running, stop all the games and simply accept ourselves as we are right now. Our external image is temporary - a day-to-day snapshot of our outside.

When we as women can love and accept ourselves because of WHO we are, not WHAT we look like, then numbing rituals with food will stop, our dreams and goals will soar and we can get on with our extraordinary lives AND nothing is more beautiful.

Author's Bio: 

Jen Charbonneau is a spiritual transition coach, specializing in food and body conflict. She believes there is a missing link. Her own story of struggle and triumph over a life threatening eating disorder led Jen to the far reaches of her own soul; only to discover the answers were inside all along.

Jen believes the quality of a woman’s life depends far more on the shape of her spirit, wisdom and emotions than it does on the shape of her body.

She currently coaches women & girls of all ages. Jen created “So Glad 2 Be Me” a program that promotes self esteem and healthy body image for young girls. She guides individuals in spiritual meditation and visualization and has recorded 2 meditation CD’s. Jen is a motivational speaker who’s passion, enthusiasm and honesty will leave you informed and inspired.

Her new program “How to Love Your Body and Live Your Life” promises to help others find the missing link and feed the hungry soul.