Until recently the term eating psychology was synonymous with eating disorders, a troublesome relationship with food needing fixing. In recent years Marc David, the founder and director of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating in Boulder, CO, developed a new field of Dynamic Eating Psychology, a positive eating psychology, appropriate for everyone – not only for those with disordered eating, a small percentage of the population – but for every one of us who eats.
Dynamic Eating Psychology is rooted in the idea that there is no exact science behind weight loss, or even, for that matter behind how much a person “should” weigh. We can have health at every size, and we need to step into a place of uncertainty – for example, about how much we should weigh – as we begin to appreciate the complexities of metabolism and psychology influencing our weight. It is time to let go of judgment and recognize we come from different places, and there is diversity to our body shape much in the way there is diversity to our skin color.
Each of us has a unique body with unique genetic blueprints, nutritional needs, psyches and psychological influences. It is time to end the one-size-fits-all approach to food and exercise and to look at each of us as an individual with a unique and ever changing relationship with food. Our relationship with food is deeply connected to all our relationships – to our marriages, our significant others, our parents, our children, our work and our communities. When we begin to explore the symbolism of eating, we discover it is connected to money, work, career, intimacy, love, sexuality, spirituality – to every facet of life. We speak about emotional eating as if it is something to fight against, but we are all emotional beings, Once we see the brilliance in the idea that eating is a symbolic substitute for love, we can start to talk about our relationship with relationship and our fears of intimacy and love, and we can shift from the place of self-loathing to a place of self-love and compassion.
Dynamic Eating Psychology has connections that branch out in many directions. What we eat has a profound effect on our health, but it is only half the equation. Who we are as eaters is equally important when it comes to the health of our bodies, minds, psyches and souls. And who we are as eaters profoundly influences the metabolism of the body. Eating takes us to the core of who we are. it is a metaphor for life, for the world, for culture, for nourishment.
Marc David likes to say we are like acorns. Each acorn carries the genetic blueprint for a magnificent oak. Like acorns, there is a future calling us, something greater than we are right now. Our issues are fertilizer, the muck and mire from which we pull nutrients so we can grow into our destiny, into who we are supposed to be. When we attack ourselves, there are no winners. But if we can get to the core of who we are, we will see the nutritional connection. Our eating challenges are here to teach us something about ourselves in the world, to be a wise mentor for us. Our symptoms – our unwanted eating habits, body image challenges, excess weight, digestive issues, immune and fatigue issues – all of these are the wisdom of the body speaking and the wisdom of the psyche speaking. If we look at challenges as wisdom from the universe, we can see them in a positive light.
Dynamic Eating Psychology is a positive, empowering and transformational approach. We look at nutrition, at the body and metabolism and biochemistry and the brain, and we look to the psyche, to psychology, to who we are as human beings, because it is often where the action is. In Dynamic Eating Psychology, weight to lose is the smaller goal. The biggest goal is to be who we are meant to be, and our challenges with food are beautiful doorways to walk through to teach us about life. Everyone’s biggest goal is to be the person he or she is meant to be – the content, well-adjusted, well-nourished person who is actualizing potential, who found the blueprint within the acorn and is now expressing the oak tree.