You might be wondering how spirituality is relevant to addictive eating? I believe it is essential to use spirituality to recover from addiction.
Spirituality is often misunderstood as religion. That puts a lot of us off because we have beliefs and prejudices about religion and don’t want anything to do with spirituality. But the good news is that we can be spiritual without being religious. Spirituality is the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things. The spirit is considered the non-physical part of a person which is the seat of emotions and character.
Religion is a structure, it’s a set of organised beliefs and practiced, which is usually shared by a community or group. Spirituality is an individual practice with the goal of gaining a sense of peace and purpose. While religion is often imposed, spirituality is chosen by the individual as a means to relate to ourselves, to other people and to the world around us. It doesn’t require following a particular religion, it’s more an internal search for enlightenment. Of course we can choose to be both spiritual and follow a specific religion but we don’t have to. We can be deeply spiritual without believing in a God. I like to think of spirituality as a set of deeply held personal values that guide everything I do.
Spirituality can be incredibly functional and we can use it to get results which are really important for successful living. You could also call it strategic. In addiction recovery, we can use spirituality as a strategy to:
- find meaning and fulfillment in life
- make sense of certain events in our lives
- harness inner strength to deal with life’s challenges
- find peace of mind
- cope with change and uncertainty
- bring relief from dependence on material things
- understand our life’s greater purpose
- align values with behaviour
We can set clear spiritual goals with a practical function – to help us let go of addictive eating. We cultivate certain spiritual principles to our advantage. Here are some examples of spiritual principles (values, qualities or attitudes) we’re cultivating in food addiction recovery:
Acceptance: Recognising a situation without attempting to change it or protest it.
The purpose of this spiritual principle of acceptance is that it helps us in coming to terms with the fact that we can’t control certain foods (or all food). We can’t eat in moderation. In accepting this we’re coming to terms with the fact that getting relief from addictive eating takes daily action and we can heal when we apply that daily action.
Surrender: Wholeheartedly accepting a situation and giving up one’s own will, thoughts, ideas and solutions.
The struggle is kept alive by searching for solutions where none can be found by our own making. Once we’ve accepted the reality that addictive eating has a destructive impact on us, we can stop struggling and trying to fix it, put our hands up and say: yes ok, I need help, someone show me what to do because I’ve tried everything alone. I need outside help.
Integrity / Honesty: Having an inner sense of wholeness and congruence deriving from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character. Acting according to personal values, beliefs and principles.
A big part of addictive behaviour is denial and euphoric recall. The voices tell us that ‘It’s not that bad, tomorrow I’ll start my diet, this time I can eat only one’. Practicing integrity on and off the plate is a powerful antidote to addictive eating. Denial and integrity can’t coexist. By practicing integrity we’re bypassing the denial originating from our brain’s rationalisation mechanisms.
Using spiritual principles with purpose, we’re moving from fear to trust, from self-pity to gratitude, from resentment to acceptance and from denial to honesty. In the process, we’re getting really clear on our personal values and we’re finding that building integrity and self-honesty around our food spills out to all other areas in our lives. Our values and behaviour are totally aligned – on and off the plate.