Eat, Pray, Love: a journey of recovery pertinent to eating disorders
This guest post provided by Heidi_PsyD
You’ve just exited your marriage in a painful split that leaves you bank account barren. You’ve lost your soul mate, who you love desperately but can’t live with. You’re popping Prozac like candy to get some relief from the crushing pain of it all. So what do you do? Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and board a plane bound for Italy (and India and Bali), beginning a process of recovery that embodies lessons especially relevant to women struggling with eating disorders.
Julia Robert’s newest chick flick, Eat, Pray, Love, is the talk around the water cooler, especially the muffin top scene. More on this later, but suffice to say that despite some lukewarm reviews, the movie, based on Elizabeth’s Gilbert’s real life journey to rediscover pleasure, spirituality and balance, has wide appeal for many who have been there. Julia/Liz starts out a broken woman, spending her evenings crying on the bathroom floor and emerges victorious. Who doesn’t love a happy ending?
Liz’s begins her journey in Italy, where she learns to once again appreciate life’s pleasures. It’s Atkins in reverse, plenty of pasta, pizza, gelato and also language lessons. Perhaps the most notable scene is one that takes some artistic license from the novel, and in which Liz and a friend travel to Napoli, a city revered for its pizza. As Liz rhapsodizes about rediscovering her relationship with food, her friend looks on. “It looks like you are divorcing your pizza,” Liz quips as her friend laments her muffin top – the fleshy protrusion from too tight jeans. “I’m so tired to saying ‘no’ and waking up in the morning recalling every thing I ate the day before, and counting every calorie I consumed so I know how much self-loathing to take into the shower,” Liz responds, “I’m going for it.” The two go out in the morning and buy bigger jeans.
When did you last take the time to savor your food, to taste it and enjoy it, free from the constant worry about the scale? Do you have a positive relationship with food? If not, perhaps it’s Ed (your eating disorder) that you need to divorce.
Next stop – India. Although studying under a living Guru is not the most conventional route to the God that Liz first rediscovers while crying on her bathroom floor, the author is quick to note that to her God is Jesus, Universe, Spirit, Krishna, Higher Power – whoever you seek in your time of need. Belief in a realm beyond the narrow confines of a world made smaller by disordered eating is so important. Spirituality, which can mean prayer, mindfulness practice, meditation or communing with nature, is a potent healer. As Liz learns to let go and accept the presence of a higher being, she becomes fuller and stronger.
Last stop – Bali. Liz sees this stage of her journey as a way to achieve balance after the indulgence of Italy and the austerity of India, but it is more a lesson in the importance of connection. We lose connection when our world becomes focused on attaining perfection and dieting ourselves away. Liz discovers the connections of family – a Balinese medicine man and his wife – friends – a healer and her daughter – and finally the connection of love. The latter is not something Liz embraces easily after her recent heartbreak, but we leave the tale with a sense of hopefulness, for Liz and for ourselves.