Understanding our relationship with food is merely a metaphor for all our other relationships in life. In the past years, I’ve met many women who struggled with setting or preserving their boundaries. ‘Setting boundaries’ refers to many layers of our human existence. In personal relationships, for most of my clients it is difficult to find the edges where they end and others begin. All the time we meet people with other values and world views. However, remaining in touch with core values can be a challenge for some, often accompanied with feelings of powerless and being unheard or unseen.
On the level of the relationship with ourselves, the skin of the body is a natural boundary where through tactile awareness we “touch” the outside world. Also on the inside of the body we can notice our physical limits in for example a full stomach. Almost 9 out of 10 women with eating disorders (AN and BED) I welcome at my center have experienced some kind of physical boundaries violation, mainly during their childhood indegenerique.be. It might range from verbal/physical aggression to sexual harassment and abuse. In the survival strategy of abused children, the parents are always ‘good’ and the body must therefore be ‘bad’. Sadly, these negative experiences will lead in a later stage to feelings of shame of the body, self-abuse through starvation or binge eating and lacking basic compassionate self-care. The history of crossing boundaries is repeated.
Setting boundaries also means taking your space. However, in order to create room in an authentic and confident way, one needs to have sufficient inner stability, calmness and clarity. During my mindful eating sessions I will always start with grounding work to teach my clients to feel more centered and in balance.
Grounding is akin to the way a tree sinks her roots to stay secure in a storm. It’s the first tool in creating healthy boundaries—nurturing a connection with our bodies, mind and heart. It is a reminder that the earth always supports us, no matter what happens. There are many ways to ground but they all have two things in common –awareness and stillness. If we don’t pause for a moment and tune in, then it will be less likely that we find stability, both for us as health professionals as for our clients.
Here are some grounding practices from the ME-CL manual:
- Mindfulness meditations; Transition Meditation, Three Minute Breathing Space or Mini-meditation (checking in how the body is feeling now)
- Mindful Yoga with the Standing Tree Pose and Walking Meditation (feet firmly grounded on the floor)
- Taking a moment to look deeply into the food, or offering a blessing over your meal or beverage (Gratitude practices)
- A brief compassionate touch of your hands placed on your body as a reminder to bring affectionate awareness to yourself.
Try different ways and you’ll find the one that works for you. Building boundaries is like any muscle or practice—the more you work with it, the better it serves you!
Caroline Baerten, Belgium