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“Night Wind,” Knysh Ksenya
Good tidings First name / friend,
I thought this post-Christmas/NYE/generally crazy-making holiday blur of a week would be a good time to talk about emotional eating, and addiction in general.
I have been troubled for some time by the rigidity of messaging in the plant-based space about how any kind of compulsive overeating or binge eating has nothing to do whatsoever with one’s emotional state and is exclusively a function of the hyper-palatability of super-engineered, over-processed food. 
Like so many other issues, my suspicion is that the truth is somewhat more complex than such a simplistic view allows. Of course the food matters, and it matters a lot—very few if any of us would be in trouble with our health or weight if we were just “overeating” carrots and kale. But I also think there is an interplay here between self and substance that deserves more nuanced attention than it typically receives.
I’ve been personally walking a path of addiction and recovery—with both alcohol and food—for quite a long time now, and I have many clients who have shared their stories that sound an awful lot like mine. And one of the experiences we tend to share is that we can observe our relationship with our addictions changing over time depending on what is going on with us, what kind of support we have (or don’t have), and a million other factors. And as my guest and I discuss on this week’s podcast, for many of us our addictions “flare” when we are in a state of intense emotional suppression. That has certainly been true for me. 
I know all too well that I am at my worst and most self-destructive when I am refusing to acknowledge and feel what is really happening in my life. That can be because I am stuck in a job I hate, a relationship where I don’t feel seen or understood, or any other situation where there are things it seems I can’t say so I simply don’t say them, and therefore don’t feel the consequences of saying them. That is for me, a perfect storm of relapse risk. 
The fact that modern food is a potential addictive substance is not, in my view, enough to explain why some of us struggle so much more than others, and it is definitely not enough to explain why some of us can struggle for many years to manage it and then find lasting peace with it. Or why the same person can struggle at some times, through certain seasons of life, but finds the whole thing a non-issue in others. 
And these are the questions I find most fascinating and relevant for understanding and healing all addictions, not just overeating. What is the relationship between the substance or behavior we are abusing and the reasons we find ourselves more or less vulnerable to that abuse at any given time? If we can begin to understand that, perhaps we can begin to dismantle our own processes of self-destruction.
“Ask yourself if you are in this for the long run—if it’s only your weight you want to change or if you are willing to use your eating patterns as a portal to the inner universe. And if the answer is the latter, then there is no end to what you can learn, be, understand, become.” 
—Geneen Roth

My guest this week, Courtney Pool, is a nutritionist and coach who, like so many of us, “tried everything” to resolve the binge eating issues that have been with her since age 5. What finally worked for her was a combination of a healthy plant based diet and also a brutally honest, emotionally-driven investigation directly into her triggers and patterns.
We discuss Courtney’s history with compulsive overeating, how she came to experiment with an emotionally-centered approach, and what that process has been like for her. We also talk about simple and practical tips for anyone struggling with addictive behavior to begin experimenting in similar ways themselves.
There is a well-known line in 12-step: “You are only as sick as your secrets.” Courtney’s experiments with truth demonstrate the real meaning of that maxim. As she discovered the truth of her emotions, she could also come to see how her addictive eating patterns helped her avoid those emotions. And this really is the question: we all certainly have emotions we prefer to avoid, in a myriad of ways. Is that—or is that not—actually a problem?
I believe it is a problem—a big one. Maybe the biggest one we have. As Tara Brach reminds us: “There’s only one really good question, which is: ‘What am I unwilling to feel?’” This conversation with Courtney is one of many that I plan to have on this new podcast about how we can incorporate radical honesty in our lives in ways that bring us face to face with what we are most unwilling to feel. It is my experience that it is only once we have confronted those things that we can begin to have the opportunity to make real choices for ourselves, and not just react to our lives out of fear and habit.
You can watch the newest episode here, or find it on iTunes here.
To learn more about or to connect Courtney you can visit
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