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Creativity and Eating Problems

Many of my clients lament what they describe as their lack of creativity. Mostly they long for an outlet to engage body and mind so they won’t drift off to foodland. As a writer, I heartily endorse the passionate engagement of creativity to which mindless eating can’t hold a candle. In fact, when I’m writing, my poor hunger has to really pump up the volume to get my attention. If you want to become more engaged and creative, read on.

Christian McEwen, author of WORLD ENOUGH AND TIME: ON CREATIVITY AND SLOWING DOWN (In praise of doing nothing, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 8/22/11), insists that creative people value “the virtues of …idleness in their own creative lives,” citing artists (in the broad sense of the word) who love open mental space because it frees them up. Unfortunately, our culture is so hell bent on keeping busy that we don’t give ourselves permission to reflect or float dreamily along in order to foster inspiration.

Many clients tell me that when they’re not “doing,” they feel unproductive and guilty—which leads them to eating to turn off their mental busy-ness and relax. The truth is, if you want to encourage creativity, you have to make a cognitive shift from thinking “always keeping busy is productive and a positive thing to do” to “always keeping busy limits and even may destroy my creative abilities.” For some of you, letting go of “busy equals good” may be one of the hardest endeavors you’ll ever undertake. But believing in the value of simply being will lead you toward getting your creative juices flowing.

McEwen also observes that we tend to overuse the cognitive part of our brain which works rapidly, and underuse the emotional part of our brain that is engaged in empathizing and imagining. These are what he calls “slow-growing” qualities and, to be creative, we need unlimited time to let them develop. We can’t rush imagination, but rather need to let its organic process simmer and bubble along. Being still and giving your mind free reign to go anywhere nurtures the process and spurs imagination.

The problem with many disregulated eaters, of course, is that when the mind is still, it slides into rumination and anxious thinking. So it’s tricky business to gently silence everything that is not you engaging with your senses in the moment. One other piece of advice is to use routine to develop creativity. Weed, iron, paint a wall, pace, file your nails, swim, or pay your bills—do anything that you can do on automatic while letting your mind roam freely. If you want to become more creative—and do less unwanted eating—try letting your mind lie fallow so that it can eventually become more fertile.