Other than for work, since my recovery from binge-eating disorder and chronic dieting in the first half of my life, I really don’t like discussing food and weight very much. Maybe I hear enough about it from clients, but I think the rub is that food and eating, for the most part, are personal and individual subjects and not all that interesting. Does anyone really care what I ate for breakfast yesterday? Do I really care (other than professionally) what someone might eat at a dinner party tomorrow? Not so much.

The problem with being obsessed and preoccupied with food, weight, eating, and nutrition is that we tend to blather on about it. We can’t stop thinking about calories, fat grams, complex carbohydrates, or protein when we’re alone, so the conversation spills over into our relationships. My point in blogging about this problem (and it is a societal problem, to be sure) isn’t so much how it affects conversation, but to help you explore what would fill up your life without food and weight as a topic of discussion. Who would you be without your weight complaints and food anxieties? What would snag your interest? What would you chat about with people?

Letting go of a long-standing food problem is as much about shifting identity as it is about changing beliefs and behavior. What will fill the food/weight void? If you’re not hungering for food and thinness, what would stir your passion and spur you on? Many people with eating problems are afraid they would have nothing but an empty space inside if they gave up their food obsessions, but in my considerable experience, if you make space, something grand and wonderful will move on in. One client I had ceased bingeing and bought a piano, another reigned in her eating and got pregnant, a third gave up her sedentary job and started to travel.

Perhaps when you stick to the familiar chit chat about food with friends and family, you’re doing so because you’re afraid to voice your real desires. Maybe, like one of my clients, you dream of living in Paris. How much easier to sit and overeat than to make that dream a reality. Maybe you stick to food patter in fear of what might come out if you don’t: that you hate your life but are scared to live it differently. You are so much more than your eating disorder, but only if you will let yourself grow beyond it.

Abusing food is emotionally safe behavior. It won’t stir up desires that might unsettle you or make you delve deeply into what you want out of life. Rather than ask who you will become without your eating disorder, let it go and find out for yourself.