The big question in all this is why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we not look after ourselves more? Why do so many people eat to the point of being unhealthy and uncomfortable. It is a huge issue when so people are eating their way to an early grave, and along the way they will have a great deal of joint pain, difficulty in walking, shortness of breath, heart disease etc, Their lives will become restricted by the health problems that are caused by overweight, and they will die before they should, thus depriving themselves and their families of their loving presence.

Why on earth would anyone do this to themselves and to those that they care for? Why do we not take better care of ourselves?

Why do we treat ourselves in such a destructive way? Why do we not have at the centre of our daily lives, our own health and well being, so that we can give of ourselves more fully and more generously to those that we love and to the world in which we live? What can be more important than this? What can be more simple?

It would seem that at an unconscious level we seek to sabotage our own best intentions. Further than this we seem to use food, which is meant to be nourishing and healthy, to create ill health, to destroy health rather than nurture it.

Consciously we aim to stay healthy and well but there is an aspect of our minds, of which we are probably unaware, that sort of creeps in to disrupt those efforts. It says something like ‘ you can’t have that sense of well being, you don’t deserve it, other people won’t like you for it, you’re taking this too far, now you’re getting annoying.’

And then we back off from our healthy aims and we start to falter, to feel unable to sustain our good efforts.

But what aspect of self would this be? Where might it come from and how does it get so established in a person’s psyche?


Perhaps it begins in early childhood and gets established there in the intimacy of the early maternal relationship. At least I think this is where my exploration has to start.

In using the term maternal I have in mind the person who first feeds us and with whom our relationship to food begins. I consider the feeding of an infant to be a maternal act even when it is carried out by someone other than the mother, but I will refer to the mother on the whole.

When we are born the first thing we need to do after breathing, is to snuggle up to the maternal breast and to feed. Our relationship to food begins not only with the milk, which we take in, but with the bodily experience of being held in order to feed. The food going into our tummies is inextricably linked to the physical and emotional experience of feeding. Feeding and food are not exactly one and the same thing but are always together.

In a perfect world this early experience is one of peace and tranquility. Both mother and baby are healthy. The atmosphere is calm and warm. The mother is relaxed and the baby can also relax in her arms and feed without disturbance. The feeding is part and parcel of the bonding between mother and baby and this is facilitated by a father who makes it possible for these early days to proceed uninterrupted.

Of course it is not always like this, there are many obstacles which can get in the way of such a perfect start in life. What I want to think about here is the emotional state of mind of the mother, and the personality of the mother. Whenever I talk with women about food, and being overweight, they talk about their relationship with their mother. This eternal generational cycle of being the mother who feeds her daughter, who becomes a mother who feeds her daughters and so on, seems, from the conversations that I have had, to be at the heart of the relationship to food. When this relationship is straightforwardly loving and encouraging, things go well. But very often the mother/daughter relationship is complicated by a degree of identification with each other that gives it an emotional loading.

The relationship with a son can be mercifully free of such gender identification, resulting in a less intense or difficult emotional connection. Most of the men that I know have a straightforward relationship to food. They enjoy it but it doesn’t bother them, they don’t feel guilt, and they don’t go on diets.

I do know that this is a generalization but in my experience this is generally so.

In my next blog I hope to explore the complications a bit further and to see if I can approach the unconscious aspect of the self that seems to be so tricky to deal with.