Finding Meaning within the Eating Disorder

Here’s part of a talk I gave on the Big Island of Hawaii for the opening of our new Ai Pono treatment program in Kamuela. I hope you enjoy it.

“Finding Meaning within the Eating Disorder”

What I’ve come to really understand about eating disorders is that there’s such deep profound meaning in what a person struggles with and how it relates to their struggle of food.

Once you discover that disordered eating behaviors, whatever they may be, whether its restricting your food, or binging and purging or even exercise addiction or exercise resistance. Or whatever form it takes for somebody, the behaviors are speaking, but they are speaking in a language that is coded.

Once you can see these behaviors as a code, it really gets to be a lot of fun as you decipher the code. Through the language of metaphor, you can crack the code.

Metaphor is the language of our stories, the language of our art, songs and poetry. It is the language of our dreams. And I believe it’s the language of disordered eating.

So for example, if I’m working with somebody and they are telling me about a dream.

They say, oh, well, “I was driving down a freeway”.
I say, “wait, you were what?”
“ I was driving down the freeway.”
“ The freeway? “

If you’re driving down a freeway, it would be a good idea to look at where you were coming from and where you were headed.

Because you see, in dreams, freeway doesn’t just mean freeway.

It means the freeway.

To get from our unconscious mind into our little pea brain consciousness, it’s sort of like taking all this information from a vast ocean, and compacting it so tight that it can get in. The way it’s […]

Both the Masculine and Feminine Principles are Important for Healing

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Aloha. This is Dr. Anita Johnston. And I am down at the beach in front of the ‘Ai Pono Maui eating disorder treatment facility. And right behind me is the Io Valley. And for the ancient Hawaiians this was a very, very, very sacred place. And when we did our blessing at our facility, the Kapuna came and I was in awe as she talked about how both the masculine and the feminine energies of the land could come through this valley. And anchor right where our facility was. On the grounds of ‘Ai Pono Maui

Now, for me, it’s necessary to understand how both the masculine and feminine principles are important for healing. Now, mind you I’m not talking about genders. And it’s unfortunate that these are the terms we have. But they are the terms we have.

And in Asian cultures, it might be called Yin and Yang. In the Jungian tradition, it’s called masculine and feminine. And the reason for that is because when you are working with dreams, those energies show up in the form of males and females. But all of us, all of us have masculine and feminine energies within us. Whether we’re male or female. Or trans. Those are principles. It’s a duality that exists in all of us. And in many, many cultures and many indigenous cultures, they exist in the land, and in the sea. And they’re principles in all that there is in life.

When I think about the masculine principle, that’s that logical, linear goal, achievement oriented aspect of ourselves that helps us maneuver through the world safely.

And deliberately.
This is how we set our goals.
And this is how we accomplish what we want to accomplish […]

How do you express your truth?

Hello, I’m Dr. Anita Johnston. And I am here in Hawaii listening to the bird song of the morning. It’s one of the most spectacular things — to listen to these birds singing and singing and singing. It reminds me about the story about the Nightingale.

There was once this nightingale, who was in the forest. And she was singing and singing and singing, really enjoying the sound of her song reverberating through the tree tops. Along came a crow. And the crow said, oh my gosh, would you cut that racket? That’s just the worst thing I’ve ever heard. You’re polluting the forest. And the nightingale said, no, no, no, we nightingales, we are known for our beautiful song.

And the crow said, I don’t think so. That’s just the worst thing I’ve ever heard. And they began to argue. Along came a pig. The pig said, listen, I’m a connoisseur of fine music. Why don’t we have a contest and I’ll be the judge?

So the nightingale sang her song. And the crow cawed. And then, the pig immediately declared the crow the winner. At which point the nightingale burst into tears. The crow said, I can’t believe you. Not only are you a horrible singer, but you’re a lousy loser.

And the nightingale said, oh, I’m not crying because I lost. I’m crying because a pig was my judge.

You see, what does a pig know about music? So, consider the source. You see, because a woman’s song is her truth. In order to be free from disordered eating, a woman must realize the beauty of her song. And refuse to sacrifice it.

Even in times of scarcity. Even when others insist that she be silent. Because […]

Thoughts Are Like Clouds

I am here at Kalua Beach in Hawaii. And I’ve been sitting here, listening to the waves and watching the people and the dogs strolling down the beach. And watching the clouds as they float on by.

I’ve also been watching my own inner landscape, noticing how much my thoughts are like the clouds in the sky and how they appear, taking many different shapes and many different forms. Sometimes the clouds give me the indication that oh, it’s going to rain. Or oh, look, it just stopped raining and there’s a rainbow. I notice, these thoughts come and go like clouds come and go. And I can have all kinds of thoughts. Sometimes they are scary thoughts. Sometimes they are funny thoughts. Sometimes they are peaceful thoughts. Sometimes they are curious thoughts. There are thoughts thoughts thoughts thoughts thoughts. Because I have a mind, like we all have. And the mind is designed to contain our thoughts. They come up, regardless of what’s going on. We can have all different kinds of thoughts.

But here’s where things get tricky.
We start to believe our thoughts.
We stop questioning them and start believing any thought that pops up into our head.

So, for example, you can wake up in the morning with a fat attack — that’s when you feel like you’ve gained 20 pounds overnight. Now, if you were to pause for a moment, you would notice that it’s not possible to gain 20 pounds overnight. But every fiber in your being feels like you gained 20 pounds overnight.

So what has to happen is — you have to get curious and ask the question, and is that true? Maybe it’s true. Maybe it’s not true. What’s more […]