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 done is through metaphor, so you learn not to take language or behavior at face value. This is truly where the joy of recovery comes in.

Once you are able to crack the code, it is like a light bulb turns on, and you begin to see the humor in all of it.

Recovery is hard work, there is no doubt about it, and at times it can feel like you are having to crawl over cut glass on bare knees.

But there is also joy in the process. The joy comes when the lights start to come on. It really is enlightening, not just in terms of illumination but also in terms of levity. Things lighten up. You will start to see the lights in others eyes. You start to see the lightness of their step. And it’s such a beautiful thing.

I’m hoping that maybe you will start to understand this for yourself. Because it’s not like, oh there’s these people who have this weird eating thing. And then there’s the rest of us. No. we are all in the same boat. It’s just a matter of degree to which we are speaking.

There’s a part of us that is speaking and trying to say something that for one reason or another, we can’t put into words.

Maybe it’s because we don’t have the words.
Maybe it's we’re afraid to say the words.
Maybe because we don’t even know what it is we’re trying to say.

But never the less, there is a bigger, wider, deeper part of ourself that just won’t shut up.

After a while, you start to realize there’s wisdom in what this part is trying to say. It’s speaking the language of metaphor. It’s sort of like, waiting for God’s voice to come through the clouds. It’s like no, God doesn’t speak in English. Eating disorder speaks in its own language. In the language of metaphor.

So to start off, what I’m going to do is I’m going to start speaking to you in that language. And you may not even quite get the connection. It might feel a little like when you took French lessons for the first time. And you walk into class and the teacher is speaking in French. She is giving you the syllabus and everything in French. And you’re going, oh my gosh, if I knew French, I wouldn’t be here. Why is she talking in French?

And the reason for that, though, is calculated. It’s to tune your ear to the language. So even if you don’t know what’s being said, as your ear tunes to it, you can start to get the nuances.

And when the time comes that you do learn the language, you’ll have some of that already in there.

So, this is the language of metaphor.

I would love to hear what you think, share a comment below!

Till next time,



  • Love this! Thank you for sharing your amazing insight about being aware and staying conscious of what our unconscious mind is telling us! I also loved this line: “Recovery is hard work, there is no doubt about it, and at times it can feel like you are having to crawl over cut glass on bare knees.” That’s exactly what my recovery felt like 🙂 Thank you for your wisdom.

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