What Does it Mean?

If you’ve found yourself asking that question lately, you’re not alone. I think many of us right now are searching for meaning, trying to figure out why things are happening and how and where we fit into it all. In times of stress or uncertainty, it can help to dig past the surface to uncover the hidden meaning behind our personal struggles and setbacks—because they all have things to tell us and teach us. Every aspect of our lives is filled with meaning waiting to be unlocked, including (or maybe especially) our struggles with food and eating.

Man’s Search for Meaning

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”Viktor Frankl

When I was a young graduate student, the first class that I walked into was taught by a little old man who spoke in such a thick accent that I struggled to understand him. This man was Viktor Frankl, a brilliant neurologist and psychiatrist from Austria who survived the Holocaust and wrote one of the most profund books of our time, Man’s Search for Meaning, about his experience in the Nazi concentration camps.

I was profoundly influenced by Frankl’s teachings, and was never the same after that first class. Among the many important lessons he gave me is that human beings can be stripped of everything we have ever held dear, but there is one thing that can never, ever be taken away: the meaning we give to our experience. That meaning is ours forever, and within it lies our freedom.

Find Your Meaning

Frankl’s lessons stayed with me long after I finished school, and began to work with women struggling with eating disorders. I found that there was, indeed, great meaning behind the foods and eating behaviors each woman struggled with—and that uncovering that meaning was an incredibly important step on the road to recovery.

While you search for meaning in your current circumstances, be sure to focus some of that energy on your struggles with food. How does this part of your life’s experience speak to you and for you? What are you saying with your food behaviors that you aren’t saying with words, both to other people and also to yourself?

It is within the asking and answering of these questions that freedom lies. If you can’t seem to let go of your struggle with food, look deeply to discover the true meaning behind it and beneath it so that it can let go of you.

Now, it is your turn how does this part of your life's experience speak to you and for you?


  • That is a good point, what is the meaning of my life?
    What is the meaning of everything I do, I will try to answer it.

  • I’m recently back on the diet roller coaster, and when I fall off I fall hard. The worst part is the eating that’s done in secret, eating that I would never do while sitting at a table with others. I should probably start by examining the meaning behind that!

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