It used to be that Japan was a model nation when it came to healthy eating – and to some degree it still is. Food is one of the things I enjoy most about visiting that country. I love shopping in the grocery stores where the food is fresh, clean and cared for, and eating in traditional restaurants where it is lovingly prepared.

But in 20 years of regular visits I have noticed quite a shift in the eating habits of younger people whose diets now include a significant amount of Western-style foods. More fats, wheat products and refined sugar are being consumed, leading to weight gain and an increase in associated diseases, such as diabetes.

Some 25 percent of Japanese people aged 15 and over are now considered overweight, a statistic that is worrying health officials even if it compares very favorably with the 65 percent in the United States where eating disorders bring untold misery to millions and threaten to bankrupt health care systems.

In what is clearly a truly global issue, the answer appears quite obvious: People should eat less. If only it were so simple. Whether we want to shed a few pounds to save our waistlines or a third of our body weight to save our lives, it can take a huge amount of effort.

The vast majority of people who go on diets do so for a brief and intense period of time only. These crash diets are really bad. Very low-calorie intake actually sends the body into starvation mode. It then automatically demands more food to store as fat in readiness for the next famine. The individual cannot resist this pressure and goes back to the old ways – to be followed by another round of dieting. Over the longer period, people caught in such cyclical struggles usually end up a little heavier each time.

So how can this yo-yo effect be stopped? The solution is not only to eat healthily for the rest of our lives, but to find a way to do that with ease and pleasure. This is a very difficult task, because over-eating or eating all the wrong things is not about filling the stomach.

It’s how we try to satisfy the needs that arise from childhood wounds. All eating disorders – not just over-eating – are essentially expressions of unhealthy needs. Raiding the refrigerator or the cookie jar is how we try to compensate for loneliness or sadness or a general lack of emotional nourishment when we were very young.

So we are fooling ourselves if we believe the latest diet craze is going to have more than the merest superficial impact on our weight problems.

There are several important elements here, but let’s stay with the primary ones. The first is understanding why we over-eat. The second is being willing to heal the deeper issues that we have around nourishment. The third is knowing that it’s not our fault.

Childhood wounding to some degree is inevitable. No matter how loving or caring the mother, it is all about the child’s perception. The infant needs a fine balance of contact and space to feel safe, held and nourished. In the best of family homes, this is rare because there are many demands on a mother’s time and attention. In some, there is a perceived lack of love or simply an ignorance of what the infant needs. In a few, there is neglect or worse.

Healing our food issues then is a process of discharging old sorrow and anxiety, feeling our pain fully, layer after layer, and step-by-step reconnection to original healthy needs. This is a movement towards feeling the essential safety of life, where there is goodness, kindness and beauty; where we can learn how to feed ourselves in a healthy way and we are not being governed by the old demons of fear, safety and grief.

Make no mistake, this journey has many obstacles. We resist strongly sitting with our own suffering and even deny its existence. We have built up so many defenses against the pain of our wounds and so many ways of numbing our feelings (over-eating being one of them), that it takes a certain bravery to go down this road.

I would say that the support of a good healer is essential. Old belief systems that revolve around not being worthy or lovable are embedded in our energy field or aura and are not easy to shift. Practitioners of Brennan Healing Science are skilled in working to remove these energy blocks and on repairing damage to the hara line which strengthens our desire for change.

As we release our fears and blocks, our systems come into balance and the aligned hara reflects this mix of relaxation of being-ness and the creative movement of life. We can take in what we really need to express our essence in the world.

Everyone can make a start right now by learning more about the foods we eat and being aware of what is good for us. It’s important to know that the life energy of food is easily lost through modern farming methods, prolonged storage and over-cooking.

More and more people are growing their own vegetables or shopping every day for their live foods. Small hydroponics gardens in the kitchen are also getting more popular in America.

A balanced diet is always important. There are many different options but the most popular usually contain raw salads and vegetables as well as cooked grains, fish, meats and other sources of proteins such as fermented soy. Each diet needs to be designed for each individual as that person goes through life. As our bodies change, so should our diets.

Pay attention to your appestat, the mechanism in the brain through which your body tells the taste buds what it needs. This is very different from craving. Give your body what it requires to be in health. Listen to the messages.

You can make each meal a celebration of yourself, of your new attitude to self-caring and appreciation. And you can throw all the old diet books into the garbage can.

Barbara Brennan, Ph.D., is a world-renowned spiritual leader, healer, educator and the best-selling author of Hands of Light, Light Emerging, and the inspirational Seeds of the Spirit series of poetic channelings. She is the founder of the Barbara Brennan School of Healing and the Barbara Brennan School of Healing Europe, global healing institutes where students from around the world study her unique modality of healing through the human energy field. Dr. Brennan's newest school, Barbara Brennan School of Healing Japan, opens in September 2007. For more information, please visit www.barbarabrennan.com. Copyright © 2007 Barbara Brennan, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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