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Harvard graduate and popular author Bracha Goetz overate because she wanted to keep experiencing the pleasure which comes with eating. But what she was really craving was lasting pleasure in life - so instead of eating too much, she filled her life with sparks of joy; listening to music, dancing or stretching. Now she thinks, is my body hungry or is it my soul? when she feels like over-eating, freeing her to make healthier choices. Here, Bracha tells Lifestyle News her empowering story.

I began overeating as a teen. Then I started restrictive dieting to lose weight and binge eating when I wasn't dieting. This continued for several years into my early adulthood, with my behaviour around food getting more and more secretive and bizarre.

I realised I wasn't eating excessive amounts of food because I was physically hungry, but I didn't know how to fill the intense inner emptiness when I felt a scarcity of pleasure. Food provided a quick - though temporary- pleasure that I could "control" when life seemed to be out of control.

I learned that it is gratitude which fills the inner emptiness. After finishing off a bag of potato chips or a container of ice cream, we are left feeling even hungrier and emptier than before.

That's because the inner emptiness is a spiritual hole, not a physical one so no amount of food can fill it up.

When we eat natural food with mindful gratitude, it uplifts both our bodies and our souls. So does movement, being in nature, and music.

Feeling gratitude to another also fills us, as does doing acts of kindness and being creative, gratefully bringing a uniquely beautiful part of ourselves into the world. When we are addictively overeating, we feel a sense of scarcity and estrangement.

Gratitude fills us with a sense of abundance and connection so the more gratitude we experience, the less we feel like overeating. The junky stuff stops calling our name so loudly.

An eating disorder is a substance use disorder where the substance being used is food.

I discovered from ancient yet timeless wisdom that the purpose of life is to experience the greatest pleasure possible. Sounds hedonistic, right? But it isn't really.

The Pleasure Ladder provides a roadmap that helps us see the hierarchy of pleasures in life. Then we can clearly understand what brings the greatest pleasure through natural highs so we can enjoy our lives accordingly.

The five rungs on The Pleasure Ladder correspond to the five levels of the human soul. When we nourish our naturally hungry souls, we are able to let our souls shine. This is how we can experience enlightenment and thrive throughout each day.

The five levels also correspond to the number of fingers on each hand. In other words, finding our path in life is within our hands. This is a joyfully empowering perspective.

You can nourish the lowest level of the soul by feeling gratitude for all the natural physical things in your life - your body parts that are working, the natural environment, healthy food, movement.

To nourish the second level of the soul, focus on what you appreciate about another being. This is an empowering way to bring love into our lives at any moment, and it is not dependent on others.

Simply by focusing on the virtues of another, we can be filled with the warm emotional pleasure of love, lighting up our spiritual core.


To nourish the third level of the soul, reach out and do something meaningful and helpful, even if it is just calling or texting a person who is lonely.

Creativity nourishes the fourth level of the soul, as you tap into the creative flow of the Universe and connect with it.

The highest level is transcendence, when you transcend a limitation in your life, find new clarity, and nourish your soul by experiencing and integrating wisdom about how you are intrinsically connected to everyone and everything through an infinite source of energy.

A recent article in Psychology Today reported that researchers have now found that the most positive feeling that reduces inflammation and disease-causing chemicals is this transcendent state of awe and wonder.

There is only one price to pay to be able to climb each and every rung of The Pleasure Ladder and experience the joy of finding your unique path in life. That price is gratitude. Experiencing mindful gratitude is what brings us lasting pleasure throughout life.

On each rung of The Pleasure Ladder, a sense of scarcity, estrangement, and alienation dissipates, and it is replaced with a widening sense of abundance, clarity, and connection.

My advice is to recognise that it's not the box of chocolate chip cookies that you want - it's lasting pleasure that you are deeply craving.

Then you can identify what brings you more pleasure than eating addictive "food-like" substances.

To overcome a habit, you need greater and more lasting pleasures to sub in. Once you feel fulfilled in other areas of your life, you'll no longer feel the need to fill the void with food.

And how do we feel fulfilled? Through practicing gratitude! Negative thought pattern loops are essentially bad habits. Many of these negative patterns were ingrained in our youth, but we can still rewire them at any stage of life!

Yes, there is good news for our bad habits. It takes about 400 repetitions to form new synapses in the brain that create new habit patterns.

But if done playfully, it takes only 10-20 repetitions to form these improved circuits, according to research conducted by Dr. Karyn Purvis, the co-founder of the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.

Therefore, the quickest way to create a positive neurological shift is to do it joyfully! And what creates joy instantaneously? Mindful gratitude!

Any moment that we are experiencing gratitude is a moment we are not spending being miserable. So try practicing gratitude throughout the day - and over the simplest pleasures in life - those things you normally overlook and take for granted. Open a window to feel sunshine on your face or luxuriously stretch.

A chart of The Pleasure Ladder can be downloaded here. It can be hung on a fridge or cabinet to remind people that there is an abundance of ways to bring pleasure into one's life at any moment.

And people don't even have to actually do the pleasurable activity - just thinking about it alone can fill one with the gratitude and sense of abundance needed to stop overeating.

Besides asking oneself with loving awareness the question, "Is it my body that is hungry or my soul?"

Another helpful question I ask myself is, "Will 500 more spoonfuls of this - or 600 more pieces of cake - fill me up?" I know right then that it won't help to keep overeating because it is really the lasting pleasure that comes from inner gratitude that fills us up.

And yes, since I discovered that gratitude is the secret to happiness over 40 years ago, my life has been blessed with good health and lots of positive energy to enjoy the abundance of pleasures that we have the power to appreciate.

It's not the weight I lost after I overcame my food addictions that is significant, it is all the energy it consumed and how it drained me and imprisoned me that really matters.

Now I am free to enjoy life fully.

Bracha Goetz is a wellness expert and the Harvard-educated author of 41 children's books.. She also wrote a candid memoir for adults documenting how she overcame overeating through filling her inner emptiness, called Nourish The Soul.



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