Making Friends with Songs and Food - Christine Kane

I teach songwriting weird.

I don’t focus on how to craft a killer chorus.

I don’t tell students they can write a hit song in a week.

I don’t force them to write clever lyrics.

Those things can be found in every book out there. They can also be found by just listening deeply to great songs and music.

I teach my students, first and foremost, to be with their song. To build a relationship with the song they’re writing. This is radically different than trying to prod or whip a song into shape and making it become a hit.

When you build a relationship with your song – and I teach various ways to do this – you invariably become a better writer because each song teaches you how to be a better writer in the process. You go deeper – and ultimately, you find your voice. The crafted chorus and the clever lyrics will matter at some point. But it’s not where I start.

So, where does the food part come in?

Well, I got an email from a woman who was at the June retreat. She wants to know my top five or ten tips for healthy eating, as she is beginning to learn about eating better.

So, I wrote a blog. (I’ll post it soon.)

But then I remembered something.

I remembered how pissed off I was when I was recovering from bulimia. I was furious that I couldn’t just give up food. I hated food. It was the cause (so I thought) of all my problems.

I reasoned that an alcoholic had it “easier” because at least the offending substance could be removed from his life. A bulimic had to keep eating – while being in recovery from the very thing that she was eating. I wished I could just stop eating!

I didn’t realize then that the very thing I was angry about would also be the very thing that would teach me how to approach everything in my life.

Precisely because I could not remove the “offending substance” from my life, I was forced to heal my relationship with food and with my body. I had to make friends with food. I had to make friends with and listen to my body. This learning process taught me how to do everything else in my life too – from songwriting to money to pets to marriage. I do none of these things perfectly, of course. But I have learned how to hear my own inner wisdom. My voice.

When it comes to food and health, many of us are like the beginning songwriters I teach — our brains are crammed full of the “shoulds” and the “craft” and the “how-to’s.” But we don’t know our own voices. We don’t know what our bodies need. We’ve spent so much time just filling up with food and information, that we haven’t stopped to feed ourselves, or to listen to ourselves, or to hear the voices of our bodies.

So, this is my first thought on healthy eating.

You start by building a relationship to your body and your food. You make friends with food and actively listen to your body. All the Andrew Weil advice in the world will do nothing if you aren’t tapped in to yourself.

Just like all the hit songwriting books in the world will do nothing if there’s no soul in your songs.

  • Shannon

    Thanks for posting this. I’m working on recovering from eating issues (avoiding eating food), and your blog has helped me in key ways several times on this journey.

    It’s so good to hear I’m not alone in being pissed off at food and jealous of people who can live without their poison.

    Thank you, and many blessings for you.

  • Linda

    Another observer from the shadows!
    I love your post, Christine. I *finally* found a true peace with food and eating through proper nutrition! Sounds weird, but, once you give your body the nutrients, it heals…then everything is sort of taken over by your body (if you let it), and the cravings disappear. In other words, just do it; don’t overthink and analyze every bit, just eat properly and your body will heal. Which is not to say the emotional side(s) of eating aren’t there; just that those need to be addressed with tools specifically for emotions — through therapy, meditation, reflection, etc. Anyway, I learned that, for me, MANY of my food issues were NOT emotional; they were nutritional deficiencies which led me to overeating, restricting — general disordered eating. I now “Eat to Live,” and, actually, that’s the program that outlined how to eat for me. Food does NOT = Joy; Food = nutrition — that’s it! The program I learned from a book written by Dr. Joel Fuhrman — have you heard of it?

    Looking forward to more on this from you. This is a bigtime issue in my life, having wasted years entrenched in unhealthy thinking and eating.

  • Sylvia C.

    Hey Christine.

    I love your blog and find myself inspired every time I read it.

    That’s why I chose to nominate you for an award I was to pass on to 5 other creative bloggers.

    Have a great weekend!

    Sylvia C.

  • Stephanie in OKC

    Christine, I too am a lurker (whew! glad to get that off my chest), but I read this blog faithfully and get lots of inspiration. Your concert at Cheryl’s was just wonderful, by the way. It was such a treat to see and hear you in person.

    Your post reminds me of something I heard at a Geneen Roth workshop. She said you must “become your own beloved” and attend to your own needs and cravings as you would someone you adore. Sounds so simple and beautiful, but so hard to do! It takes effort to go to the store and buy healthy food and cook it, or seek out healthy meals at restaurants. I’ve recently become vegetarian, and though I feel much better overall, I find foraging for good food that will nourish me a great deal more challenging than just eating whatever I drive by on the way home. So I’m looking forward to hearing more about how you’ve made peace with food.

  • Amylia Grace

    Rock on..I wasn’t saying that the food thing is difficult to “learn”, only that it is difficult to break old and unhealthy habits and addictions to certain foods. I think we can all agree on that!

  • rl

    Thanks for writing about this, Christine.

    I find myself at an interesting place food lately. After years of trying to approach emotional eating issues from a very brainy place of discipline and self-control, something significant has shifted recently… I find myself now interested in eating for fuel and for self-care. To borrow a question you asked in an earlier blog, my food choices are starting to come from a place of love, and not fear. The change is absolutely thrilling.

    I look forward to reading more of your words on this!

  • Colin

    I AM a blog god and I say you are doing just fine.

  • Petra

    One thing I’ve learned (but don’t always practice!) is that HOW you eat is as important–perhaps more important–than WHAT you eat. Eating peacefully, consciously, paying attention to my food and having gratitude for those who produced it works for me, regardless of what I eat. So does that moderation thing πŸ™‚ Yes, I do have a diet that is very healthy, but the lunch of Tater Tots and a Peanut Butter Smash sundae that I eat at Ivanhoe’s with my friend whose diet consists of all refined carbsis part of a healthy diet because I’m spending it with someone I care about and whose company I enjoy. I don’t do this every day, of course. Similarly, a dinner party with friends, regardless of whether is food is low-fat or uses conventional produce, etc, is good for my body and my spirit if it allows me to connect with others in a positive setting. And my body actually responds positively! I’ve often had a good long run the day after mucho overindulgence at a dinner party, I* think from all the good social connectivity!

    And Walter, my thoughts are with you as you mourn what was lost in Oakville. I lived in Iowa for a year (Coralville, right next to Iowa City). The apt. complex where I’d lived (near the Coralville Strip) was under mandatory evacuation. I looked at many of those pictures of homes and neighborhoods under water, thinking “Oh, I used to walk by there on my way to campus” or “I used to bike through that park and neighborhood”. I felt a profound sadness, along with a recall of many, many pleasant memories.

  • Sue

    Wow i really love this! From the writing to the food and back again. It is amazing to see how our culture views food and eating and wt gain or loss, all summarized on the magazine stand at the grocery story. Your point about all the ‘shoulds’ and the incredible amount of information we get is so true. Even when we find the ‘right’ information it is great for you to remind us how it is not ever primarily about the food. I have to remind myself that the best way to teach my daughter about health (esp. in light of all those magazines and commercials) is by how i choose to treat myself.

    And the blog gods, like the ‘gods’ of any industry, will come and go. All the while your authenticity remains constant. πŸ™‚ Thanks!!

  • Lance

    Well this is an interesting way to look at food. But after some thought on this, you’re right that we need to understand our body and it’s relation with food. For me, several years ago, I abused food. And my body paid the price. About four years ago, I finally came to the realization that I needed to make better choices in the foods I ate. Since then, I have felt healthier and happier than ever before. So this helps to bring it full circle, as I see now that I was working on my relationship with food. And that relationship has flourished the last couple of years. Sure, there are days when I struggle with the relationship (and feel the effects the next day). But, in the end, because I have spent the time to understand my body better, my life has improved greatly.
    Thank you so much for this post, it helps to read this and see how it all comes together.

  • Wendi Kelly

    I am a subscibed lurker but this got me out to comment, I really, really related to your anger over not being able to just get rid of food as a way of dealing with the problem. I struggled trying to lose 50 Pds at weight watchers for over 3 years loosing and gaining the same five pounds each week. I was bitter and pouting, it just wasn’t fair, that I had to *go through life on a diet, when others could eat what they wanted* Too many lightbulb moments to discuss here, but when I finally started listening to my body, experiencing what was really going on instead of hiding behind food, all 50 pounds left and have stayed gone. It was never about the food- the food was a symptom of hiding from life and not wanting to face it.The more authentic I became, the healthier and thinner I became along the way.
    By the way-this is a great blog, a great post and I don’t think the blog gods are the true blog gods…we can get new ones. πŸ™‚

  • laura

    When I read about your desire to “eliminate the offending substance”, I immediately thought how I sometimes want to “eliminate” the offending person from my life. It’s a pattern from childhood – when someone offends you beyond your tolerance, you “eliminate” them from your life, amputate that relationship. And then the exact same offensive quality shows up in the very next person you meet. In one case in my life, there is a quality in my mother I intensely reject, which showed up in my husband, from whom I am now divorced, and now I see it in one of my children!!! Finally, life got my attention, it’s me, not them, (or the food.)

  • barb b

    what do the blog gods know. there are more of us than them and we know best. thanks for the blogs. besides there are no rules. except listen to yourself.


  • Christine Kane

    amylia – i’m not sure that food really IS a difficult thing to “learn.” It’s actually so simple – but we have covered it up with crunchy, salty, sugary things to placate ourselves into losing track. (kind of like what we do with life!) πŸ™‚ and you’re absolutely right about the JOY piece of it. because it really IS a joy when we learn to feed ourselves on every level! (as you are learning to do now!)

    hi walter – thanks for sharing this. i live on a river – and we had a major flood here about 4 years ago – losing one house on our tiny street. it was unlike anything I had ever seen. so i now know from experience how devastating these events can be. AND, I also know that healing is possible. it might not seem so now. but humans, towns and nature really do have a remarkable resilience. much light and love to the people in oakville.

    lilalia – i think you’ll find that it’s the same thing in dance. what i’ve recognized is that at its core, art (no matter what the medium) teaches us about how to do life. i think it comes down to being present.

    jannie sue – balls? no, really you don’t need to do that. that’s a pretty intense thing to tell yourself! how about you take 21-days and encourage yourself to take one big deep breath each time you sit down to eat? πŸ™‚ As for my blog – thanks for your high praise here! I actually go through all kinds of ups and downs about writing. there are lots of “blog rules” that i break regularly. (this post, for example, is not considered a “good blog post” in the eyes of the blog gods.) but then I ultimately let myself get quiet and write what I want to write. when i get quiet, writing flows easily and i love doing it. when i am mean to myself, i want to hide.

    mark – of course it would make sense that this applies to voice work too. our voices are SO connected to everything.

  • Mark

    Interesting point about your songwriting teaching process Christine.

    A vocal coach I had once taught me to “feel” the lyrics I’d written, which were pretty emotional/bittersweet, and that advice changed everything.

    Thanks for a cool topic.

  • Jannie Sue

    I need to get up the balls to go on that 21-day no sugar, no caffeine, no alcohol fest. Why the heck not? (‘Cept I’ll miss my daily cup. A lot. Would decaf be o.k.?)

    And to Walter Hawn, I can’t imagine what that must feel like. Prayers, Bro.

    Thanks, Christine. Your blog is really special. And I am curious… Do you feel any pressure or anxiety to keep creating these neat and inspiring posts or are you pretty relaxed and confident that your writing stems from as endless supply of creativity?

  • lilalia

    Walter, it is devastating for those near and afar to experience such distruction. My thoughts are with you. My mother and friends continues to live in Grenada after losing everything in Hurricane Ivan. People have built, nature has turned green again, but as you say, some things are no more.

    Christine, thank you for this post. I’ve often thought of the process of learning about health and my body similar to learning a new language. Yet, your parallel to songwriting is magical because it instills the image with meaning and beauty. Having had the pleasure to hear your songs, I can believe your songwriting journey and your living healthy journey are intrinsically connected. Since I am not very good at acquiring languages (though I’ve learnt numerous ones over the years), nor can I sing, I think I will reflect upon what you’ve said in the form of a dance, which is something I delight in.

  • Walter Hawn

    A note, not related to your post, Christine. I’d like to ask you and everyone to take a moment to think about the good folks in Oakville, Iowa. That’s the place I learned to play baseball, and the place I learned to swim, and to drive a tractor and a reaper, and the place that I didn’t know until yesterday and today meant so much to me. The town is flooded out, and a part of my childhood is missing now. Nobody fifty years ago ever thought the Iowa River would be a problem. The levee was high, and the dams upstream would keep the water in bounds. Oakville was, for me, a magical place, and the space between the Mississippi and the Iowa was full of wonder. And now it’s gone. Folks will rebuild, some of them, but most will move. Some to Muscatine, and some far, far away, and Oakville, my childhood town, will be no more.

    Here’s a link to the AP story about Oakville and the surrounding towns:

  • Amylia Grace

    Well said, Christine. I’ve often wished that the food thing wasn’t so difficult and learned, too, that I need to listen to my body and respond accordingly, lovingly, like I would to my child. As a type 1 diabetic, I struggle with bloodsugar issues and avoiding certain “difficult” foods and I wish I could give up eating altogether, but alas, there is a joy in listening to myself, my body and not avoiding the reality, but coming to it with an open heart and a willingness to listen.