A few days ago I posted about intuitive eating. My friend Sarah left a comment. Intuitive eating means you must trust that your body knows exactly what it needs to be healthy and fit. Sarah commented that many people do not trust their bodies. Instead, they believe if they throw out the rules they will live on pastries alone. While it may work for some people to listen to their bodies, many hold to a belief that it would not work for them. Their body is not to be trusted.
I've been thinking about this a lot since I received that comment (thanks Sarah, as always you are wonderful and help me to improve). My mother-in-law kindly gifted us a book called Simple Abundance* by Sarah Ban Breathnach that I have been reading. Here is a quote:
". . . whether we are consciously aware of it or not, we're constantly programmed by the world to be other women, not ourselves. We're supposed to look like Cindy Crawford, entertain like Martha Stewart, and decorate like Alexandra Stoddard. With this pervasive social schizophrenia, it's no wonder that most women are terribly confused about the the issue of authenticity."
Top this off with a nice dose of "obesity epidemic" scares and you have a recipe for disaster. We have come to believe that we can achieve all the lofty goals of becoming "the perfect woman," or another woman for that matter, if we look and act a certain way. We'll focus on the look part for today; the act part is a post all unto itself. So in order for our dreams to come true we focus on something we are supposed to be able to control easily with diet and exercise when in reality, that doesn't work for some people (most people). With everyone walking around talking about this or that diet we assume that bodies are not to be trusted, and so we too jump on the wagon and begin a regimen that can set us up to roller coaster through out our entire lives.
So how does one learn to trust their body again? I certainly don't have all the answers, but I will divulge my own path.
I believe that the main catalyst for success in trusting my body started with yoga. Even though I was not as experienced, flexible, or strong as many of the wonderful women in the class with me as I became certified to teach, I began to truly appreciate the ability I had. Every practice made me see that my body was capable of amazing things. Each day I could go deeper in a pose or lift myself a little higher. My improvement came quickly and helped me see what an amazing mechanism this body of mine was.
During those weeks of training I was also able to reconnect with my body. That is, after all, a large part of yoga. Through regular practice and meditation I began to slowly recognize someone I had known all along, but had forgotten about in the frenzy of life: my body. My beautiful, capable, trustworthy body.
It has been several years since that time and I am just now learning the ropes of intuitive eating, so at that point in my life I wasn't ready to jump in head first, but it set the groundwork. I have mentioned before my struggle with fibromyalgia, insomnia, and fatigue. These issues have also helped me to reconnect with my body. In order to gear up to get a full night's sleep, I would listen to my body throughout the day trying to assess if I was too stressed or excited to sleep that night. Then relax accordingly. On days when my body was in pain I would try to listen to what it needed to feel better; a bath, a good stretch, maybe a walk. These attentions were small, but they allowed me to reconnect.
So when I started intuitive eating I had laid the groundwork of body trust, but I will admit I wasn't fully convinced I could do it. I had spent my life consuming exorbitant amounts of sugar and simple carbs at every possible moment that I wasn't failing at a new diet. Nothing seemed to curb my cravings. How could someone like that be set free of the "rules?"
But I had hit dieting bottom. I wasn't losing the baby weight as advertised (nursing isn't magical for everyone in that way), and every new attempt to diet led me straight to the refrigerator or pantry so I could eat everything I would never eat again before I began. Then I'd diet for a week or maybe two or three and when the scale didn't move, moved up, or only fell a pound I'd give up and run back to my comfort foods. And I felt miserable.
Then there was the knowledge that as a new mother I wanted to be careful to instill good body image ideas in my children, and I was to the point where even if I never dropped a pound I wanted to be happy and ultimately healthy. And dieting wasn't providing either of those things. Besides, aren't we born with the innate ability to eat exactly the right amount to grow and develop? Shouldn't we hang on to that? Yes and yes.
This is getting lengthy so allow me to sum up: I feel immensely better when I honor my body by eating intuitively. I eat less sugar than I have eaten since before I can remember. Not because it is forbidden, but because I don't like how I feel after I eat it. We still have treats in the house, but I can eat one or two and walk away. I no longer have to finish the bag. I'm learning to recognize when I am wanting to eat to mask other emotions. I'm learning to deal with those emotions in a healthy way (this is a work in progress). The scale doesn't seem to move, but my clothes are getting more loose. And while there are still plenty of days and moments when I am tempted by a new diet I hear about, and while the siren song of losing weight still captures my attention from time to time, I am ultimately happier when I push those aside and realize that this body of mine is beautiful, capable, and trustworthy.
*Disclaimer: This link will take you to Amazon. Purchases made from connecting from here to there (funny things are everywhere, Dr. Suess much?) will help to support this site and feed my darling little boy:)