Thursday, April 7, 2011

Forgiveness: the key to self-love and intuitive eating

Learning to love ourselves takes on many shapes and forms. For me, I had to give up my battle where food was concerned. I also had to grapple with the voice in my head constantly telling me I don't measure up (I'm an over achiever and am often way too hard on myself). But to be honest, those are only a couple ways where feelings of inadequacy plague us.

In fact, I believe that often times we don't even realize the fight going on is in fact a fight over self-acceptance and love.

For example, there are people out there who can eat whatever they want. They are strong and confident in their abilities. They don't have body shame. So in essence, it would appear that anything and everything said on a blog like LITM would not appeal to them. But I don't think this is always true. Self-love can still be difficult for people like this.

I have a dear friend who wrote to me recently. I hope she doesn't mind me talking about her:) She can fit into all of the categories up above. I just adore this woman. She is amazing. Her daily responsibilities are heavy, but she never complains. She takes them all on with happiness and does amazing things. However, she has developed a health condition that can often cause her great physical pain. Having lived most of her life being able to eat whatever she felt like (and taking great pleasure in doing so) she now has to deal with the idea that her health could be greatly improved by eating a specific diet. A very healthy diet. One that includes mostly plant foods and whole grains. A diet that does make her feel better when she eats it. But (there's always a but) it is difficult to adhere to this diet.

I have theory.

You see, as someone who has dealt with food issues most of her life I can say that we are very emotionally tied to the way we eat. Even my dear friend who has never had to adhere to a diet is emotionally attached to her food choices. That is why learning that she must change and take on a diet that feels restrictive is difficult for her.

On the outside, we could look at her situation and say it's not fair. If I preach that we should all throw out rules and become intuitive eaters how does that work for someone like her? She has rules.

The truth is, we all need to write our own code of what we eat. Our own Word of Wisdom, if you will. Making this code hard and fast is not helpful. Actually writing the code is not helpful, but we need to know and understand our bodies and their needs.

For me, I am borderline PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). That means that my body often craves sugar and simple carbs. But when I indulge in these foods I feel awful. But I crave them. As an intuitive eater I know that while I may be craving something it may not make me feel well. Being an intuitive eater doesn't necessarily mean we give in to all of our cravings. Rather, it means we tune in and understand our bodies well enough to know that our food choices affect how we feel. And then with that knowledge we can eat the foods that allow us to feel our best. And sometimes that means telling that sugar craving, "not now." But "not now" doesn't mean never either. Sometimes we can, will, and should go ahead and indulge in the craved food. But observe. Always observe.

Does this mean we have rules? Well. . . yes. . . and no. We understand our bodies. We understand what will make us feel well, and so it could be argued that there are "rules." But think of it more as a guide to what makes you run in optimum condition.

On the flip side, there are no rules. You really can eat whatever you want. Decide if eating whatever you want makes you feel great though. Really great.

I guess where I'm really going with this post, however, is here: You must forgive yourself.

Forgiveness is key.

For my friend, she very clearly knows foods that will help and foods that will harm her. But she needs to take the long journey of learning to become an intuitive eater. Yes, even people who have never had food rules can benefit from intuitive eating, as it involves tuning in with the body and learning to eat in a way that promotes excellent health. So while my friend has "rules" before her, she needs to stop trying to force herself to abide by those rules. Instead, learning to tune into her body and really loving and honoring her body will allow her to lovingly choose the foods that make her feel amazing. She won't need a set of rules.

BUT. . . she will screw up. I screw up. Everyone makes mistakes. When we start getting after ourselves for eating something that doesn't make us feel well we are no longer intuitive eaters. Rather, we have become dieters once more. There is no room for harsh judgement in intuitive eating. None. You must forgive yourself. Observe how you felt when you ate the offending food. Learn from that particular experience. Then you can choose if you would like to repeat that experience ever again.

So, loving our bodies takes many forms. It's not just for those who have struggled with food and body image issues. It's for everyone. And the key, in my opinion, is learning forgiveness.

*Image source