Body talk, or head talk- can you tell the difference? Can you tell when your body is giving you cues and signals of what it is needing? Do you have a hard time deciphering this because the thoughts in your head are filled with rules, shoulds, and shoudn’ts that you have followed through the years? The confusion of what your body is saying and the rules you’ve played by are hard to navigate to find clarity on the “right” answer.
Part of the healing process is learning what the truth of your body is, what are the thoughts you play in your head and what are acts of self-care when it comes to nourishing your body. This can sometimes be hard to decipher, especially have you have been a long-time dieter or grew up in a household where dieting was a common practice.
When you have been brought up with dieting parents, their rules with food naturally became your rules. It is all you have known. Stay patient with yourself as you work through this. It might feel like you are learning a new language. You might feel a range of emotions from anger, resentment to relief and hope. This is for sure a process!
Over the next two weeks, we will look at common statements you may have said to yourself. These statements are often those that stick with you through dieting and are certainly endorsed by diet culture. Some will show you acts of self-care, and when it is clear, it is your body talking to you. Your job is to determine if it goes into the mind, body cue, or self-care category.
Just for review, mind reflects thoughts, opinions, or judgment. Body Cue reflects a direct experience or sensation from your body. Self-Care is an action that takes care of your needs but will also involve your mind. The purpose of this is to help you find the differences between what is a thought and what is a hunger cue. This differentiation will allow you to determine what you need to do to take care of your body (self-care).
Below, decide where you would place each statement. It may be more than one, but one will fit the best based on the explained definitions above.
Statement Mind Body Cue Self-Care
|I cannot be hungry-I just ate breakfast an hour ago.
|I deserve to eat this food because I worked out at the gym today.|
|My stomach feels empty, and I’m having difficulty concentrating. I need to eat.|
|I skip breakfast, which will keep me from feeling hungrier the rest of the day.|
|I am afraid that if I eat this snack to honor my hunger, it will add unnecessary calories.|
I cannot be hungry……. I just ate an hour ago.
What category does this fit in? Is it the mind, body cue, or self-care? If you remember, last week, I talked about this very example. This is a thought. It is a judgment on your body for being hungry after only eating an hour ago. So what do you do when you are experiencing this? Ideally, as I mentioned last week, it is moving from a place of judgment to a place of neutrality. It asks you to respond to what your body is experiencing in the present moment: hunger. There are various reasons that you may experience this hunger, such as not eating enough the day before, being more active the day before, your breakfast not being enough to sustain you, you’re just having a hungrier day, or you’re premenstrual. It can feel helpful to find the reason, so it can validate the why you are hungry. But keep in mind, sometimes it’s just that you are having a hungrier day. Can you give permission for this? You likely have no problem with a less hungry day; a part of you might even be happy about that. This shows the “dieter part” of you that is still there. There is no shame in that, just awareness that it is important and reflecting on giving that same permission to the days you feel more hungry.
I deserve to eat this food because I worked out today.
Well, My Fitness Pal certainly supports this thought. This one is all mind! When you have been a tracker of calories in and calories you out, you can literally feel like you live by this thought, which becomes a rule. Food becomes a reward system and one that needs to be earned. I wish you could hear how loud I am shouting when I say, “FOOD IS NEVER EARNED!!! YOU ARE A LIVING HUMAN BEING. YOU NEED FOOD TO LIVE AND SUSTAIN YOU.”
This is one that I will ask you to really think of, along with deleting My Fitness Pal or Lose It or any calorie tracker app or any other app or service you use to track your calories or that gives you how many calories you “get” when you have done “x” exercise. Please erase it!! This only supports the idea that food has to be earned. This way of living with food greatly impacts your quality of life with food. It is literally the war with your body.
My stomach feels empty, and I am having difficulty concentrating. I need food.
Notice how the statement ends where it does. It doesn’t say, “But it hasn’t been long enough, so I can’t eat.” It is an observing and honoring the statement of your body, which makes it really all three-body cue (awareness of how the body is feeling), thought (assessing what the body needs), and self-care.
This also uses other signs of hunger. The awareness and observation of the body are that the stomach feels empty and has a difficult time concentrating. It is not celebrated that the stomach feels empty, which is common praise with dieting. This is really looking at the body in all the ways it is presenting.
I skip breakfast, which will keep me from feeling hunger the rest of the day.
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “When I eat breakfast, then I’m hungrier in the day. If I skip it, then I’m not hungry.” This is diet mentality. This is all thought. Guess why you feel hungrier when you eat breakfast? You’ve turned your metabolism on! That is good! Avoiding feeling hunger is not good. Hunger cues are a wonderful sign that your metabolism is normal. When you don’t feel those cues, it can be a sign that your metabolism isn’t at the level it could be, and it can be an indicator that you are not attuned to your body or are blunting your hunger cues with coffee or caffeine in the am. Those are all factors that can play in.
I am afraid that if I eat this snack to honor my hunger, it will add unnecessary calories.
Can you see how this screams diet mentality? This is thought. This is a great example of the type of thought that creates mistrust in your body. Instead of following the cues and signals that your body is giving you, you are only listening to the rules you are supposed to be following.
The shift is listening to becoming aware of how you feel when you honor your body and respond to it when it says it’s hungry. When you do this, you begin to recognize how much your body needs at snack time and mealtime. You find the comfortable range of hunger and fullness.
I think it can be helpful to see these statements that you’ve likely thought in your head. I know when I think back on my diet days, I for sure thought these thoughts. It created so much fear in my body. So much mistrust. It literally can feel like a trap.
This work is hard. It is fighting not just what you were taught but a society that endorses these thoughts. This is some of the hardest part. But know that you are on the right path. You have found a way of honoring and listening. That beats a path of criticism and mistrust any day!