Trust. Somewhere along the way, that word has been taught to not go with our bodies. How you were brought up with food and the encouragement of listening to your body certainly shapes the way you trust your body. That is why I am so passionate about writing on kids eating and permission with foods and reminding our children to be in tune to their body (www.beyondyoursurface.com/healthykidsandpermission, www.beyondyoursurface.com/kidseating). But as an adult, the damage may already be done. One or both of your parents may have imprinted on you the “should and shouldn’t” of listening and trusting your body. You may have been taught to be a member of the clean plate club, that there are only certain times of the day you should eat or never eat past, that certain foods should never be eaten or that your body should be a certain size.
With that baggage, we then are surrounded by a society that supports us not listening to our body. We are bombarded with every type of diet imaginable, and by doing the diet, we will gain “WILLPOWER!” Ugh! That word makes me cringe every time I hear it. Willpower attached to a diet nine times out of ten is ignoring your body when it is screaming that it needs food. That does not make you stronger. That makes you mistrust your body because you are being encouraged to ignore it, fight it and go against what your body is saying.
The typical scenario is that you go on a restrictive diet. Somewhere along the way you “slip up.” Now most dieters will tend to be all or nothing/ black and white thinkers. So this can end the diet and tail spin into overeating, overindulging and undoing. You sit there feeling guilty and shameful that you just didn’t have enough “willpower” to stick to the diet or resist that “forbidden” food.
Let’s look at the set ups here. One, was the diet too restrictive? This is looking at calories, food groups, timing of when to eat, etc. If any of these are too restrictive, you are ignoring your body and at some point will derail off the plan. Were you hungry all the time? This is going to mean that you a.) are not eating enough calories, b.) have eliminated a food group your body does need, c.) will be set up to overeat or binge, d) all of the above. Guess how often ‘d’ is the answer? How did following the diet change your lifestyle? This obviously is a good thing at times, but it depends on your openness to that change and the support of your inner circle with those changes. Could you still go out with friends or could you only eat “their” food? You having to isolate and only eat the diet’s food or only follow their recipes is a lonely place, again, likely to set you up to feel like you are failing when you eat something off “the plan.” These are things that will impact someone following or not following the diet. THESE things will not create a long lasting change, but rather a short lived one that is filled with shame and guilt because you feel you had a “lack of willpower” rather than seeing the set ups that were there along the way.
One of the most important questions to ask yourself when you are following a diet is, how are you physically feeling? A lot of diets today bring in more whole foods. People often feel really good when they are eating that way. THAT is data!! It often kicks the processed, fast food out and has people cooking more and being more aware of what it is that they are putting into their bodies. Being aware and caring about what it is you are putting into your body is an honoring act you do for yourself. So listen to your body and what the data is telling you. We all know that eating overly processed, high sugar, fast food on a consistent basis is NOT good for you. We don’t need to go on a diet to figure that out. So ask yourself, WHY? Why are you eating that way? Are you being kind and honoring to yourself when you are eating that way? Most importantly, how are you feeling? What is your body telling you? If you feel tired, lethargic, achy, moody, gassy, nauseous, have a lot of “bathroom” issues, you can trust this is your body talking to you.
Does this mean you can never have fast food or ice cream or a cookie? No!! That is just it. There has be gray. There has to be a middle ground. But you have to also ask, if you are connected into your body when you are eating those foods, how is it feeling? Permission comes full circle here. If I allow myself to have foods I want and take the “forbidden” label off of them. I can ask myself, one, do I really want that food or am I feeding an emotion? Especially if it is a food that I know is not the healthiest choice for myself. Two, how do I feel when I eat that food? Am I in some way, trying to make myself feel bad because I know I will not feel good if I eat that certain food? Three, can I stay connected and mindful while eating that food? How do I keep my internal ears listening to when my body says it has had enough or when it doesn’t taste as good and stop there? Asking these questions, practicing these questions brings trust. It seems so simple, but it really is challenging. We want the guarantee, we want the magic solution that will end the food struggle forever. But YOU are the only guarantee and honoring the magnificent body you were given. So practice listening and see the trust that can be built and the freedom that can be given.