[Note from Amy: Hope you enjoy this is a guest post by Barb Spanjers. I love her take on why bonafide grown-ups STILL don’t know how to feed themselves!]
Are you as tired of these kinds of headlines as I am?
- Eat This! Not That!
- 5 Foods Never to Eat!
- If You Eat That Oreo, You Are a Bad Mom!
Okay, I made that last one up, but it’s definitely the subtext of a gazillion blog posts, articles, and social media posts.
It’s enough to make your head spin. How do you make sense of all those warnings? All that advice? All that judginess?
You remember that you are brazen.
Brazen women know that there is nothing they need to fix about themselves. They are unapologetic about being themselves. They let themselves be happy, no strings attached. They trust their instincts. Brazen women consider “expert advice” but listen to themselves first. (For the full rundown, see Amy’s The Live Brazen Manifesto.)
How could you possibly follow all the experts? If you listen to all the nutrition and weight loss advice out there:
- You must avoid all animal products – oh wait, no – you should put butter in your coffee.
- You must forego solid food for only juice – oh wait, no – it’s full of sugar, so no juice is allowed.
- You should eat soy products – oh wait, no – soy mimics estrogen, so just no.
Again, it’s time for Exorcist-type-head-spinning.
It’s always very curious to me how we got to this point. How did we come to depend on the approval of others to determine what we eat? How did we come to believe that bona fide grown-ups don’t know how to feed themselves? That could be a whole book, but the bottom line is most of us believe we aren’t competent to feed ourselves. It is part of our culture’s underlying assumptions, so pervasive that it is invisible.
Even in the world of enlightenment, this belief is pervasive. There’s a wonderful wave of personal development healers and coaches ready to help us return to our true selves. Encouraging us to listen to our internal voices. Our inner wisdom. Our inner goddess.
Except when it comes to eating. Then you are supposed to ignore all your inner desires.
We are supposed to connect with our internal wisdom – except when it comes to eating. We are supposed to seek self-acceptance – except for our body. Why do we hitch happiness, peace, and self-esteem to the size of our body, or the way that we eat?
The message boils down to “Trust yourself – unless you want a cookie.” Or, “Honor your soul – unless your soul is hungry after 7:00 pm.” Or, “Accept yourself – except for your thighs and the little poochy spot under your belly button.”
I’m here to tell you to eat the damn cookie. If that’s truly what you are hungry for, no amount of kale or quinoa is a good substitute. Resisting your own inner wisdom about what to eat makes you cabinet-surf after dinner, even when your belly is full. As the 1990s low-fat craze taught us, swapping a fat free Snackwell’s cookie for the real thing just makes you eat the whole package of Snackwell’s.
If you want to be more in control of your eating, the key is to stop trying to be in control. In fact, calling on your willpower is a really great way to set yourself up for overeating. At the very least, it tends to make you obsess about food.
So if it’s not about willpower and control, then what?
The key is self-trust. Trust your body to know how to feed you. Trusting yourself reduces overeating and bingeing. Trusting yourself allows you to tune in to when you are really hungry or full.
Trusting yourself can be scary, though. I get it. It’s hard enough to trust yourself in other areas of your life as you step away from approval addiction. Plus, when it comes to eating, we’re inundated with media and cultural messages telling us we are incompetent.
But you are not incompetent.
You are just out of practice. Babies and toddlers know how to feed themselves until adults get in their way. You know that “open up the hangar, here comes the airplane” stuff? It teaches children to ignore what their tummy is telling them.
That is how the indoctrination begins.
You can undo that programming. It’s a process that won’t happen overnight, but it surely can happen. Bit by bit, you can return responsibility and trust to yourself. “Expert” advice and weight loss or eating plans can never know about you in the moment.
Only you can know when you are hungry or full, no matter what the clock says. Only you can know when you feel satisfied, which is different from having a full belly. (You could fill your stomach with grass clippings, but that’s only satisfying for cows.) Only you can know if you are eating for emotional reasons. While all eating has some emotional component, it becomes a problem when it displaces a real solution. As you probably already know, no amount of potato chips in the world can fix the rift between you and your partner.
Here’s a challenge to you. Start being brazen in all areas of life, including at mealtime. Make friends with your body. Make friends with your appetite. Remove guilt and moral judgment from eating. Once you do this, you might just realize that the forbidden chocolate hidden in the bottom of your lingerie drawer doesn’t even taste very good.
Funny how that works.
Barbara Spanjers is a mythslayer, wellness coach, and therapist. She fears no food (except beets) and loves to help others do the same. As a licensed marriage and family therapist, Barb has experience working with disordered eating/eating disorders, body image, domestic violence, and child welfare. She is the founder of Cake Is Magical Wellness, a coaching practice devoted to stopping the diet madness and improving body image. She wishes more people could eat cake without feeling guilty. You can visit her at http://barbaraspanjers.com