(To be clear, this was definitely not the only component to my body-love journey, BUT it was a huge one, and I felt called to share today, in case it may find someone who finds it helpful, so here goes…)
I followed some form of diet / food rules + workout routine starting at age 9 and into my 20s. I had followed some semblance of an ‘formula’ or ‘method’ for so long, that I didn’t even know how to actually pick what I wanted to eat or how to move my body.
For years, I listened to the ‘gurus’ and ‘experts’ and dietitians and personal trainers and doctors and talk show hosts and authors and naturopaths and infomercial marketers and online forum posters and friends and family and EVERYONE really…in terms of every detail about what/when/how I should eat (I’m talking down to how many times I should chew a piece of food), how I should exercise, etc..
One day long down the road of this journey, ‘intuitive eating’ made it into my sphere of awareness, and while the idea sounded really interesting + wonderful, I personally found it REALLY hard to even comprehend that there was potential to create a reality where I didn’t have to measure and calculate and analyze every bite of food that went into my mouth. (If I didn’t, I would just completely lose all ‘self-control’ and eat endlessly, right?)
I mean, I knew other people did it, but it was foreign territory to me. I was FREAKED OUT by the idea of completely letting go of all ‘control’ over my food and learning to TRUST myself.
But that’s because through dieting + weight loss efforts starting during such early years of my life, I developed a deep deep lack of self-trust. I didn’t trust that, without any boundaries or rules to ‘control’ my behavior, that I would ever be capable of making the appropriate food choices on my own. (I thought: Clearly, the reason I ‘was fat’ to begin with at age 9 is because of this. Because I’m just not one of those people who has any self-control, so I must learn to control myself.)
Constantly ‘controlling’ my weight + food intake all the time, like I was told I was ‘supposed to’, left me miserable inside. Regardless of how much or how little I ate, the majority of my thoughts during any given day revolved around my food: how I was hungry, my feelings about whether that hunger was good or bad, when my next meal would be, planning my life around fitting in my meals at the right time with the exact right foods, missing out on / avoiding social events involving eating and drinking since those goods usually weren’t *allowed* on whatever permutation of a diet I was on at the time, etc…
It was f***ing exhausting.
I was spending all of this mental, physical, and emotional energy on FOOD + my weight…Energy that could have been much better spent otherwise.
And if any or all of my story relates to you, please know this – NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE – your eating + exercise behavior has nothing to do with your lack of self-control. Rather, it likely has a lot more to do with your lack of self-trust.
We’ve been taught by so many people not to trust ourselves, and that we don’t know best, that we should relinquish our instincts to the opinions of others. So many of us have given others our power and ability to decide what is best for us.
“But I’ve got lots of ‘proof’, Ryann! It really is all about diet + exercise. I lose weight when I follow these plans, so they must be right.”
OK. You’re totally allowed to feel that way. I’ll just ask you how is that working for you? Forget your weight. Are you happy? How much time in a day do you spend focusing on this area of your life?
My guess is if you’re still reading this, you’re not a casual exerciser + ‘healthy eater’, you’re someone who is tired of this diet cycle, and you want off…STAT. I don’t blame you. You’re here to do SO MUCH MORE than focus on your weight.
Imagine a life where you could pick out a meal you actually want + just trust that nothing ‘bad’ will come from eating it. Where you could know that if you gave up the rules, that eventually, your weight would settle into its natural state (whatever that is for you). Where you don’t always have to order the boring ‘garden-salad-dressing-on-the-side’ on the menu just because it’s the only thing that is ‘allowed’ on your diet. Where you genuinely CRAVE a delicious salad on one day and on another you want nothing more than a chocolate ice cream sundae (with hot fudge + sprinkles, please!), and they’re both totally OK.
So much of this is rooted in trading in your desire for control and beginning to trust.
When I finally gave myself the freedom and *permission* to trust myself, it was magical.
When I first started this, I went to the grocery store, and I allowed myself to buy anything and everything I wanted (but that used to be secretive + shameful or ‘forbidden’ for YEARS). Macaroni and cheese, cookies, ice cream…you get the idea. Then, I let myself eat however much I felt like eating. At first, I experimented with eating a lot of these foods in large quantities because that is what I believed my body wanted to eat 24/7.
However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that when I actually checked in with myself, I felt pretty sick after that, without eating any vegetables or fruits or other less processed foods.
It turns out my body is a bit wiser than I gave it credit for… It turns out the only reason I wanted these things so bad was because I didn’t allow myself to eat them and believed that they were ‘bad’ foods (even though I secretly wanted them).
But the problem is, when we label these foods ‘bad’ and then all we do is want them, a part of us begins to believe that WE must be ‘bad’. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say they’re being ‘bad’ by eating ice cream. Really?!
We’ve grown to punish ourselves for wanting what we want, eating the foods that bring us joy, and then telling ourselves we’re bad. Cue shame cycle where we endlessly binge + diet + punish + reward + on and on…using FOOD.
Once I was willing to give up the labels of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and simply start asking my body what she wants, my diet expanded to eating pretty much anything on the menu: cookies + chicken, ice cream + salad, mac and cheese + almond milk, etc. I move my body in ways that make me feel how I want to, rather than to ‘compensate’ for food eaten; to feel strong + powerful + flowing + calm + expressive + connected to nature.
And like I said, while this isn’t the ONLY piece of the body-love journey, it is FOR SURE a big one.
Even if you don’t decide to trust yourself, see what this brings up for you? What are you afraid of when it comes to trusting your body? What are you convinced will happen if you don’t? And then, I ask – and what would be so bad about that? Why is that such a bad thing?
I’m willing to bet there’s GOLD in there.
And I don’t know what YOUR journey will look like or how long it will take for you (full transparency, this didn’t happen overnight for me), but I do know that beginning to trust yourself in your body will not only help to free you from this cycle but to trust yourself in so many OTHER areas of your life.
It’s a journey, patience definitely helps, and it gets easier with time.
I was also thinking of hosting a FREE call for anyone who feels connected to this + wants to ask any questions that come up around it. I’d be happy to help in whatever way I can