Dear Body, (a love note & Intuitive Eating)
I will still love you even if you do not adhere to "beaUty standards"... I will still love you when you put on some healthy pounds and choose to nourish and nurture yourself. I will love you 'til the ends of time in every form you take; for the breath you give me, the opportunity to experience this life, our liminal existence.
Thank you for holding me.
Thank you for keeping me safe.
A soul prayer, a love note to Body.
In honor of a tradition where we gather together and eat food, I was called to write a love note to my body, a declaration that I will continue to embody beyond just this holiday, into every day. It can be especially difficult for those who struggle with disordered eating.
How long has it taken me to truly be able to say I love my body? I love it for all it provides me. I love it for the extra weight I carry around my hips and thighs. I love the weight I've gained back on my belly after spending too long staring at my rips and feeling malnourished, like I am shrinking and shriveling away.
Body image is something I have struggled with since I was a young girl. I don't blame anyone for this, but I do believe it has a lot to do with watching my mother struggle with her own body image. I found so much beauty in her every day, yet I grew up hearing her speak lowly of herself, how she was "too heavy", how she "didn't fit" into this or that, and I had numbers in my head that were "bad" or "wrong". I grew up feeling like my idea of beauty must be wrong, too - if she wasn't beautiful, what was beauty?
I wish all womxn and mxn will be able to find this love and peace for their Body. This vessel and sanctuary that carries us every day, on all our winding paths. You are so very worthy, and so very loved. Be gentle to yourself.
This is a practice I carry with me now into every day. I do not judge or ridicule myself for what I eat, I eat what I feel called to, what my body calls out for. I do not allow myself to label foods as "wrong" or "bad", the same as I no longer allow these thoughts to consume my mind regarding my body image. It is by no means an easy path. I owe a lot to my Healthy Eating support group, who has shown me so much light, and grown deep love within me - for each person in my group, as well as for eating, nourishing and loving myself back into healthier eating habits. An important note: disordered eating is not limited to any gender or race. I feel many people don't often realize how much male-identifying people can struggle with this very real struggle, too.
So, what does it mean to practice Intuitive Eating? It's a wonderful practice that allows you to trust and learn how to deeper listen to and honor our intuition. Nourish to Flourish. This is a mantra I have on repeat in my mind, especially on the days I struggle to eat.
Sometimes if I don't eat for an extended period of time, I will find my throat closes on food. I forget the "swallow" reflex. My body loses touch with how to feed itself. I know this is also induced by anxiety, and luckily it has not happened for a long time, but when it does, it's a sign that I need to listen deeper, find something I am able to eat, and nurse my body back to a spot where I know I can eat in a healthy manner.
In 'Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works' by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, they describe the Principles of Healthy Eating, as follows:
Principle 1: Reject the Diet Mentality
"Throw out the diet books and magazine articles that offer you the false hope of losing weight quickly, easily, and permanently."
Principle 2: Honor Your Hunger
"Learning to honor this first biological signal sets the stage for rebuilding trust with yourself and food."
Principle 3: Make Peace with Food
"Give yourself unconditional permission to eat."
Principle 4: Challenge the Food Police
"The 'police station' is housed deep in your psyche and its loudspeaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments."
Principle 5: Feel Your Fullness
"Listen for the body signals that tell you you are no longer hungry."
Principle 6: Discover the Satisfaction Factor
"When you eat what you really want, in an environment that is inviting, the pleasure you derive will be a powerful force in helping you feel satisfied and content."
Principle 7: Cope with Your Emotions Without Using Food
"Find ways to comfort, nurture, distract, and resolve your issues without using food."
Principle 8: Respect Your Body
"Respect your body so you can feel better about who you are."
Principle 9: Exercise - Feel the Difference
"Shift your focus to how it feels to move your body, rather than the calorie-burning effect of exercise."
Principle 10: Honor Your Health - Gentle Nutrition
"Make food choices that honor your health and taste buds while making you feel good."
One of the first things my therapist asked me regarding hunger, which surprised me at the time, was "Are you afraid of hunger?" My immediate response was No, but I knew on a soul level that I was lying. As I explored this idea further in my mind and habits, I began to realize I am afraid of hunger. It goes back, essentially, to our primal hunger - our bodies, when not receiving enough food (energy), go into survival mode. Hunger is a sign we are not properly nourished, and beyond that, can also cause irritability and affect our sleep cycle.
If you're interested in exploring Intuitive Eating, I highly recommend taking some of the principles/ practices listed above and embodying them into your life and eating habits. It will take some time; great changes don't happen all at once and are often full of struggles.
Please reach out if you'd like to learn more, leave a comment with any questions, etc. I am more than happy to provide further insights or tips, and will certainly dig deeper into this topic in future blog posts.