The tradition of making New Year’s resolutions has been around for thousands of years, dating back to the era of the Babylonians, according to history.com. In fact, resolutions began with religious roots when the crops were planted and a new king reigned. Promises were made to the gods to pay off debts and return anything that was borrowed. In today's world, the New Year’s resolution has become a mostly secular celebration focusing mostly on oneself. It is studied that only 8% of people fulfill their resolutions. I'm not a fan of those odds! So, why do we set ourselves up for failure?
Today’s resolutions are mostly health focused. After a few months of celebrations, diet culture messaging tells us that we need to “get back on track”. A few years back, I began by putting health as my number one priority. While I thought that was progress, it was actually dieting and restricting in hiding. I didn’t realize that dieting was actually harming me and perpetuating the cycle of shame and binge eating. Diets and diet culture messaging is broken, not me, and not you. You may have already heard me talk about it but in case you haven’t, check out one of my recent blogs where I talk about how to heal your relationship with food.
You might be wondering, “If I let go of dieting, what do I do instead?” Intuitive Eating lays the foundation for healing your relationship with food. While it can be challenging, it is so worth the effort. It can be overwhelming to completely change the way you relate to and think about food. Start slow and be gracious and compassionate with yourself. This is not another diet and cannot be done perfectly. Know that it will take time, persistence, and a bit of faith but the payoff is FREEDOM. You will never have to have a diet or weight loss Resolution again.
New Year’s can still be a great time for self-reflection. I personally enjoy the ceremony of reviewing the year past and seeing what I’d like to be different going forward. A few years ago, I changed from setting resolutions to intentions. The idea being that it’s all a journey, not a destination. This feels like a focusing in, rather than a should or something I need to push. It is an evaluation of my priorities and a look at how I can better live my priorities. I personally like to focus on intentions that benefit my whole life, rather than trying to control and manage my body.
Last year my intentions were:
I loved them so much I am keeping them this year. And adding, finishing my book and getting it published in 2022! I’d love to hear what your 2022 intentions are, comment below.
I want to share with you a tool I created for body attunement. Being attuned to your body is key for secure attachment with self, your body, and food. If you're aware of intuitive eating, you've been trying to practice it, you've been struggling, if you're somebody who's new to this work, or you're somebody who has tried to learn body attunement, but you haven't found a way that's really worked well for you, this tool will be helpful.
The tool is called the five A's.
Awareness- Start by taking a moment to tune into your body. You have to make it a priority to take time to check in. That can either be in real time when you're having a big sensation or emotion happening, or it can be scheduled regularly so that you're learning to do this through consistent practice. Both are valid ways of learning, and both of them are really helpful.
What are you looking for awareness of? You're really looking for a sensation. A lot of times people will say “I feel sad”, “I feel happy”, or “I feel angry.” One tool you can use is to just ask yourself, How do I know? Where do I feel happiness in my body? What are the sensations that come along with that? Or just simply checking in and seeing what sensations are present independent of any emotions.
Stay curious. You might actually be surprised; sometimes you might be feeling something that is upsetting but when you actually check in, the sensation is kind of benign or might even feel kind of good. You want to be completely neutral, judgment free. You are just checking in. A lot of times in wellness or mindfulness practices, you're told to check in, figure out where you feel tension, and relax. That is actually not the goal here, you don't want to try to fix it or change it. The goal is to really notice what is and become aware of what is present and not try to change it.
Where do you want to pay attention to? Well, any sensation is important and valid, but you're really trying to zoom in on one or two sensations, whatever is calling your attention or needing to be explored. Now you're probably used to noticing the musculoskeletal tension or pain. What is often more interesting or useful to look at are things that are in your visceral experience- any kind of organ based sensation. Visceral column is your GI tract, everything from your mouth down to your intestines, your throat, your heart and lungs, your diaphragm, your intestines, your reproductive organs, your genitals. Your skin is also an organ. You're looking in this column, all the way down. It can sometimes be a good practice just to pick an area you feel disconnected from- like asking what's happening in my abdomen right now or what's happening in my chest. A lot of times when people feel sadness, they'll feel it in their chest like a constriction. Name it! You can bring deeper awareness by naming the actual sensation. When you feel the sensation, you're using your right brain. When you name the sensation, you're using your left brain. That is really powerful for building new skills, using both sides of your brain.
For naming it, think about what it actually feels like…It feels like a buzzing, I feel butterflies in my stomach, I feel nauseous and a churning happening, I feel my mouth watering, my skin feels electric, etc. You're looking for ways of describing the sensation.
Some questions might be helpful like, does it have a texture? Does it have a color? Is there a motion to it? What direction is it moving? What is the quality of it? For example, It feels like dense fog.
The goal is to bring awareness, ideally, to your visceral column, and then name the sensation. This is not just for unpleasant, difficult sensations, or challenges. It's also for the pleasant ones. If you can catch yourself having a really joyful or happy moment and let yourself sink into what is the sensation that's present here? Can you let it grow and expand? Can you sit with it? Can you allow this feeling to be in your body and take up space? For some people feeling pleasant, joyful sensations are just as challenging.
Allowing- Let yourself sit with the sensation and not try to change it. In fact, I think even growing this sensation is ideal. Allow the sensation to take up space, growing in size or intensity. But again, you want to remain curious, noticing if this is pleasant or unpleasant rather than assuming it's unpleasant. When you are learning, you want to titrate this. When you're first practicing, just sitting with it for the amount of time that feels okay to you, because it can feel really overwhelming to feel sensations, particularly ones that you've disconnected from, disassociated from, that feel painful, or uncomfortable. Start with the amount of time that feels good, but moving up toward 90 seconds. That's about how long it takes to metabolize the feeling.
Acceptance- it's helpful to say things to yourself like, it's okay that you're here, I hear you, I see you, I will acknowledge you, I appreciate that you're giving me that information. Having acceptance that there's nothing bad or wrong with you for having this sensation or feeling. Keep the mindset that you don't need to fix or change this, simply experience what your body is trying to tell you, experience what is present for you.
Acknowledgement- Focus on giving your body gratitude and appreciation. Saying things like- Thank you body for getting my attention, thank you for trying to tell me something, thank you for carrying me through life and containing all of these aspects of me, thank you for your wisdom. Choosing something that feels resonant for you is really important. Acknowledging and appreciating the magic that your body does. We all need to experience a full spectrum of sensations to be fully connected to your body. Your body is trying to help you navigate the world and really is the vessel that you do that in. You want to express that gratitude to build connection and trust with your body.
Action???/honoring- This could be a little tricky, you don’t always want or need to take action. The first four parts of the five A’s are the most critical..the practice of building connection and trust with your body, connecting and seeing what is present, simply feeling/allowing your sensations and your emotions to be felt. Sometimes there's a clear action. You might be like, I feel hungry, I need to eat, or I feel hungry, but I can't eat for half an hour. So then you tell yourself, “okay, buddy, I hear you, and I will make sure I eat a really robust meal, or that I get to it as quickly as I can.” This step is about honoring the information that you receive.
Sometimes the sensation will be trying to tell you something really specific. Like, I feel a burning in my chest, is this related to anger? Anger can be a sign that you have felt a boundary was crossed sooo, maybe the action or the honoring of that is you need to set a boundary. What might also be true for you is you don't have the capacity right now, or you're not really sure how to do that. Then the honoring would be just sitting with the information that you received, and seeking support around it or seeing how you might start to explore the idea of setting a boundary. You want to honor it but you want to honor all of what's true for you and not use this as a “should”, an attempt to fix, or as a judgment against yourself. Even if you knew that you needed to set a boundary and you felt you did have the capacity but you just didn't want to, that's okay. You can use discernment and decide if you want to take action. Then the honoring could be figuring out what you will do in lieu of setting the boundary. What else do you need to do? Do you need to distance yourself? Do you need to make sure you have a friend to call after you see that person so you can vent? Do you need to take a walk when you’re upset with them? Looking at ways you can resource and support yourself around the challenge that you’re experiencing.
This is meant to be an enriching experience. This can feel really big and it can be hard to want to do this because it feels scary or challenging. Simply practicing awareness, acceptance, allowing, acknowledgement and then honoring can be really powerful in building that body attunement and really healing your relationship with yourself and bringing you to that place of secure attachment. If you need support around it I can support you. You can also watch the video version of this here.
This is one of the top things that people search for and this is one of the top things that people ask me when they come to a consultation with me (I like to call them discernment sessions).
They ask me, “how do I heal my relationship with food?”
This is actually quite simple. But it is not easy.
The main reason it's not easy is that these patterns around food in our body are lifelong. They start when we're infants (probably even in the womb). We are born fully dependent on our caregivers to feed and nurture us. Our wiring is based on however they set the stage for this. Our dispositions, stress, and life experiences happen that disrupt, change, make it easier, or more difficult.
We're not necessarily taught to have a connected relationship with our body where we're really listening to our body. With Intuitive Eating and Secure Attachment, listening to our body is the guide for how, when, where, why we're eating. Some people are modeled that and they seem to do really well and have this ease around food, it's very connected and attuned to their body.
The majority of us are either going to be more preoccupied or anxious about food and kind of trying to control or manage. Diet culture really gets in the way and starts to increase that preoccupation and makes us feel like we're not good enough as we are. It takes us away from our body attunement, because we're then trying to make decisions based on all of these arbitrary shoulds: shouldn't eat carbs, you should eat this many vegetables a day, you shouldn't eat between these hours. That's taking away from the body attunement.
Others may be avoidant of food. They don't want to really think about it or have to deal with it. They eat whatever in a way that's not attuned to our body. Or maybe you're avoiding food in the sense that you're very restrictive with food and not getting enough nourishment.
These are some of the hallmarks of the food attachment styles. And the goal is to move towards an earned secure relationship with food. In relationship with your body, in relationship with food, and eating in a way that is attuned to our body. Not spending a lot of time and mental and emotional energy thinking about food and also not avoiding it. That's the goal. So, how do you do that? How do you get to that point? (I would encourage you to read the What is Success blog because redefining success is really important in this).
One of the biggest barriers to healing your relationship with food and your body is diet culture. It is the “should” mentality, you “should” be a certain weight. As long as you're trying to obtain a goal weight or control or manage your body in that way, it's going to disrupt your body attunement. You're not going to be able to develop that kind of inner intuition about what really is the right thing for you. That's one of the reasons it's so hard, lifelong.
Diet culture is so prevalent, right? It's social media posts, TV, you hear it at the doctor's office, you hear it from your friends, your family, your parents and all the people in your life.
So know that the game is kind of rigged, that diets don't work and those things actually just disrupt your body attunement. You have to get a lot of distance from that. Reject diet/health culture; the idea that you need to look a certain way, or, that's the way that you're going to be your healthiest, you're going to be the best and get really curious in lieu of that.
Start looking at the patterns around what's happening here. What am I actually concerned about? Am I eating in a way that doesn't feel good to my body? Do I feel like I don't have enough vitality? Am I eating emotionally? Look at those patterns and then start to address those actual issues. If I'm eating emotionally, the issue is that I don't know how to actually feel my feelings. I have a great resource, an app, for this called the Breathing room. That's a great tool to start to get more in tune with your body and really discover the sensations and emotions.
First step, stop dieting! Be prepared to go on a journey of “this is hard”. You've been in a lifelong struggle, you will need to really start to connect with your body. That takes time to develop and that's a skill that you likely haven't learned yet. You need to develop it in order to eat intuitively. You can't eat intuitively, if you're not attuned to your body. This is not something that you “should” be able to do, you have to actually develop it, it is a skill. Most of us have the ability to do this, but it takes time and energy, like learning to drive a car.
Again, plan to be on a journey. Get curious with your patterns. What's actually happening leading up to these things, the things I'm actually concerned about? And then look at how you might address them. Try on different solutions without judgment. Again, know this is going to be a long journey. There is nothing wrong with you. It is learning an entirely different way of relating.
A big piece is developing your body attunement. I created a tool for this called the five A's. I have a great YouTube video about this also.
Awareness. Bringing awareness to what the sensations are that are happening in my body right now? How does this actually feel? What's actually going on for me?
Allowing. Letting yourself actually feel that sensation. We're not trying to fix it here, we're really trying to just allow, feel it. Let yourself sit with that sensation. Ideally, at least 90 seconds, just sit with it, just be with it, walk around with it. But really hold on to that feeling, let it be seen and heard, and recognize it.
Acceptance. Acceptance over that sensation. It is okay that I'm feeling this way. I don't need to fix it. There's nothing bad or wrong with me. Even if this is uncomfortable. It's okay, that this is part of my body. My body's trying to get my attention with something here. My body's trying to let me know something. It's okay to feel this.
This acceptance and allowing is really key and really important. However, if you're someone who struggles with a lot of trauma, if you have had a substance abuse problem in the past, if you have other barriers to being connected to your body like pain, if it feels really hard or scary to be connected to your body, you may need to get support and have someone who can hold space for you. You also might need to titrate this to little doses...let yourself feel/experience a little bit at a time. Use the app or just sit with it initially for like 15 seconds and then build up to the 90 seconds. Recognize that this might feel really scary for your nervous system, it might feel really hard to do, and that's okay. But we definitely want to get to the point where we have awareness allowing acceptance, and then we're going to acknowledge from there.
Acknowledgement. Okay, thank you body, you are my home, thank you for housing all of this, thank you to the sensations in my body, thanks for getting my attention and letting me know something is going on. I hear you, I see you, thank you. Expressing some gratitude, naming what is present in our body. And, then really appreciating it.
Action? It’s meant to be honoring. I've just received all of this information and now I'm going to take those first 4 A’s and see if there's something to do. Sometimes it's just feeling it and allowing it, that is the honoring itself, or that is the action that you take. The first four pieces of it are the most important, the most critical, you're not feeling it so that you can change it or fix it. you're feeling it for the intent of becoming more connected and in tune with your body and for developing that trust with your body.
This is so key to intuitive eating and healing your relationship with food. Getting connected to those sensations and allowing them to be present to what is true for you. Sometimes there's an honoring that needs to happen or an action that needs to happen. An example is something as simple as I feel hungry...this is what hunger feels like in my body, it's okay that I feel hungry, I have acceptance over that, I'm going to name it. Yes, I'm hungry, thank you body for letting me know I'm hungry. The action is going to be, go eat some food. Right?
Sometimes it's much more complex. You may notice that you are ruminating. Do a body scan...maybe you notice your cheeks are flushed, you feel tension in your belly, and it feels like a twisting and a gnawing. In allowing that feeling to be there, you might have some clarity, is this coming up because so and so crossed a boundary? The action might be, Do I want to cry? Or do I want to set a boundary with them or talk to them about that? Again, that can feel scary, you don't have to do that. Its important that you don't make it conditional, if you feel your feelings, then you have to take action, that can make you avoid feeling your feelings. But sometimes there is a way of honoring your feelings and your capacity. “I need to tell so and so that I don't want them to comment on my body anymore. Or I need to tell my mom that my daughter doesn't have to eat green beans if she doesn't want to. Or I need to tell my sister that she can't just stop by and I need to have advanced warning. Or I need to tell my lover that I need some more space to myself.” Setting a boundary, and honoring the information that you receive. Or waiting to set the boundary until you are ready. The most important piece of these 5 A’s is the awareness, acceptance, and allowing. You're trying to build connection and trust here, you're not trying to fix, change, manage, control or contort your body into doing what you want it to do. You may take action, you may not.
This is the framework that I've developed in terms of supporting people in building that body attunement and sitting with those sensations. There are others, experiment with what works for you.
I also recommend writing out a list of sensation words or using the Reembody app, because sometimes it can be really hard to name what's happening in our body. That's another thing that we're not modeled. It's really valuable to actually name it in terms of getting clarity and getting connected and understanding your body better. That uses two different parts of our brain so it's really effective in supporting change.
Feel free to reach out to me if you need support beyond this. If you're really interested in working with me, I have the free peace with food discernment sessions. I offer them periodically, when I have space in my private coaching practice, or when I'm getting ready to have a new group program. If you're interested, you can go to my website and apply for one. You can also sign up for my email list. When I do open up spots, I send that out to people on my list first. If you're interested in working with me, if you think that you'd like to get more support, these are the best options to do that.
Download your free hunger scale now!
The first step to healing your relationship with food is reconnecting with the signals your body gives you. One of the ways to do that is by checking in with your hunger before you eat. Here's my spin on the traditional hunger scale..