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 our relationship with food is reconnecting with the signals our body gives us. 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.