Today I’ve been thinking about several folks who have said to me over the years, “I love ______ (name of food). But I can’t allow myself to eat it ‘cause it’s so bad for me.” When I was caught in the cycle of dieting and bingeing I thought that, too. In fact, in my book, I list over 75 foods that I considered “forbidden” at some point. In holding them up on a pedestal and giving them that special “Forbidden Fruit” status, I only made them more desirable and the self-inflicted punishment if I ate them (stricter dieting, plenty of self-loathing and self-critical thinking) far worse. I started to tackle my list of forbidden foods in 2005 by slowly reincorporating them into my diet, small portions at a time, until I discovered that by doing so, I wasn’t craving them as much. They didn’t seem so special when they weren’t forbidden. Many years later, when I learned to trust my body and listen to what it needs and wants, I discovered that there were some things on the list that it just never craves (and others that it still does).
Trusting our bodies can be scary. One of my co-workers recently said that if she listened to her body it would tell her to eat cake and cookies all the time. I laughed and said that if she truly tuned into her body (by slowing down the process of selecting and eating each snack or meal) and it said, “Eat cookies and cake”, then obey it! Start with a small portion of one or the other and then tune in again and see if the message has changed. Sometimes my body does crave things that I used to think were “bad” foods. I just have to be sure I’m tuning my inner radio dial into the “Body Channel” and not the “Emotional Channel”.
Here’s the distinction:
The emotional channel is the one that tricks us into thinking that our difficult feelings will go away if we eat. This channel tells us, “You’re feeling angry and you will feel so much better (most likely, numb) if you eat (at lot of) X (and while you’re at it, Y, and Z) (really quickly and without thinking about it).” The comments in parentheses are the things we can’t quite hear when we’re tuned in to the emotional channel…it’s like this channel is on the AM band and gets full of static at times so all we hear is the “You will feel better if you eat” part of the message.
On the other hand, the body channel is connected to our Wise Mind. It knows that eating food only temporarily numbs our senses and does not permanently resolve emotional problems. The body channel tells us something like, “You’re feeling angry and want to eat a whole jar of crunchy salted peanuts, but what would really reduce your anger is to go write a letter to the person you’re angry with…a letter that you’ll never send.” The body channel may also then say, “By the way, you are physically hungry and what would really satisfy your physical hunger right now is a hearty salad with lots of different textures, crunchy vegetables, legumes, and a spicy vinaigrette.” The body really can be trusted. It really does know what’s best for us.
For more help with tuning into your “body channel”, try some mindful eating exercises. You can find them here at The Center for Mindful Eating.
Peace, joy, and health!