I watched my daughters eat their dinner tonight. My daughters have significantly different body types and are four years apart in age. And both know how to eat intuitively. Both respond to their hunger and fullness cues without any second thought.
We all, at one time or another, knew how to eat intuitively and trust our bodies. We didn’t even question that our bodies knew how to take care of us.
Working with clients who struggle with eating concerns or body image issues, body trust is a central theme and fear.
It was a fear I used to have when I went through my own journey with an eating disorder and recovery.
Key to Recovery
Re-learning to trust my body was a fundamental part of recovery. Perhaps, I might even say it was my “key” to recovery. How freeing it finally was to learn that my body would take care of me as long as I took care of it! That I could trust it’s signals and that through honoring my hunger and fullness, I no longer binged or even over-ate, which then led me to no longer restrict or engage in other compensatory and self-punishing behaviors.
When I relinquished control over my body, my worst fear didn’t come true: being out of control. In fact, the result was just the opposite. In my eating disorder, the more I worked to control my body and its needs, the more out of control I became. It was when I stepped back and took a leap of faith that my body knew what it was doing, I stopped losing control and regained balance and health.
Over the years, my body and I have continued to build our trust in one another and it became a beautiful relationship. I nourished and exercised my body and it, in turn, rewarded me with vitality, health and opportunities to go on amazing physical adventures. Over time trust became easy and intuitive, just like eating.
And then my body’s needs changed. I am currently 9 months pregnant with my last child. During my previous pregnancies and in-between my pregnancies, I always remained active, with some slight variations in what that activity looked like. But being physically active is a part of my identity and a significant part of my enjoyment and mental health.
This pregnancy, however, has been replete from the beginning with significant medical problems. Beyond having new pregnancy-induced medical concerns, I also felt the most sick that I have felt in any pregnancy. As a result of these things, exercise was taken off the table, and eventually, even most physical activity beyond light walking was restricted. Further, my appetite changed. Not just how much food my body wanted, but the types of food my body craved became different.
While I didn’t lose trust in my body, I had to admit trusting my body was easier when my body was doing what I wanted it to do, and what I had come to expect from it. But suddenly, my body had more needs and different needs. More needs and different needs than it has ever had, and it was requesting that I respect those needs, even if I didn’t fully understand them. I saw moments in this pregnancy when I thought about testing my body’s limits, not convinced my body needed me to be as inactive as it had become. In other words, I had moments when my trust in my body failed and I asserted what I thought I and my body needed.
The couple of times I did push those limits, my body quickly reacted with significant negative physical consequences. Those few experiences reiterated to me that my body knows what it is doing and what it needs. While intuitively, physical activity is healthy and beneficial, right now my body needs to preserve energy and work on growing a healthy little life inside of me.
Since my 20s, I have grown to have deep care and affection for my body and while trusting it in this process during this pregnancy isn’t as effortless as it has been in years past, I continue to choose to trust it instead of pursuing my own enjoyment or my own “perceived needs” about being active.
Our Bodies Are Smart
Smarter than we are, even. And they communicate to us if we will just listen. Trusting my body doesn’t mean I have to like what it needs from me, such as what it needs in times like this. But I am willing to honor those needs. In the process of honoring my body over the years, trust has morphed into a deep appreciation and deep love for this vessel that takes me through life. I know it is doing it’s best to take care of me and I love it for doing that. I, in turn, am returning the favor.
Let’s listen more to our bodies, to their needs, and respect them! Doing so opens up a beautiful new way of being with ourselves; allowing our bodies to care for us as we care for them. This leads to trust, which leads to appreciation, and then, to love for these bodies that work tirelessly on our behalf to make our lives the most fulfilling they can be!