When it comes to making decisions around what you eat, when you eat and how much you eat, where do you look for the answers?
If you’re like most women I’ve worked with, chances are you’ll go straight to the head.
Perhaps you’ll think about what you feel like for a nanosecond, but pretty soon any connection to what you feel in your body will be overtaken by your thoughts. Perhaps you’ll run through the list of shoulds and shouldn’ts. Or maybe you’ll do a mental calculation around what you’ve already eaten that day and try to balance your choice in that way.
Either way, for the most part, we make lots of our food choices in our heads. But, we actually have at our disposal a more powerful tool when it comes to making these decisions. A tool that was actually built for the job and one that’s been programmed from birth to tell us exactly what we need to eat, when we need to eat and how much we need to eat.
What’s so important about the food-body connection?
Many of the systems in your body operate on a giant feedback loop. The body sends a message, you respond and the body reacts based on that message.
For example, when your bladder is full, the body sends a message to go to the toilet, you go to the toilet, the bladder empties, the message stops. However, if you ignore the signal to go, your bladder isn’t emptied and the body sends out a stronger signal. This continues until you empty your bladder…either by choice or when your body takes matters into its own hands.
The same system is in place when you touch something hot, need refueling or need to rest to fight off illness. The body gives you messages and then adjusts based on your reaction.
The great thing is that when we listen to our body, trust the signals it sends us and act on them, then we maximize our connection to our body and improve our health. We become attuned to the signals our body sends and our body relaxes in the knowledge that all is well.
When we connect to our body around food our body sends us great signals about when to eat (hunger), and how much we need at any one time (satisfaction). When the connection is strong we can also pick up on times when we don’t eat enough or eat past satisfaction. We have, at our disposal, all the information to nourish ourselves.
What happens when we don’t connect?
When we fail to react to the signals our body gives us, we are giving it a specific message via the feedback loop – we aren’t listening. Our body then reacts accordingly.
And what happens when we do this around food, particularly by restricting food or not eating when we need?
When you try to control your food intake using external rules or go on a diet (even if it’s branded as a wellness kick or detox) you are sending messages to your body. If you’re not eating enough your body will give you a cue to eat, if you don’t listen and don’t eat it will ramp up that cue.
Eventually your body will take matters into its own hands. Your drive to eat will increase. You’ll start obsessing about food and thinking constantly about the ice-cream in the freezer. You will get to a point where you eat, maybe even binge. You’ll blame yourself for not having willpower or falling off the wagon or not wanting it enough.
But the truth? You can’t control your body’s drive to survive. Which is why it makes sense to strengthen your food-body connection and work with your body.
But, sometimes it’s not that simple…
What gets in the way of our food-body connection?
Many things can get in the way of this system working:
– Your experiences around eating
– The messages you’ve been given around food and your body
– Your body’s signals repeatedly ignored – fasting, dieting, cutting out a lot of foods
– ‘In your head’ around food
– External rules to control food (control is an illusion)
– Trauma that triggers protective behaviors that disconnect you from your body
– Medications that interfere with your appetite
– Eating disorders and other mental health conditions
These factors either reduce your trust in your body or give your body the message that you can’t be trusted to listen to and meet it’s needs.
And while some of the factors above are complex, there is always opportunities to rebuild your connection to your body.
Our body is an amazing feedback system of information. And it’s so so so ready to chat. The question is often: are you ready to listen?
Are you ready to drown out the diet dogma and health messages that undermine your connection? Are you ready to quit outsourcing your health? Are you ready to be the expert in your experience and your own mental, physical and emotional health?