The process of becoming an intuitive eater can act as a powerful metaphor for understanding the places in us that scare us the most. When we learn to say “yes” or “no” to foods in response to a connection to what we know in our bodies, that same knowing begins to be available in other areas of our lives. These areas may have been long ignored, or under-explored due to the amount of time and space worry and obsessive thoughts about food take up, but becoming an intuitive eater allows us to start seeing ourselves as whole for the first time in a long time.
When we are struggling to set boundaries in our lives and relationships, we are challenged to have boundaries with food. It just seems to work like that. When we begin to understand our body’s requests and begin to have permission to enjoy food and stop eating food, then all of a sudden, we begin to seek and require boundaries in other parts of our lives.
The challenge here may be that eating and food have always stepped in when assertiveness and boundaries were actually what was needed. Many of us never really learned how to state our limits to the people around us, and food (or spending, drinking, etc., etc.) supported us by creating a reliable, albeit temporary, buffer between us and discomfort in our relationships.
Learning to ask for what you need and feeling entitled to do so can be very intimidating because it may not be something you have had to do before. Many have stated that “it feels easier” not to, although it is clear that not having an authentic voice for many years has been far from easy. When our voices are diminished we lose connection to our innate joy, talents, wisdom and sense of place in ourselves.
In The Dance of Connection author Harriet Lerner suggests that the challenge “in conversations is not just to be our self, but to be the self we want to be. That’s why we don’t discover who we are by sitting alone on a mountaintop and meditating, or by being introspective and going deeper, as valuable as these disciplines might be. The royal road for discovering and reinventing the self is through our relationships with other people and the conversations we engage in.”
Not engaging authentically with the world from behind the mask of disordered eating is a powerful and creative coping method that was developed when needed the most. Stepping out from behind the mask of poor body image and dysmorphic ideas about yourself is the way to heal all the way through.
Brene Brown, a researcher who studies the impacts of shame, uses the following mantra to stay true to her authentic voice. “Don’t shrink. Don’t puff up. Just stand your sacred ground.” We are all entitled to take up space and use our voices to secure that space. It takes practice to really know this is true.
Practice intuitive eating and let that be a guide for getting your voice back.
In 2005 therapist Hilary Kinavey and nutritionist Dana Sturtevant started facilitating groups to help women let go of food/weight obsession. Realizing that they shared a similar approach and philosophy regarding food, weight, body image and health – one directly counter to that of conventional institutional paradigms - the two decided to merge their practices to create a partnership that would offer a revolutionary approach to women seeking answers about eating disorders, weight concerns, exercise, and nutrition. Thus, Be Nourished was born. Encouraging a non-diet approach to food, weight and health, Be Nourished offers individual counseling, workshops, classes and retreats to tackle topics like conscious eating, hunger awareness, body acceptance, and self-compassion. For more information, visit Be Nourished.