What do trust issues have to do with enjoying a peaceful relationship with your body, free of weight issues and food issues? A lot, actually. Without trust we cannot truly believe deep down in our bones, that the body is designed to talk to us minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour. Without trust we cannot have the kind of conversations that go like this:
“That pink Valentine’s sugar cookie shurrrrre looks good. (sniffing) I can smell the buttercream frosting. Do I need it and therefore, want it? (Notice how trust and need are connected.) Well, I like cookies but after the iced orange roll and this morning’s muffin I don’t really need any more sweet carbs. You know what sounds really good? Turkey and spinach sound good…because I need them. For lunch I’m going to try to match my choices to turkey and spinach as closely as possible.”
This example of a clear connection with the body identifies what we might need: which is, in essence whatever is missing that day. Our bodies can tell us from the absent food categories what sounds good, if we ask.
Relative to the design of our bodies it is a tender mercy that when we have exactly what we need, it always tastes the best. This is true even if those Swedish Fish and peanut-butter cups are our favorite treat, and what we really need are eggs and broccoli. We never need to sacrifice. When eggs and broccoli are needed they satisfy on a level of pleasure the wrong foods simply cannot match. To defend this point let me ask you: if you were dying of thirst in the desert would you prefer water over ANY OTHER LIQUID? Sure, water would taste best because it is exactly what you would need.
Of course sugar tastes good. Let’s not pretend it doesn’t. Any time of day I can project the yumminess of a brownie in my mouth. But freedom comes when I want a brownie only when I need it…and that requires trusting my body when it says an orange would fill the bill far better than a brownie. If you worry that you will never get to eat treats because sugar and junk food are supposed to be bad for you rest assured. We do need treats. Regularly. There is no bad food. Sugar is not wrong. In fact, life is a never-ending conveyor belt of wonderfulness. The rub is having that wonderfulness when you actually need it and prefer it, in the proportion you need, instead of allowing food to lord over you when you don’t actually need it.
The following conversation illustrates how trusting the design of our bodies gives us freedom from compulsive bingeing and overeating in general:
“This Ben and Jerry’s Chubby Hubby is my favorite flavor ice cream. I rarely get to eat it. Besides, the kids are asleep and I have the TV remote to myself. First bite… wonderful. Second bite… even better. Third bite… assessing all the textures and flavors. Fourth bite, I’m feeling the richness of the butterfat all through my mouth. What pleasure, what bliss. I might just be having a foodgasm. Yes, I’m satisfied. I peaked. (Projecting ahead) What if I kept going? My tastes buds are actually getting a little cold and numb. More bites won’t add up to more pleasure. In fact, I can project the way another bite would feel in my body and it would be a bit gross. Yup, I am feeling a definite aversion to more ice cream right now. Besides, I’m still swooning from the first four bites. It is enough. I don’t want more.”
Did you notice how the internal conversation allowed me to fully experience the pleasure from ice cream? The antidote to compulsive eating is to register more pleasure. Only then can we receive a prompt that we are satisfied to the point of aversion. If we falsely believe eating beyond the bliss point of satisfaction will just add up to more pleasure remember that after we peak and meet the need, eating more becomes an exercise in disconnection and escape. We may tell ourselves we are eating because the chips and salsa taste good, but after a few bites (or half the bag) we are really escaping and not actually experiencing pleasure.
Trust issues are generally about control because we sometimes wrongly imagine our bodies hang in balance by a thread and only our hard-iron discipline will keep us from the tipping point–as if discipline will keep us eating salad instead of brownies, sugar cookies, or any other food we deem restricted. In other words, we think we are dictators to our bodies, telling it what it needs. It already knows. Your body was designed perfectly to be in balance and it will tell you what it needs instead of relying on your knowledge of FDA nutrition charts or some other external construct. The problem with this misapprehension (that we need to dictate to our bodies what we need) is we only blame ourselves when we become out of balance, instead of realizing we merely need to re-connect to our bodies to find out what we need. Trusting the perfect design of our bodies allows us to trust in balance. Balance means we have exactly the right things going in and the right amount expended and going out. We don’t have to ballast that ship with sheer determination. Instead we need to trust our bodies were designed in the first place to be in balance. They can talk. They were designed to. Only then can we listen to prompts that tell us hummus and raw veg sound better than a cheeseburger and fries. Way better. Cleaner. More enjoyable 20 minutes after eating. Way more enjoyable 3 hours later. We can also trust the food on Earth was put here for our use and is neither good nor bad. Some food is better fuel, but no food is “bad.” If there is no bad food and nothing is restricted we don’t particularly need to hoard the lemon bars out of fear that we won’t ever get them again OR out of fear we won’t ever give ourselves permission again. We can let go of that white-knuckle grip on food.
If your body has become sneaky and tells you messages you no longer trust, use what you know about balance to act as if you are hearing it perfectly. For instance, ask yourself if you are satisfied yet. Relish the true pleasure and become practiced at noticing when you have hit your apex of fulfillment. During this discovery time fine tune your listening so your body can talk more directly. For example, when prompts for hydration are chronically ignored the body might get creative and start sending a craving for salty snacks—which in turn, makes us thirsty for a drink. Fix this prompt by hydrating more often. If you simply cannot stop eating treats late at night, tune in to every bite of your snack to eke out all the possible pleasure you can—thus, allowing your brain chemistry to start sending you that elusive message that you are “satisfied, fulfilled, and done.”
Even if it takes a few weeks to get your messages coming in loud and clear, you can still do it. Trust the design and have peace.
Tres Hatch is the author of Miracle Pill 10 Truths to Healthy, Thin, & Sexy.