If You Needed to Stretch, Would You? (On Listening to Your Body)

If You Needed to Stretch, Would You? (On Listening to Your Body)

But what if my body wants to eat ice cream for an entire month? But what if my body only wants to eat carbs? Intuitive eating works for other people, but not me. If I could eat whatever I wanted, I would just eat junk food all of the time.

I know firsthand that many of you experience fear around intuitive eating. What will your body ACTUALLY want if you allow yourself to eat ANYTHING/ANYTIME?

I remember when I first read the book Intuitive Eating I was half excited and half scared out of my mind. Could I seriously eat whatever I wanted? Would this really “work” for me? Like, would I actually feel good? Or would I spiral out of control? Would I stick to it?

I had so many questions…

I remember, so specifically, the first thing that I ate when I started this process.

It was a slice of apple pie & ice cream.

Not much of a meal, I know… but it’s all I could think of that I actually wanted. I read in the book (I think) that I should be calm when I ate, so I waited until I was off work and had nothing to do for the day, went to my parents house (at the time, I was living with a friend), went into my old bedroom that was totally under construction (it was my happy place), laid out a blanket, laid down on my stomach with my legs crossed, and slowly savored my apple pie and ice cream.

I wasn’t necessarily full… it didn’t necessarily satisfy me (I still wanted to eat a “real meal” later), but it was the first time in a LONG time that I gave myself permission to actually enjoy something decadent. It was in that moment, that I gained a little bit of trust in the process.

Trusting Your Body:

Maybe I COULD do this… Maybe I could have a sweet, and not proceed to devour everything else in my cupboards. Maybe I could have a sweet and not feel remorse/failure/guilt afterward.

The next times I ate sweets looked like:

  • Dad and I going out to lunch and me stopping by a candy shop afterward, buying one special chocolate, coming home, and savoring it sitting on the porch with a hot coffee
  • Getting a craving for ice cream, pulling the tub out of the freezer, making a special little ice cream with a Reese’s peanut butter cup crushed in, putting it in a bowl, sitting at the table, & soaking up one bite at a time
  • Taking a moment to myself while babysitting (kids were napping), sitting outside on the patio with my journal and a hot cocoa, made extra special with a few added marshmallows on top

I began to treat sweets as a special little event for myself. NOT something that was quickly devoured and not enjoyed while standing in front of the cupboard or fridge.

I realized that when I ate in front of the cupboard or fridge, I never actually enjoyed the sweet. And since the reason we eat sweets is for pleasure (it’s sure not for filling our stomachs!), I had to ask myself: Why WOULDN’T I make this a more pleasurable experience? 

At first, sitting down at the table with a little bowl of ice cream and FULL permission to enjoy it felt odd. Very strange. Like, am I really acknowledging that this is okay? Is this really okay? This is normal after thinking something is “bad” for so long.

After a while I learned that I was totally safe to enjoy sweets in moderation, and they lost their power over me. I even realized that there were MANY sweets I thought I loved and actually didn’t enjoy at all, like:

  • M&M’s – I realized that, unless I had handful after handful, they didn’t actually have much flavor. Try having just ONE M&M on it’s own and you’ll see what I mean. It’s not very exciting unless you have an entire handful! There’s not much flavor there.
  • Cadbury Mini Egg’s – I realized that these little eggs that I once binged on every Spring didn’t taste good. They tasted chalky, chemically, and I would MUCH rather have a beautiful truffle that I hand selected just for me.

I learned that a small amount of something real/rich/delicious was MUCH more satisfying than a large amount of something I didn’t enjoy very much. Which is when I learned:

It’s not the AMOUNT of something that will satisfy us, rather it’s how much we enjoy each bite.

It didn’t end with sweets. As I continued eating intuitively I realized that for the most part, when I’d slow down enough to check in, my body wanted wholesome, nourishing foods.

I also learned that I prefer having meals throughout the day more than simply grazing all day (which I thought is what I liked previously – I had always referred to myself as a “snacker”.)

Ultimately, I learned that I can absolutely trust my body to eat intuitively.

I just had to learn the difference between listening to my MIND vs. my BODY. Often, what my mind craves is a pleasant/easy distraction. Or to run away from discomfort. Or to find something to make me feel good fast.

What my BODY wants is to feel good. To feel healthy, energized, and happy. For my mood to feel clear, balanced, and calm. 

I learned that there were so many unnecessary fears I was struggling to let go of that were holding me back from having total freedom to trust my body. And many of my clients have experienced similar revelations.

Like this one:

  • “And for those afraid that letting go of dieting will land you in an unhealthy and disgusting body? It turns out my body can be trusted! It turns out the signals it gives me, when honored, keeps me at a great weight. And it also likes a brisk walk and bike ride daily! Who knew?” – Kendra K.

And this one:

  • “Today I no longer fear “bad foods” vs. “good foods.” I listen to and honor my body, understanding when and how much to feed her. I have embraced my body as it is, and love the woman I am today.” – Kelly R.

Annnnnd this one:

  • “Paige has taught me to love and honor my body, mind and spirit in a way that I know is a permanent way of life. The energy I spent obsessing and researching for a new diet or program is finally being spend having fun, building relationships, and living a life that I am proud to live.” – Ann-Marie R.

I could go ON AND ON with the client stories (just see them here). The point is, you can trust your body. You might be totally freaked out at first (just like I was, & just like these girls were!) but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth working toward. Freedom awaits.

Listening to Your Body:

In a recent session with a client (you can learn more about working with me here), we related listening to our bodies with food to listening to our bodies with stretching. Think about it, when you need to stretch, what do you do? You stand up, stretch out your arms, arch your back, and get a big ol’ stretch in. If you haven’t done that in a while, do it now. 

How does your body feel afterwards? Relaxed. Right? Like, so good. Like that was the exact right thing to do.

So why would it be any different with responding to what your body asking for in terms of food, hunger, or movement? When our body asks us for something, we can trust it in the same way we would trust it if we randomly got the signal to stand up and stretch; we know it would feel good afterward.

The Scale:

I wrote a full post on how I don’t use the scale anymore here, but in this post, what I want to share is that the scale itself does not have anything to do with what we weigh.

If we think we’ve lost weight and feel good, we automatically go to the scale to “confirm” whether or not we should feel good. Did I lose weight? If so, then we feel good. If not, then we wonder why we felt good in the first place, thinking we were wrong to do so. When really, ALL that matters IS feeling good.

It doesn’t matter what the number says! If you feel good, then that should be enough to give you permission to continue feeling good. You do not need the scale to validate these feelings for you.

Same thing if you’re feeling heavy. You don’t need to jump on the scale to confirm that you’re feeling heavy. Rather, you just do feel heavy and there’s nothing wrong with this. Instead of jumping on the scale and making yourself feel worse, check-in with yourself:

  • “Is it that time of the month? If so, I always feel heavier at this time. This is normal. This will pass.”
  • “Have I been listening to my body? If so, then I’m probably just having an off day/moment – I’m fine. Let’s move on. If not, then what is the very next choice that I can make to feel better? To feel more in line with my body?”
  • “I feel heavy. That’s okay. How can I care for myself RIGHT NOW as I’m feeling heavy? What would feel good?”

We can use the way we feel to connect with ourselves and our needs. We can trust our bodies to let us know how we’re feeling, and from this place, we can make our choices. We do not need external things like diets or scales or rules to dictate what we do.

To reconnect with your bodies inherent signals, to trust her more, to get great at self-love/care and to create a mindful, healthy, and positive relationship with food, join me in coaching

I hope this post was so helpful for you! Share with me in the comments your thoughts on trusting your body, just like you would if you got the signal to stretch. I love thinking of these two as similar. It gives us so much permission to listen for – and honor – the signals our bodies are always sending us.

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