Relationships are hard. They require time and attention in order to survive and optimally thrive. They also require a huge amount of trust. Trusting that our needs will be met when we speak up, trusting that we will be safe when we are vulnerable and trusting that honesty and integrity will usually be practiced.
There is a saying, “The best proof of love is trust” by Dr. Joyce Brothers. We take a big leap of faith when we decide to trust another person not only with our heart but also with our hopes and dreams. And it can be crazy scary. In fact, it can be the main reason so many of us avoid relationships all together. It’s a huge investment and a terrifying risk.
But even if we happen to be one of those people who avoid relationships at all costs, there is still one relationship we will inevitably have to come to terms with and that’s the relationship with our body.
The slogans “Love your body” and “self love” have gained a lot of attention and that’s a good thing. But so many of us forget that without trust there is little to no chance of love.
I recently saw someone on social media ask the question, “Can I still love my body and be on a diet to lose weight?”
This is an awesome question.
Here’s the thing, when we’re on a diet we’re relying on a set of external rules and regulations that dictate what goes into our mouth and when it goes into our mouth. In other words, we’re not listening to our body’s cues and signals regarding our hunger, energy level, cravings, fullness level, ect. We’re pretty much telling our body “No, you don’t know what you need. Doctor so-and-so with this awesome book about fat burning and only eating kale does, so I am going to listen to him because I trust him more than I trust you.” OUCH! That is some serious body disrespect and distrust. Being on a diet and claiming to still love our body is like being in a relationship with someone, saying we love them but going out and constantly cheating on them.
Being on a diet for weight control is not loving your body because it is not trusting your body to know what’s best.
“But I feel horrible in my body and I know if I lost weight I would feel better!” (Notice how I didn’t say “feel better about myself”?)
I hear you. Physically feeling horrible can happen at any size. In fact both thin and fat people experience feeling physically horrible in their body all the time. People that are going through incredibly difficult medical issues or are coming off of invasive surgery typically don’t feel very good in their body. When people have a difficult time performing daily tasks without feeling weak and out of breath, or intense pain in their joints can also can feel pretty horrible in their body regardless of their size. These are not physical and emotional symptoms exclusively reserved for those of a higher BMI. And guess what? You can still listen to and trust your body even if you fall into these categories and still experience improvements in health and well-being.
When I was discharged from inpatient after suffering from anorexia for 10 years, I felt like a kid in a candy store, literally. I was finally free to enjoy all the foods and activities I had said no to for the past decade and enjoy them I certainly did. My body was rebounding from a 10-year long drought of proper nutrients, physical beatings of excessive exercise and enjoyable social activities. I ate a lot of candy, drank more than my fair share of margarita’s and cosmopolitans and stayed out late with friends like I was planning on dying young.
Eventually my body started telling me it didn’t feel so good and this had nothing to do with my size. I was getting migraines, I was tired all the time and my energy level was all over the board (fantastic one day and zero the next). I began practicing healthier habits like getting enough sleep, moderating my alcohol consumption, eating more fresh fruits and vegies, walking on a regular basis and slowing down my partying ways. I felt better because I decided to listen to the physical messages my body was sending me.
For many of us (and most doctors), our knee jerk reaction to feeling better is to lose weight. But focusing on weight loss via diet and exercise only serves to weaken our relationship with our body because it means we must stop trusting it and instead follow a set of rules and regulations that have nothing to do with our own body’s cueing system.
Want a better option than the diet?
Instead of focusing on weight management to physically feel better and improve health, try focusing on changing behaviors first. Take the focus off of weight and place it on behaviors/actions. Allow these behaviors to be determined based on the messages the body is physically sending and not from a weight loss guru. And don’t worry, the body does not communicate in Morris code. If you’re tired, get more sleep. If you’re craving a certain food, eat it (usually your body is missing the nutrients that are in that certain food – hello carb cravings and feeling tired and spacey!). Focus on practicing healthy behaviors determined by the body’s cues and allow weight to fall where it may.
Trusting our body is an essential ingredient to a healthy and positive relationship with it. When we show our body some love by embracing the uncertainty and the fear of learning to trust it, our body can and will to take care of us the way it was designed to do in the first place.