Does Your Body Trust You?

Does your body trust you? Do you even think about it?

I just saw a post on social media that started with “The eating plan I’m on now…” – now, being the operative word. It seems like every month this person is on a new eating plan – by a new doctor – backed by new “research.” And I can’t see that this person is any thinner, any healthier, or any happier for it.

Now I’m in no way judging this person. And I don’t really know her that well. It could very well be that being on a new diet every month does indeed make her happy! I regularly have conversations with people for whom complaining about life is their means of joy. So this post is not a judgment on the person – but a reflection of an attitude and a perspective.

Diets – sometimes euphemistically called “eating plans” – disconnect you from the wisdom of your very own body. From a health and well-being perspective, you miss out on valuable information (by focusing on what the diet says you can eat rather than on the impulses and guidance coming from your body). But from a relationship perspective, dieting is downright disrespectful to your body. It is a blatant disregard of your body’s point of view.

I understand that this whole idea of developing a relationship with your body might be unusual. But more importantly, some people might resist it. I know I would have. If you would have told me 20 years ago that the key to creating the body I’d always wanted was to develop a relationship with it, I would have turned and run as far away from you as I could get. Why? Because to develop a relationship with my body would mean that I might have to feel my body. And if I felt it, I would feel how hard it was to be hungry. I would feel how miserable it was to eat food I didn’t like. I would feel how painful it was to burn all those calories off at the gym so that I had earned the right to eat. I would feel how hard it was to do all of the things that the diet and exercise model told me I had to do to get the body that I wanted. And if I felt how hard it really was, I might not be able to do it. (Never mind the fact that the diet and exercise model wasn’t getting me the results I wanted anyway…)

So I understand that it can be scary to embrace the idea of cultivating a relationship with your body. You wouldn’t be in control. (But were you ever – really??) You would have to surrender and trust your body. Which brings me back to my original question. Does your body trust you??

Relationships are a two way street. And, even if you haven’t consciously thought about being in a relationship with your body, you’ve been in one. So the question isn’t really “are you in a relationship with your body?” The question is, “What kind of relationship is it??” Is it a loving, trusting, mutually respectful and beneficial relationship? Is it a neglectful relationship? Or is it downright abusive? Think about all of the diets – where you’ve dismissed the impulses of your body in favor of the rules of the “eating plan.” Think about all of the body-bashing workouts. Think of all of the overeating or the lack of exercise. And then ask yourself if your body trusts you.

I often get push-back when promoting the idea of listening to your body and following its impulses. I’ll generally get the deflecting humor of someone saying that their body would want them to eat a carton of ice cream. Or I’ll get the antagonistic challenge of “well what if your body tells you to eat a bag of cookies?”

These rebuttals come from people clearly operating from within the diet and exercise paradigm. These responses imply that food is “good” or “bad,” that your body has no sense of satisfaction, and that it might do you (and itself) harm.

But this is a different paradigm. This is a relationship-based model. And in the context of relationship, perhaps your body just wants to be heard. Maybe your body doesn’t even really want the ice cream or the cookie. Perhaps your body just wants to know that you would be willing to eat something like that if your body did really want it. From your body’s perspective, it needs to learn to trust you. And the only way you’ll ever really develop that trust is for you to make the first move – for you to start trusting your body first. Stop the “eating plans” and the “exercise programs.” Start listening to your body.

It might not happen overnight. Relationships take time. Trust takes time. But in the end, you’ll find everything you ever thought that diet or exercise program would give you in the first place – a sense of peace, freedom, health and happiness. You will feel good in and about your body.