Thanksgiving is a hard day for women who have a difficult relationship with food. On Thanksgiving food is abundant and the act of eating beyond fullness is allowed. It’s that day of the year when that thing you do in secret isn’t penalized. It’s only natural that the holidays make you anxious. That happened to me.
The antidote against fear and anxiety around food is self-trust and body awareness. The combination of these two skills are the only way in which Thanksgiving—and to be honest, life in general—won’t feel as a carousel of one “forbidden” food after another that you shouldn’t lose control over.
The absence of self-trust is at the root of your complicated relationship with what you eat. A woman who binges and feels crazy around food is a woman who doesn’t trust herself. When you obsess about eating rules, you’re replacing self-trust—an internal, immutable resource—with volatile ideas of the right way to eat. It’s like renouncing your freedom to choose.
Do you need to be on a diet to be “healthy”? I get it. Most of the women I work with feel the same way. What I hear, though, is “I need to follow rules to trust myself”. In this context, rules create an expectation of what eating “right” looks like. Relying on an external resource such as the right vs. wrong way of eating dichotomy to moderate your eating behaviors results in fear, which in turn undermines your self-trust.
Gillian Riley says that “because following rules was all you ever had as a technique in the first place, it’s likely you conclude that either 1) you follow some rules or 2) you resign yourself to overeating.” When you break the rules, you no longer have a system to rely on.
Self-trust is an internal skill you strengthen gradually. Getting better at trusting yourself means you don’t need to rely on external, blurry rules to eat. Self-trust remains inalterable regardless of the new diet trend or study.
You’re born trusting yourself, but you forget. Pay attention to a kid when he/she eats. It’s 100% self-trust! Pure intuition!
A way to start (re)building self-trust around food is bringing the attention to the body. The mind is great at ideas, thinking and telling you stories (and coming up with rules!), but not at telling you what’s real, here and now. The answers are always in the body.
Using body awareness to build self-trust is not an intellectual process. It’s organic and takes time. It takes practice. Allow yourself to experiment, experience a different outcome and observe what you learn. Leave expectations aside. Simply observe attentively.
Forget about the rules. Welcome self-trust and kindness. Consider Thanksgiving an opportunity to start to reconnect with your body’s innate wisdom.
Below are a few, simple ideas for you. These work for me and I suspect they would work for you as well. See it as a toolkit that you can pick from. Experiment and see what happens:
Pause and check how your body feels when you’re laying in bed in the morning, for example. How do the sheets feel in your skin? As you’re taking a shower, how does the water feel on your hair? How does that sip of tea or water feel going down your throat? When you make breakfast, how does the pan or spoon feel in your hand? Slow down and observe these little moments when we’re usually in auto-mode. Don’t expect anything. Simply observe.
Take a few minutes to close your eyes and visualize how Thanksgiving is going to go. Play the movie of Thanksgiving in your head. What are you wearing? What are you drinking? How much are you eating or drinking? How do you chew? How do you feel? Imagine yourself breathing between bites and maybe putting the fork down. Be as detailed as you can. If you want to eat the bread, dessert or whatever isn’t allowed in your “rule book”, visualize yourself eating with pleasure, slowly, enjoying every bite.
When meal time comes, ask yourself how do you feel? How does your belly feel? Check in. Then ask, how do you want to feel after eating? While eating, pay attention at how the food feels in your mouth down your throat. Enjoy! It will be delicious. Trust your body is the expert.
Self-trust cannot coexist with strict rules. Experiment with the alternative on Thanksgiving. I suspect you have nothing to lose.
The information provided on this post is for educational and informational purposes only and solely as a self-help tool for your own use.
Written by Lina Salazar.