“What is always speaking silently is the body.” – Norman Brown
There are many reasons why we grow to mistrust our bodies.
My struggle to connect with my body stems from multiple sources, including how I was raised to not trust my body’s cues around food.
I’ve been pondering this quite a bit lately, since I recently participated in the Mindful Eating for the Holidays workshop. I was just reminded of it again while scrolling Instagram. I follow an account, @family.snack.nutritionist, that shares strategies for parents to have less stress around mealtimes with their children, and helps with building healthy attitudes toward food. This particular post referred to family holiday gatherings and a scenario of other adults telling a child to “finish their plate.” One suggested response for parents was, “We let them tell us when they’re full.”
Cue my amazement.
Kids Can Feel. Kids Can Know.
How often do adults override kids’ own physical cues of hunger and fullness? Isn’t it a simple truth that our bodies can tell us when we’re full? But for so many of us, it’s much more complicated than that. We have to be listening to what our body is telling us, after all, and most of us have been socialized throughout our lives to listen to authority figures—whether parents, diet programs, or even doctors—rather than to ourselves.
I have messages ingrained in me from childhood around eating food I don’t want to, or finishing a plate when I’m already full, for the sake of being polite or not “wasting” food. I learned, quite literally, to force my body to take in something that I, or my mind, didn’t want—a concept I didn’t connect to greater issues of consent and bodily autonomy until just recently.
Please know I’m not saying our parents were bad parents. I know mine had good intentions (nourishment and conservation of resources) and weren’t aware of the complicated messages I received through these circumstances. It makes sense that as humans become more and more removed from the sources and processing of our food, and as generational traumas around poverty and body image are passed on, our beliefs and attitudes towards food have become very complicated.
Many of us have been raised to ignore what our body is telling us to such an extent that we have eventually learned not to listen—or even to block it out. Religious messages that the body is sinful, and diet and fitness programs that say the body is never good enough, reinforce the distance between mind and body. No wonder it’s difficult for us to reconnect and appreciate our bodies.
We Can Feel. We Can Know.
Practicing mindfulness helps us learn to listen to and trust our present-moment experience, including thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. When we slow down enough to recognize what’s happening, we can learn a lot about ourselves and our world. Mindfulness helps us to intimately feel, know, and trust our internal experience.
Mindful eating is a non-diet approach that lets go of feelings of shame or guilt as you learn to savor, appreciate, and enjoy the foods you choose to eat.
I regret that people may hear the words “mindful eating” and assume it’s not for them. I wish there were a more broadly appealing way to talk about mindful eating, because you don’t need to want to change your relationship to food to benefit from mindful eating principles. And you don’t necessarily need to struggle with your weight or body image to want to change your relationship to food or your body—although mindful eating can help in all these areas. We intentionally subtitled our 5-week mindful eating class “Honoring Your Body’s Wisdom,” because that is at the heart of what these concepts help you do.
So whether you’re curious about reconnecting with your body’s cues, want to initiate a friendlier relationship with food or your body, or just want to enjoy what you eat more, I encourage you to join me in exploring mindful eating principles and practices. Perhaps Sunday’s Mindful Eating for the Holidays workshop is a good place to start.