Healing Disordered Eating: Learning vs Embodying
I always get creative bursts when I'm out on walks. On a walk this morning, I had time to explore some new neighborhoods with my dog and kept seeing really beautiful plants like a pomegranate tree and pretty pink flowers.
When I'm in nature - especially seeing beauty - I am able to be in my body, in the present moment. It's not always the case, and I can think of plenty of morning walks where I'm just running through my to-do list in the day or trying to rush my dog. Instead, this morning, it was moment after moment of finding beauty and exploring.
There's that cliche saying "Stop and smell the flowers" or "Live in the moment." We hear people say it all the time, or maybe we even say it, but how often does it feel authentic? There's a big difference from learning about or even understanding an idea and embodying it as truth in your body and self.
I've noticed so many women go through this process in their recovery to a better relationship with food, their body, or exercise. They've read all the books or blogs on intuitive eating or body image, follow the body positive movement, and understand it. It makes sense to them, yet, it seems impossible to practice it in their own lives.
You can have all the knowledge in the world about nutrition, health, or even disordered eating, but going through the uncomfortable process of doing the work allows the healing to begin or continue.
Many people try to heal their relationship with their body and their self through their mind by changing their thoughts or mindsets. While working on your thought patterns can be important work, I believe it's crucial to add in the body and heart to this work.
In disordered eating, most people are disconnected from their bodies. They live from their head and let their mind run the show on what to eat, when to eat, how much to exercise, and what is an acceptable food to eat. There's no input from the body and often the body's innate cues for hunger, satiety, or cravings are ignored.
So, why is this so hard?
Living IN your body rather than cutting yourself off from the head can be uncomfortable. Our body is where we hold sensations, emotions, feelings, and inner cues. We don't want to sit with the feelings that come up, so we numb them out through restricting our food intake, binging, or exercising. The sensations of shame we feel can be so painful that it's easier to stay stuck in a disordered eating pattern than work with them.
While healing from disordered eating is possible, I won't lie and say it's easy or comfortable. Yes, we hear so many stories about how amazing life is to find freedom with food, accept your body, and move intuitively, but we don't always talk about the unsure, messy, vulnerable journey through it.
While it can be uncomfortable, you can learn to find ease, joy, and pleasure in your body as well. By tuning in moment by moment to your body, you can reconnect with your inner wisdom. You can practice honoring and responding to those cues - to nourish, nurture, and take care of your whole self.
How can you start living in your body?
Embodiment starts with curiosity and compassion.
It's getting curious about your body with deep compassion. It's being present with your body's physical cues for hunger and fullness, as well as all of your emotions. It's embracing your whole being - rather than separating your body into good or bad parts - and accepting your body as a whole. It's asking yourself what you need each moment and learning to honor and respond to those needs - or simply be with them.
Here are other practices you can try to work on embodying these ideas:
- A gentle movement practice. Explore gentle movement and notice the sensations as you move your body when you walk, stretch, or dance. Movement uses your body, so it can be a powerful way to embodiment. Be aware that this practice takes time, so celebrate the seconds or moments you feel connected. These moments will grow from seconds to minutes to hours.
- Tuning into what you want to eat. Do you want something warm or cold? Sweet or savory? Crunchy? Salty? Listen, and ask your body what sounds good. Trust it.
- Breathe. Tune into your breath - your lifeforce - and observe how it circulates throughout your body. Simply taking deep breaths - or practicing pranayama (yogic breathing) - can help you feel grounded and connected to your body.
- Stop reading about it, and get into the world and practice. Get comfortable feeling uncomfortable by living it. Let yourself be vulnerable and allow the journey to be messy.
- Find pleasure in your body. Get a massage. Lather up with delicious smelling lotion or essential oils. Take a restorative yoga class.
Please note that if you've experienced trauma, explore this process with a trusted therapist.
When you are able to connect to your body in a curious, compassionate way, the self-trust builds. Through rekindling your relationship with your body, you may find yourself naturally nourishing yourself in a sustainable, nurturing way with food, movement, rest, relationships, self-care, and what feels good for you.
You'll also be able to connect to your truth. There are so many different paths to healing disordered eating, and while you may read a book about what worked for one person, that may not work for you. Try it out, but if it doesn't feel 'right' in your body, let it go. Let yourself embody the ideas that feel authentic to you.
If you are in a phase of learning, reading, exploring through other people's stories, blogs, or books, that's okay too. That has its purpose in your journey. Let yourself be inspired by others or break down health myths (through intuitive eating or health at every size), but also explore embodying these ideas too.