Diets and diet culture have been on my heart lately. Probably because I’ve been in a few encounters recently with women who have been discussing a diet they will be starting soon, are currently on, or a recent diet failure. In some instances an open dialogue is welcomed, and other times I need to remove myself from a conversation and reach out to a supportive friend to maintain healthy boundaries in my life.
I don’t know about you, but when I find that I am becoming more grounded in my truths, I am put in situations that challenge those truths. While these challenges provide me with affirmation that I am following my path, these situations have been just that- very, very challenging.
What has stood out to me as a common denominator throughout these conversations has been the concept of cutting oneself off from their cravings. Cravings equal bad, control equals good; it’s just that simple. Control the cravings, gain control over your life. This has become the goal- to become completely detached from our body in order to dictate what is in it’s best interest. While we may deceive ourselves into thinking the only goal of dieting is to lose weight, I challenge that it is truly a deception, and a dangerous one.
The real question we should be asking is this: What am I really hungry for? What am I craving? An authentic connection? To feel love? To be worthy? To be seen? To feel valued? To be desired?
It is when we reflect on our true cravings that we will begin to satiate our deepest hungers. And if our ultimate goals include authentic connections and a feeling of worthiness, we must also question how cutting ourselves off at the neck will help us achieve them. What is the fear rooted in listening to our bodies? Why are we so terrified of this flesh that we spend every second residing within? Why do we keep reaching for diets that cut us off from our cravings in order to gain more control over them?
To attempt to answer these questions, I reflect on my own body image journey. Throughout most of my life, my body was a source of anger, confusion, and frustration. Attempting to sit and ask my body what it needed and then listen for a response was beyond my comprehension. My body was the enemy- it wasn’t to be trusted, as it had betrayed me too many times before, based on previously failed diets that ended in me laying on the cold tile of the bathroom floor in a ball of failure, feeling more worthless and shameful than I had when I had begun.
What I believed, and what the $60 billion dollar-a-year diet industry wanted me to believe, was that if I listened to my body I would end up eating endless amounts of candy, fried chicken and nachos all day, every day. That my body would betray me at the first chance it got, and therefore my life would be nothing but cyclical diets and failure.
Ignoring our body’s signals simply will not work in the long run. We all know how diets end- they end with us binging on the food we were depriving ourselves of, or we end up sick and depleted. There’s a reason that 95% of diets fail. Because we are not meant to be living a life separated from our body. Our body is crying out for a relationship with us, and when we honor that request, we are on the path to living a life of all-inclusive health.
I’d like to share an example with you. Every year for a few years now, in the fall and winter, I crave citrus fruits: grapefruit, oranges, clementines- I can’t get enough of them. And there’s a reason my body is craving these specific foods during these cold weather seasons … aka cold and flu season. These foods are full of Vitamin C, which is exactly what my body needs to stay healthy all winter long. My body is communicating with me. When I choose to listen to it and honor my cravings, I will be less susceptible to getting sick that winter, and I will also continue to nurture my relationship with my body. However if I were on a restrictive diet that, for example, limits or completely forbids me from eating fruit, I would be fighting against my body’s natural instinct to protect me, ultimately ending with me getting sick more often throughout the winter.
Once we give our body the space to do so, it will tell us the nutrients it is in need of to sustain us through each season of life. When we honor our body by giving it what it is asking for, we continue to nurture this relationship. By second-guessing it, ignoring it, or attempting to cut off this communication via a diet, we continue to harm our body and harm this sacred relationship.
We will be in these bodies for the rest of our lives. We can continue to degrade them, punish them, dishonor them, completely ignore them- or we can choose to sit with them, honor them, talk to them (yes, literally… but that is for another post), and nurture this relationship we will have for the rest of our living days.
So perhaps the next time you crave a salty snack, allow yourself to open up to a conversation with your body. If you confirm this is what you are in need of, honor your body by feeding it what it’s asking for… then wait. Perhaps you misheard the request- your body will tell you. Or perhaps you honored your craving perfectly and your body will thank you accordingly.
Like any new relationship, there will be some bumps along the way, some communication issues, some expectations that will need to be re-evaluated. Be patient with yourself. No, this will not melt your belly fat in 48 hours, however given time to cultivate a nurturing relationship with yourself, this will sustain your body, at the healthy size it is meant to be, for the rest of your life.
The light in me honors the light in you.