I’ve brought up intuitive eating before, but I still wrapping my own mind around it. That seems crazy, right? I mean…I’m a human being, my body is programmed to notify me when it needs fuel, once the fuel tank is full, when it needs rest, when it’s too hot, too cold…we’re mammals. Our bodies are incredibly adept at regulating themselves. While this may be the case, I am sad to say that at 24 I have spent most of my teens, and all of my twenties, trying to figure out what the is the “right” way to eat.
Food labels such as “good,” “bad,” even the horrific “off-limits” have been in my, and so many others that I know, repertoire for so long it’s become unconscious. It’s one thing to have likes and dislikes, but to completely rule out a food I enjoy simply because I have labeled it “bad” is absurd. A nutritionist once said to me, “No food is bad.” I slant-eyed her, “Butter.” I said it more as a statement. She shook her head and explained, “It’s not butter that’s bad. It’s the amount of butter people consume. Moderation allows no food to be ‘bad.’” What I have finally realized, seven years after having that conversation mind you, is that moderation, self-control and intuition really are the three steps in mastering the best diet of all.
While I fully support following whatever ethical code of eating one chooses for themselves (vegetarian, vegan, pescetarian, omnivore, whatever) I also feel that the word “diet” has gained a bad rap, and for good reason. The dictionary definition of diet is, “the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.” It’s derived from the Latin “dieta” which means “day’s work, wages, etc.” So where did we get the deprivation connotation from? At what point did we manage to turn “diet” into just another hush-hush four-letter-word?
I remember being in seventh grade and having a friend offer me skittles, to which I replied, “No thanks, I’m on a diet.” Back then it was a cool, “grown-up” thing to say, in my mind at least. My poor, innocent and yet already convoluted mind actually thought it was desirable to diet, and was already beginning to have a love/hate relationship with my thighs. I personally have never been overweight, I’ve actually always been thin and athletic, my whole life. Regardless of this fact, girls of all shapes and sizes begin this downward-spiral “diet” mindset at a painfully young age! At eighteen I became vegan, which in retrospect I identify as having been another restrictive method and not a 100% ethical choice. Over the years I’ve ruled out and reintroduced countless foods and entire food groups. I’ve counted every single calorie. I’ve boycotted my favorite foods. It’s dizzying, really. I’m done with the whole heap of it!
Our bodies know what they want. Do you know the foods that make you, specifically, feel lethargic and heavy? The foods that make you suffer indigestion? The ones that make you bounce off the walls with light energy? The ones that comfort you, the ones that fill you and keep you full for hours? Our bodies know which foods work well for us, how much of that food we need to cultivate adequate energy. So why do we continue to dictate to our bodies what they want and need? Fruits, vegetables, proteins, calcium, carbohydrates, natural sugars, it’s not hard to tell upon eating these foods that they fuel us best! And we can acquire these nutrients in a multitude of varieties. In order to be well we simply need to eat an appropriate amount for our own bodies and the higher quality the food, the better we will feel. Acceptance of our own bodies is as important as the acceptance that real foods are what sustain us and allow us to thrive (i.e.: not surviving off foods that come out of a plastic wrapper).
Society puts pressure on people to eat, look and behave a certain way. Instead, I have decided to be grateful. I have decided to embrace my intuition and let my body be my guide. What if I lost a leg in an accident tomorrow? Would I not be tormented over all the time spent in front of the mirror checking to see if my thighs touched? Wouldn’t I just yearn and ache for my poor missing leg, for all the hard work and assistance it provided me? We are incredible mechanisms, and our bodies require food in order to operate properly. I think we’d all benefit from looking down right now and saying, “This is the body I was born with. I accept it. I thank it for all it allows me to accomplish. I vow to nourish it and fuel it properly and to let it guide me.”
I made a promise to myself recently to stop buying into the hype. I find myself getting down when I hear someone I admire say they’re on a restrictive diet, or that they’re forcing themselves to train for some big athletic event that they don’t seem to have their heart in. It makes me feel inadequate when I find out people whose frames I covet are runners, because I just don’t enjoy running and it makes me feel like I’m missing some great quality all of a sudden…ummm…WHY? Why do I let something like someone ELSE’S exercise or eating habits make ME feel ANY certain way? It’s mind-boggling, really. Does the world revolve around me that much, am I that insecure? That’s not the end of it either. Oftentimes when I see a very thin woman dressed to the nines, the insecurity red light beeps. God forbid this woman sit down and tear into a pizza, which we see happen all the time, ultra-thin people chowing down on high-calorie food, I seriously want to gape at the scene like it’s a zoo exhibit. I want to interview her, “this can’t be how you normally eat, do you work out? How old are you?” This is ridiculous, I know, and yet it’s a peek inside the mind of a 24 year-old, a product of this f***** up society and its constant pressures to be thin and yet to have no qualms in the process.
Well, since I can’t change society, I can only change my own reaction to these pressures. I can take a baseball bat and smash that insecurity meter so it’s stupid little red light will never flash and beep ever again. I can say, “Hey society, no thanks! You can have all of your self-deprecating, negative, obsessive, “not-good-enough” feelings back, I’m done with them!”
I am never again going to buy into anything but the “ME Diet.” The diet of acceptance, listening to MY own body, and not letting anyone else dictate my own needs and wants, either physically or emotionally.
I am done allowing myself to feel inadequate.
Now, pardon me while I bust out the big guns before leaving you. If you take anything from this article, take this quote. I know you’ve heard it before, but read it through clear eyes. Look down at your body and offer it your acceptance, and then read this quote and carry its power with you into your day.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” –Eleanor Roosevelt.