Soul-filled Guest Post by
Karen Schachter, MSW, CHHC
There’s almost nothing so complicated for a woman than her relationship to eating and to her body. From the time we are young, the messages to look a certain way – and eat a certain way – abound. They are relentless, harsh and compelling. We believe them to be “truth” and we live our lives accordingly.
Yet, the truth is, nothing about these “truths” could be further from the truth!
- We don’t find joy and peace in our bodies through restrictive dieting and deprivation (and then binging, and depriving, yet again).
- We don’t find freedom in our relationship to food and our bodies through guilt, judgment or shame.
- We don’t experience a resolution to our cravings through denying them and ignoring them.
- Hating our bodies never ever leads to loving them (even if they temporarily please you by getting to your “ideal” weight).
- We don’t experience the fullness of our lives when we’re spending all our time and energy trying to achieve our “goal weight.” Instead, we miss out. A lot.
So here are some alternative “truths” that may help you shift your beliefs, your actions, and your ability to joyfully live IN this body of yours:
Your body is the most important, the most intimate, the longest-standing relationship you will ever have. EVER. You are born in her, and you will die in her. Yet, I am guessing that, like most women, you are treating her like sh*t. Or maybe, like others of us, you’re simply ignoring her needs?
It’s ironic: We women are SO good at intuitively recognizing – and trying to meet – the needs of others. We’re great at cultivating relationships. We’re gifted when it comes to listening, validating and empathizing with others. Yet we generally stink at listening to, loving, and deeply caring for this very being connected to our head: Our body.
Instead, we ignore her, deny her needs, cut her off, deprive her, overstuff her, feed her stuff that makes her feel sick, call her names, judge her relentlessly; we allow a number to determine how much she gets to eat and we allow another number (on a scale) to determine her self-worth.
(Would you EVER say to a friend, “You GAINED 2 pounds! I am not eating with you today! I am not listening to your needs today! You are worthless with those added 2 pounds! What is WRONG with you?” No you would not. Never. You want your friend to LIKE you!)
And here’s another truth: Your body wants you to like her too. She wants you to befriend her.
Your body doesn’t respond – and never will, at least in the long-run – to hate, criticism or being starved or overstuffed. Like any relationship, it needs to be tended to with care; to be listened to, respected, and treated with kindness. It responds best, as friends do, to nourishment, love, and acceptance, despite its imperfections.
Once you begin to pay attention and befriend her, your body will give you important clues as to what she needs. From this perspective, your cravings and symptoms are signs that something is not quite right. Just as a child screams when she is trying to say something and you’re not listening, your body is trying to get your attention with her cravings and her symptoms. She will keep “yelling” (“more chocolate NOW!!” or “stomach ache…again?”) until you pay attention.
Through your listening, and responding, your body gets what she wants (you meeting her real needs so she can stop “yelling”) and you get what you want (she feels better and looks better because she is calmer and well-fed). Bodies truly respond kindly to our nourishing self-care.
Although sometimes your cravings may be trying to get a physical or biochemical need met (More leafy greens! Less sugar! Lay off the cheese!), other times, your cravings may be trying to get you to recognize another simple truth: you’re hungry for more deliciousness, juiciness, or pleasure in your life. Your body (and your soul) is designed for pleasure, satisfaction, joy. Food – particularly the creamy sweet stuff or the crunchy salty stuff – may serve as a quick and easy, albeit temporary, replacement for your DESIRES.
The only way to begin to love your body is to, well, begin to love your body. To give her pleasure, care, nourishment. To allow her to taste the deliciousness of fulfilled desires, of having her needs met, of being lovingly tended to. Every body deserves this, not just skinny people. And although losing weight and being thin might feel great, if it’s done with punishment and shame and guilt, you’ll always be fighting. Wouldn’t it be much easier to “love” her to her happy weight and optimal health?
As the saying goes, “the truth shall set you free.” In your search for freedom, peace and comfort in your body and in your eating, what truths will you hold as self-evident? Which truths are you willing to believe and which have you discovered are downright lies that you’re ready to let go of?
I can’t wait to have this conversation with you!
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Karen Schachter is a licensed clinical social worker, certified health counselor, and founder of “Healthy Bodies, Happy Minds” and “Dishing With Your Daughter ™” which offer a variety of programs and services to help girls and women experience nourishment, good health and deliciousness in their relationship to food, eating and their bodies.
Karen has combined her years of psychotherapy experience and her knowledge of nutrition to create a variety of holistic programs, including healthy eating classes for children, workshops, retreats and classes for girls as well as adults, mom-daughter retreats, and health counseling for adults, teens and families. Her programs inspire and support people to value themselves, tune into their intuition, and nourish their bodies, their minds and their spirits. Karen believes that “good nutrition” is only one piece of the “health” and wellbeing puzzle. We must teach our children (and ourselves!) that good health and true nourishment come from paying attention to, and respecting, our bodies, our food and our lives.