What’s next for Intuitive Eaters?
Yes, food is what prompted me to get help...the big, flashing warning sign that something was wrong. It’s what got me moving, what prompted me to google “binge eating” and make an appointment at the first place that popped up.
But, as a mentor once said: It’s not about the food.
The first time I heard that, I was speechless. Everyone else in the room nodded in agreement, as I just sat there, wide-eyed, hoping someone would ask the question I was screaming inside my head: Then what is it about?!
Of course it’s about the food, right? That’s what I’ve been struggling with my whole life. All my childhood memories revolve around food, or lack of it. Whether I enjoyed all my vacations was based solely on the way I ate, or how “in control” I was. When I look back at pictures, I can feel the emotion in each one, based on how I ate that day or whether I was losing or gaining weight. It seemed like every ounce of happiness and success, or failure and despair was about the way I was eating or what my body looked like.
When I think about spending time at my childhood best friend’s house, all I can remember is what we ate. When I think about my years at private school, the most vivid memories revolve around being hungry, or what they served for lunch, or my favorite things from the snack bar. When I remember the house my dad used to live in, the first thing that pops into my head is how I had to use a chair to reach the top shelf of the cabinet where they kept the chocolate protein bars. Every single stage of my life has revolved around food - indulgence or self-control - and trying to change my body.
How on earth is it not about the food?
So, food got you “in the door” to Intuitive Eating. You needed a loving, thoughtful intervention to help you learn how to reconnect with your body, eat according to your own needs, and extract yourself from diet culture. It’s a wonderful concept, and it really works. It’s the answer to the confusion and despair that comes along with self-denial, and buying in to the “thin ideal” we see everywhere. I still use the Intuitive Eating concepts on a daily basis, when I’m confronted with an old “diet thought,” or notice that I’m eating more than is comfortable for me. I regularly come back to basics, and revisit my hunger cues, signals of fullness, and remember the principles of gentle nutrition. It’s all essential for someone like me, who spent the majority of her life disconnected from her body’s signals and tortured herself trying to make her body look a certain way. I need a “home base” to stay on track.
I’m an Intuitive Eater. Most days, I don’t think about food that much. Most days, it’s easy for me to eat according to my needs and desires, and just live my life. Most days, I feel comfortable in my body and don’t struggle with old diet thoughts. Most days, it’s easy for me to observe the way I feel and gently change my food choices to support my body more effectively, without any kind of emotional investment.
Maybe you’re at this stage, too, but have the nagging thought (just like I did): What’s next? We’ve spent so much time and energy focused on food and our bodies, and once we get that under control, some scary questions pop up.
Struggling with food is a symptom of a much deeper problem. It’s way easier to control the way you eat, and obsess about calories or points or macros, or the number on the scale, than it is to ask the bigger questions, like…
What do I really want in this life?
What will make me happy?
What is really wrong?
So, maybe you’re at the point in your Intuitive Eating journey where food doesn’t feel so scary anymore. You really “get it,” and know how to honor your body and enjoy eating again. But, in many ways, your spiritual journey has just begun...and it feels a little scary.
What’s next for you? How do you figure out what will make you happy, when you’ve been so completely distracted for such a long time?
You’re starting to understand that this is, actually, a spiritual journey. But don’t worry...you’re right on the cusp of the most exciting part: finding out what you really want from this life, and making it happen. Intuitive Eating was an essential part of your journey, but it’s not necessarily the destination. Where will you go from here?