Let’s talk about a concept that changed my life. I call it “You Are the Expert On Your Own Body”. First I want to give you a little backstory:
When I was pregnant with my first baby, I didn’t know how to cook, and I gained 65 lbs during my pregnancy. After I had her, I started wanting to know more about food, how to cook, etc. So on date nights, my husband and I would go to the local bookstore, and I would just read cookbooks. The first cookbook I ever bought was Sandra Lee’s “Semi-Homemade”, which is kind of embarrassing to admit now…I’ve come a long way I have to say. So I bought it, and that was the beginning of this love affair with books on food and food information. I sort of got addicted!
Fast forward a bit to after I had my second baby: I heard about the South Beach Diet, and I tried it. It was the first diet I ever did and I thought it was awesome! That was actually the first of many diets. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I’ve tried a lot of different diets.
Eventually, about three years ago, I got to the point where I wanted to learn more and take my interest with food further, and make a career out of it. So I started my Master’s degree program in Holistic Nutrition. I went in thinking that when I’m done with this degree, I would know everything, and would be perfect. Finally!
Along the way, I studied and tried different diets and programs and I bought a ton of books (have I mentioned I love food books? Seriously you should see my bookshelf.). But I approach them differently now than I used to. I used to buy a book, or start a program, and I would think “This is it. THIS is the answer that is going to change me, and I’m finally going to get control over my food, and I’m going to have control over my life, and it’s going to be awesome. I’m going to be skinny, I’m going to lose those 20 lbs., and I’m finally going to be happy all the time. I’m going to be perfect”. It sounds dumb to say that out loud, but I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that.
So I did that like, 50 times, and then after whatever period of time – a week, 21 days, 30 days, I would either be done with the program or get sick of it or realize it wasn’t sustainable. Whatever the reason, I would be done with it and would go right back to my old ways. I really hated myself for that and I felt a lot of shame, wondering why I couldn’t get it together. Why couldn’t I stop eating cookies? Why would I completely blow it whenever I went out of town? How on earth could I be a nutritionist, I’m supposed to be perfect!
Two years into my degree, I found out about a concept called Eating Psychology, a term coined by Marc David. When I started the training program and was introduced to the idea that I am the expert on my own body, it blew my mind. I thought that the authors of my food books or the doctors and personal trainers were the ones who knew what I needed. But the more I thought about it and internalized this idea, the more it really rang true for me.
I fully believe that we were created with this built in body wisdom. I believe that our bodies know what we need and what we want. There’s a complex interplay between our body and our mind, and that used to be really overwhelming for me to think about how badly I wanted to eat ice cream but how I knew I shouldn’t eat ice cream because ice cream is bad…and I would feel all this guilt and wish someone would tell me what to do so I would just stop eating the ice cream. Well that is not sustainable to live like that.
What it comes down to is that when I’m putting all my trust in a book, or a program, or someone else’s advice, I’m giving away my power. That was a groundbreaking concept for me! I believe it to be true.
So now that I’m in this world of getting clients, coaching people etc., it’s really interesting to see from this perspective that the “experts” don’t have a perfect diet. Nobody goes their entire life without eating ice cream! And if they do, um wow, and are they really even happy?
The experts are trying to sell their product. And they way that works is to promise people these big things: “If you do this, you will be healthy and happy! You will lose 20 lbs and you won’t crave sugar anymore!” And that may be partially true! I’m not saying they don’t know anything – they have had clients and their ways have worked for some people. But they cannot promise you personally that it will work for you.
We need to stop thinking that nutrition or “good eating” is the moral high ground. It’s not! If you eat ice cream, you’re still a good person! You’re still the same you. Making that choice doesn’t give you any less strength or goodness or beauty. We’ve really started equated eating with “righteousness” in a way. It’s not a holy pursuit. It is important to fuel our bodies with good food; I believe that God gave us our bodies and wants us to take care of them. But I don’t believe that God wants us to beat ourselves up every time we have a cookie!
So now I feel like I approach food information from so much more of a relaxed perspective. This is not to say that I don’t still buy nutrition books – I still love that, it’s part of my passion! I still do programs, too. I’m part of a program right now in fact, with Amanda Tress, and I love it! The difference between before and now is that before I would start Amanda’s program (for example) thinking “Save me! Tell me what to do! I’m lost without your wisdom!” And of course she is wise! And she has tons of knowledge and has helped a ton of people – she’s helping me! But now I’m not going in thinking that if I fail at her program then I am a failure.
Now I go in knowing that I have the power, and that life is bigger than these 30 days during the program. Now I think “What can I learn from this?” I don’t need to be saved anymore because I’m fine the way I am. Sometimes I eat ice cream or have cookies – that’s okay! I’m really happy with who I am and the way that I eat most of the time. Sometimes I do still fall into the trap of wanting to lose those 20 lbs or whatever it happens to be, but I don’t need to be saved, nutritionally speaking.
I’m so much happier now that I’ve reclaimed control on my own body and I’m not waiting for somebody to tell me how to eat and what to do. So even though I am a coach and would love to be able to help people, I am not trying to save or fix anyone because we’re not broken. You’re fine just the way you are. You are the expert on your own body.
I’m not a doctor, I can’t cure cancer. And if I read a book that says I need to cut out gluten because it’s the enemy of all righteousness, then good for the author for whom that worked. But I have figured out that I’m okay with gluten! I tried cutting it out for a while, and I definitely eat it less now than I used to, but I can have a cookie or bread and I don’t have problems with it. I found that our through experimentation.
That’s how we should go into diets and programs – as an experiment. Your body isn’t a machine, it’s not going to react the same way to things as anybody else’s. Find what’s right for you, and know that you are fine as you are. You have the power and the wisdom, you just need to learn to listen to it.