What if Your Body was Your Friend?

I recently spent time with two old friends I deeply cherish. They are both caring, kind, compassionate and supportive.

They treat me with respect, affection and appreciation. They are curious about my needs and desires, and talk to me in a gentle, tender voice.

As I reflected on our friendship, I wondered what it would be like if we always treated our body like a dear friend.

For many of us, this is hard to imagine.

Most of us are at war with our body. It's our enemy.

We try to control it, manipulate it and whip it into shape. We deprive it, compare it, criticize it and flat-out ignore it.

We often treat it like crap. We take it for granted.

Yet—we expect A LOT in return.

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want a friend who treats me like this!

Being unfriendly to your body creates a state of divisiveness between you and your body that will never lead to the self-love and self-acceptance—and the peace, freedom, ease and happiness—you long for.

The good news is, you can start building a friendship with your body at any time.

and i said to my body. softly.

“i want to be your friend.”

it took a long breath. and replied

“i have been waiting my whole life for this.”

—Nayyirah Waheed

What friendly action can you take today to improve your relationship with your body? For ideas, go here, here and here.

Swap Junk Food for This...

Junk foods get a bad rap.

As they are usually low in nutritional value, they’ve earned a cruddy reputation.

And because they are often put in the “bad foods” bucket, we tend to feel like we’re being bad when we eat them.

However, when you think about it, junk foods do have value in that they can provide a tremendous amount of pleasure—an essential component of the eating experience.

Since they do have intrinsic value, thinking of them as worthless garbage is actually unwarranted.

For this reason, in Intuitive Eating, junk foods are referred to as “play foods.”

Like unrestricted playtime, we can experience a lot of fun, joy and pleasure when eating play foods like candy, cupcakes, donuts, fries or chips. Sometimes foods like these are exactly what we need to feel nourished and satisfied.

Unconditional Permission to Eat
When you’re new to Intuitive Eating, it can feel scary to eat the play foods you’ve long considered illegal or off-limits.

Perhaps you’re worried you might lose control and overeat them. If this has been your experience, it's totally understandable. Food restrictions and rules often lead to overeating and binge eating.

However, when you truly give yourself unconditional permission to eat what feels right when it feels right, and honor the messages your body is sending you, you will develop a more relaxed relationship with all foods—versus a rigid, reactive or reckless one.

When this happens, play foods will simply be just one component of an overall balanced diet.

I Was So Bad Yesterday, I Ate Too Much...

How often have you thought or said something like the following?

"I was so bad yesterday, I ate way too much…"

"I was a good girl today, I didn’t eat any..."

"This food is one of my guilty pleasures."

"Oh my gosh, this is sinfully delicious..."

"This has only X calories, so I can eat it guilt-free."

If you can relate to any of these, you’re not alone.

I’ve heard thousands of different versions of these statements from my clients. And, for many years, I said or thought them myself.

Removing Morality
A primary focus of my coaching practice is to help my clients cultivate a positive relationship with food and their body. This requires making peace with food.

One of the ways this happens is by removing all morality and judgment from eating (which is often learned from diet culture).

This means not labeling foods as good or bad—and not labeling yourself as good or bad based on what you ate or want to eat.

Labeling foods bad—and yourself as bad based on your food choices—leads to a lot of unnecessary suffering, including all-consuming feelings of guilt, shame, disappointment and despair.

Your so-called food transgressions may make you feel like you have to repent and punish yourself with food restrictions (e.g., cutting calories, eliminating sugar), excessive exercise or abusive self-talk.

Categorizing foods as bad can also increase the reward value of those foods and trigger intense cravings, overeating and binge eating.

Emotionally Equal
Of course, nutritionally, all foods are different. Emotionally, however, all foods must be treated equally in order to have a peaceful relationship with food.  

For example, carrots and carrot cake may not be nutritionally equal but they need to be emotionally equal. Neither one is good or bad.

Unless you stole a food or harmed someone to get it, there is absolutely no reason to feel bad, guilty or ashamed about your food choices. 

Liberation is Possible
I’ve seen with my clients and with myself that when you free yourself from food moralism, your eating will be a lot more pleasurable and satisfying.

Thoughts about food will take up less real estate in your brain.

You will trust food and your body more. Feelings of liberation, empowerment and ease will bubble up.

You will discover that there is nothing more delicious than a peaceful relationship with food.