If you’ve struggled with food and weight issues for most of your life, you may have come to see your body as something separate from yourself. You may feel embarrassed by your body. You may feel it is not your ally, but rather a recalcitrant and stubborn enemy you’re trying to beat in the game of weight loss.
This tug-of-war can settle into a mind-body split in which you respect your thoughts, but you don’t trust the sensations in your body. You may be disconcerted by the way your body is always throwing you a curve ball, with random cravings, strange sensations, and needs that may baffle you. And it’s easy to feel that your body has turned on you when it won’t cooperate with your mind’s efforts to take charge.
The problem is that it is the mind – with its constant barrage of thoughts, opinions, and judgments – that drives food addiction, while the body is a deep source of wisdom. Your mind wants to keep you from paying any attention to your body, even though the body’s advice is what will ultimately heal you from food addiction. The mind is where your addiction dwells; the body is where healing lives. Reclaiming your body is the path to healing.
Developing a new relationship with your body is not so different from changing a relationship with a friend or family member. If you grew up with siblings, you may have struggled with one or more of them at some point in your life, before coming around to an easier way of being together. Or perhaps you had problems with an ex, but over time, you were able to overcome old patterns and get along. In the same way, you can develop a better relationship with your body.
Think of a present or past relationship in which you had to work to overcome differences, misunderstandings, or destructive dynamics. What made you decide to stick it out rather than ending the relationship? Was it that you had a long history together? Had this person stayed with you through troubled times? Now think about the skills you used and the things you did to improve that relationship. What worked for you as you moved forward?
You can use these same ideas to transform your relationship with your body. Why is the relationship worth repairing? How could you use similar skills and strategies to rebuild your connection with your body?
If you’re like many people who’ve grappled with food addiction, you may feel that your body has betrayed you. Perhaps there have been times when you gained a lot of weight quickly even though you were keeping to a strict diet. And there may have been times when you betrayed your own body in turn. Maybe you restricted your food intake so severely that you suffered health problems.
Either way, it may be helpful to think about forgiveness. You might need to work on forgiving your body, just as you would try to forgive a friend who had let you down. You might also need to ask your body to forgive you for the ways you’ve harmed it. The key is to focus on the present. The things that happened in the past definitely mattered then, but how much do they matter now? What would change if you let them go?
Healing a damaged relationship with another person also requires us to consider our assumptions and judgments. What resentments are we hanging on to? Have we been overly critical? Are we holding back for fear of being judged? Reconciling with a friend or family member might involve releasing habitual patterns of thinking and moving forward in a kinder,gentler, more generous way. The same applies in rebuilding your relationship with your body. Remember that when it comes to recovering from food addiction,the mind is not always your friend.
Every relationship needs time and space to grow, and healing a strained relationship takes special care and patience. Don’t expect that everything will change overnight. Work on forgiveness and reconciliation one day at a time, and be sure to celebrate even the smallest bit of progress. With time, you’ll look back and realize you’ve come farther than you ever thought possible.