Maybe you’ve given up micromanaging your body through diets and exercise. You’ve realized that manipulating your body only detracts from your life and health. Or maybe you’re not quite there yet, but you’d like to be. And you’re working on it. (If you’re still working on it, check out this post, this post, or this post.) In either case, what do you do after you’ve started trusting your body? You’ve made steps towards intuitive eating and accepting your body. But you haven’t quite been able to let go of the thought that if the “need” arose, micromanaging your body is still an option. What next?
This is how it was for me.
Several months ago, I realized that while micromanaging my body is something I stopped a while ago now, it was still something I’d been keeping in my back pocket. As a backup plan. An ‘if everything explodes in my face’ sort of plan. When I started trying to eat intuitively, I decided I was going to let my body do what it was going to do. Without counting calories. Without obsessive exercise. But. If everything went wrong (as in, if I gained weight, because that equals everything going wrong, right?), I could always return to my body-micromanaging ways.
What I didn’t realize back then was that intuitive eating is not a diet. It’s not something you do for a week or two and then quit. Don’t get me wrong, starting intuitive eating is hard. It’s hard to go from ignoring everything your body is screaming for you to do to listening to it, trusting it. But once you start, it’s also hard to go back. Life’s more enjoyable when you can go about feeling satisfied. Satisfied, not starving at 10:00 am and forbidding yourself to eat until an “acceptable” lunchtime.
You already know this–I’m not perfect at intuitive eating. Part of what sparked all this thinking about micromanaging your body? It was sometime ago, but I remember it clearly.
I had an off day. I was irritable, tired, hungry. It was morning and I was also busy, so I decided to wait to eat because hadn’t I just had breakfast? I knew I should eat. But I didn’t listen. And let me tell you, I could not stop eating the rest of the day. I wouldn’t call it a binge, but I felt out of control.
That’s part of what made me realize that whether I liked it or not, micromanaging my body with “success” was never going to be an option again.
Half of me felt relieved. I knew in order to really feel free around food and my body, I had to let go of the micromanagement. Let go of even keeping it an option.
But the other half of me? The other half of me was terrified. No, I’d never want to go back to micromanaging my body. Yes, I wanted to be an intuitive eater, food freedom advocate, proponent of Health At Every Size. The whole shebang. I know diets don’t work. That I can’t manipulate my body’s shape and size in a healthful way. But it still felt like the controls were ripped from my hands, even if I had no intentions to ever push those buttons again. That controlling piece was something I’d clung to for so long, it felt like part of me. Micromanaging your body feels like a safety net.
But it’s not sustainable.
It’s not healthy.
It takes away from the real you. It makes you a stranger to yourself.
So what’s the “what next”? Though I wasn’t so clear-headed at the time, in retrospect, here are three mental shifts I made to transition the terrified half of me into being part of a whole me that felt actually free:
- I stopped thinking “I’ve lost control” and started thinking “I’ve given up control.” I don’t need to micromanage my body. Just like you don’t need to micromanage your body.
- I considered what micromanaging my body had done for me. Made me miserable? Yes. Unhealthy? Check. Feel in control for a very short period of time, followed by feeling wildly out of control and chaotic? Affirmative. Did I ever want that again? A resounding no.
- I made a mental list of all the things that ground me. It’s tough to lose a coping mechanism you’ve relied on to be there for you for so long. My list? God is my rock. My family and friends are my support. Journaling is a go-to. Walks and podcasts, music, baking (esp. banana bread), and so many other things are soul-soothers.
Said it once, but I’ll say it again: I don’t need to micromanage my body. You don’t either.
I’m curious–have you had these feelings? Is this something you’ve experienced? What have you used to replace micromanaging your body?
Linking up for thinking out loud! Thanks as always to Amanda for hosting!