Take a deep breath. And then, another… and one more deep breath. With each new exhalation, sink further into your body. Notice the toes and the balls and the arches and the heels of your feet. Feel them. Really feel them. Allow your breath to carry your awareness slowly up your legs, through your hips, into your belly, your back, shoulders, and arms. Breathe your awareness into your neck, jaw, tongue, and lips, your cheeks, eyes, forehead, and scalp.
Breathe… and listen to your body. What is it telling to you about what you need?
Many moons ago, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” The human part is the body. We are in physical form. We can, barring some sort of physical limitation, reach out and touch one another. Our body plays host to our spirit and mind, it facilitates our human experience, and makes possible all of the action we take in our time here.
And yet, so many of us are neglecting our bodies. At the very least, we are living in our heads, not allowing our bodies to guide us with the very feedback that would enable us to make more effective decisions. I mean, sure, when I’m feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, my sugar cravings spike but is that really what my body wants? No, it isn’t. Not my whole body, at least.
My body wants food that will leave it feeling nourished, food it can actually use to make more energy. When I’m upset, I tend to want sugary or heavy foods that make me sleepy and moody, not to mention leaving me craving more of those same ineffective foods. If I make choices from that emotional place alone, I choose the very things that make it harder for my body to do what I want and need it to do. That’s no way to treat my spirit’s generous host for this physical experience.
Our bodies offer us oodles of feedback that we can use to make better decisions. If we are in danger, we don’t just get the intuitive whispers. We get body signals, too. Our stomachs churn, our chests tighten, and our hearts race. Our body is attempting to guide us, encouraging us to do something different.
Too often we are so wrapped up in our heads that we dismiss the signals. Sometimes, we don’t notice them at all. We take careless action. We allow ourselves to stay in a dangerous situation because we didn’t experience the warning shots our body sent to get our attention.
For years, my internal battle about food went like this. I want cake. You don’t need cake. Yes, I do. I really need cake. Whatever, nobody “needs” cake. Okay, but I want cake. I really, really, really want cake. Christy, you say you want cake but you also want to be healthy, and you want to be thin, and you want to be the kind of person who doesn’t eat cake. That’s true. I do say all of those things but right now, I’m having a very real craving. My body wants cake. I want cake.
Eventually, I ate cake, or whatever else the sugary, or greasy, or salty craving called for in that moment. I battled with myself a great deal. I lost tremendous amounts of energy, sanity, and self-respect in that battle. It almost cost me my life.
But I knew it wasn’t working. I didn’t want to live that way. So, I searched for ways to understand my relationship with food, to understand why I was using it in the same way that other people use alcohol. I’ve been unpacking this trunk for literally a decade through therapy, 12-step programs, life coaching, and even a nutritional counselor. I’ve studied, written, talked, and cried my way through a massive transformation around my relationship with food.
Of course, there is more to come, but for today at least, I’m eating in a way that truly honors my physical body. I am using food for fuel, in a way that makes me feel healthy and abundant and happy. And as the pounds are falling off, I can’t help but be consumed by gratitude that my body tolerated all that I’ve put it through. I’ve vowed to treat it, to treat myself, with love and respect.
In the end, that’s what it took. I had to love myself enough to learn what I didn’t know about food, to feel what needed to be felt instead of stuffing it down or numbing it out, and to choose a different path than the ones I’d shared with family and friends for so many years.
Is it easy? No, of course not, but it’s worth it. I am worth it… and so are you.
This is an invitation to slip back into your body, to feel what’s really going on inside you, to ground yourself. Right this moment, and in the hours and days ahead, you can use this breathing exercise to find your way back into your skin. And there are thousands of other ways to reconnect — yoga, dance, meditation, art, massage, and a barefoot walk on the earth, just to name a few of my favorites.
What about you? Do you truly feel your body, or are you living in your mind? How do you slip back in? Where do you go to regroup? What is your body telling you it needs today? Are you willing to check back in, so your body can support you on this recovery path? Can you trust you to guide you home?
You can. Yes, I’m sure.