The year is 1991, and for some reason, every time I eat, I double over due to the crippling pain stabbing my upper and lower abdomen. I am at my Naturopath's office, and she is reading my lab results from the allergy test. It turns out I am not necessarily allergic to these foods, my body has just stopped tolerating them.
She gives me three choices: I can change my diet, take drugs to kill the pain, or have exploratory abdomenal surgery.
I decide to change my diet. After weighing my options and talking with my Naturopath and Acupuncturist, I choose Macrobiotics, founded by Michio Kushi and championed by people all over the world, though sparsely.
Macrobiotics is basically a vegan meal system that uses fermented foods as its anchor and only uses meat as a condiment. Beans, tofu, tempeh, veggies, short grain brown rice, quinoa, miso, and sea vegetables are all a part of this cleansing way of eating.
I saw results immediately. The pain went away within a day and my energy stabilized. I could wake up at 5:30 am (I needed to if I was going to be able to cook all the food I would eat that day,) and go without much of a rest until about 10:30 pm, every day, all day, without feeling tired.
Yeah, I missed dairy, sugar, wheat, bananas, strawberries and apples. Oh..and I really missed meat. But the way my body felt was nothing short of miraculous, and I realized then that I had been getting signals for years from my body, but I had been ignoring them.
About a year later I started putting intolerable food back into my diet, starting with ice cream. I realized, to my great joy, that I could eat it again. Just not with the regularity I had previously known.
I realized that I had been ignoring my body ever since I was about 11, when I got my period and started to develop acne. When I was 12, and I filled out, I not only ignored it, I also hid it under baggy clothing as not to attract attention from anyone wanting to look at me. When I was 15, I drew the eye of one of my many step brothers who happened to be 22 at the time, and a one year abusive relationship ensued. So after that, I had pretty much cut off all communication to and from my body. Except in extreme situations. Doubling over in pain definitely counted as an extreme situation, and I am very lucky I finally started to listen.
Now, 26 years later, I am talking about being body positive on a pretty regular basis, but what I have noticed is that much of what I read about body love and body positive strategy is still NOT about listening to your body. It is about appearance. It is about changing the beauty paradigm. It is about accepting that people are fat. Or not. Or whatever.
Why aren't we talking about health? The same reason we are talking about this as a beauty issue. The diet industry sells more crap to people wanting "better bodies" every year in the name of health than any other industry. I have read more articles lately deriding, "the industrial wellness complex" and cautioning people about "clean eating" from "doctors" than I ever thought I would. Clean eating is about cutting out food with additives or preservatives or any food that is too highly processed. "Wellness" is a term coined by a group of people wanting to treat the body as whole unit, instead of sticking to the medieval theory that the functional systems of your body are unrelated. Some of the ridiculous things doctors have told me about my body, "your eating habits have nothing to do with your skin condition," or, "smoking is not bad for your lungs or any other part of your body," or, my favorite, "sugar is not bad for your body," have fostered a healthy distrust of MDs over the course of my life.
But the point is, it doesn't matter WHO is telling you what to do. The best thing you can do for your body is listen to it. If you don't have time, I suggest you make some.
Most recently, I read something in an essential oil ad stating that a certain oil will help to "keep you from feeling hungry and curb your appetite." Why would I not want to feel hungry? Why would I not want to know when my body needed nourishment? Why would I want to shut my body up when it is trying to tell me what it needs?
Yes, it would be great if you could take a pill and lose 15 pounds over night, but that wouldn't keep the voices in your head from telling you that you are worthless. And yes, it would be amazing if we could all eat only protein for every meal, no matter how fatty, and lose all the weight that we want, but that won't keep the painful memory of childhood trauma from creeping up on you when you are least expecting it.
Listening to your body can be scary. Scary because sometimes it tells you things you don't want to hear, like your boyfriend is not good for you, or you job is making you sick, or that you shouldn't trust your mom. Sometimes it tells you that you have to stop eating ice cream!!!
Bodies, you see, are actually resources, not ornaments. Bodies are here to help us transcend the bullshit. Bodies exist to help us understand and navigate the world around us. That is why we have our senses. Taste, touch, sight, sound, smell, they all exist for us to understand more deeply what it means to be human.
Your body has a wisdom and language that actually predates its own existence. It is a magical thing, but if you treat it as if it is only for show, only for decoration, you are getting about 5% out of your body that you are meant to. 5% out of a creation that is by definition, a miracle of nature.
We all want to give and receive love. And right now, we are under the impression that we are only worthy of love when we look a certain way. That we will like ourselves more when we are thinner. That the people we love will not beat us if we are prettier, or skinnier, or taller.
But this is not the case. We have linked our value as humans who want love to how we look, and this has caused immeasurable damage. The thing you can do to reverse it is take ten minutes to yourself, alone, every day, and ask your body what it wants. Or, before you bite into your next meal, ask your body if this is what it needs.
Start small. Start slow. You will find that this practice will improve your healthy, your emotional state, and all of your relationships.
It will change your life if you allow it.