Most of us were born “normal” eaters and the process for responding to appetite is really more about relearning than starting from scratch. Let’s face it, we wouldn’t have gotten this far as a species if we didn’t automatically know how to feed ourselves well. What you remember about eating “normally” may help you return to it more quickly.
Think back to when food wasn’t an issue for you, when you ate when you were hungry, knew exactly what you wanted to eat, and stopped when you were full or satisfied. When you didn’t seek comfort in food or obsess about calories and weight. Recall, if you can, the wonderful feeling of connection to yourself and your ease with food. What was it like for your body to be so naturally satisfied with food without you giving much thought to it? If you’re able to remember that experience, allow yourself to spend time reliving it so that those feelings come floating back at you.
When do you first recall having difficulty with food—in early childhood, as a pre-teen, in adolescence, as a young adult, after your first child, or far into adulthood? If difficulties came early, acknowledge that you have decades to overcome to return to “normal” eating. If they came later, reassure yourself that you had decades tuned into appetite and that if you can get back on that track, your mind/body will do its job and take over. Think back to what went wrong with eating and why. Did you have pressure to eat or look a certain way? Was the problem more weight than food related? Was it from stress or trauma, about reducing activity, conforming to parental or societal ideals, or surging hormones and awkward growth spurts? How did you lose your “normal” eating skills?
You still possess the knowledge of how to eat according to appetite in your memory bank. You may have forgotten how, but because you followed internal cues for so long, the memory is still there. Try again to access it. Think of a time, even once, when eating was as natural as breathing, when being in your body was not connected to weight or appearance but to function, when your body was completely, lovingly yours. Remind yourself that “normal” eating isn’t as foreign a concept as you think and that feeling body okayness is more natural and instinctive than not experiencing that okayness.
When you’re feeling stuck around food or weight, try to find a memory that counters it. Substitute this memory or felt sense of “normalcy” around food and your body for your unnatural feelings. Grab that memory and run with it. Remind yourself that you know how to eat and take care of your body—and soon, once again, you will.