Bootstrapping Your Way to Thinness: Dieting and the American Dream

What is “bootstrapping?”

Most of us are familiar with the phrase “pull yourself up from your bootstraps”, it’s as American as apple pie. Bootstrapping is the idea that anyone can change their situation using only existing resources if they work hard enough. It is the core idea behind The American Dream, which of course is falsely predicated on the idea that all people have equal access to all opportunities. We know that isn’t true and hasn’t been true throughout the history of America, yet the lore of The American Dream persists. 

Why? Because it gives us a sense of control. It soothes us to know that we have complete and total power over our destiny. If you succeed it’s because you worked really hard, and you have great “willpower”, but if you fail it’s because you didn’t work hard enough. This black-and-white thinking allows us to make sense of things, unlike the truth which is that our destinies are intricately linked to the systems and people around us. This is a nuanced conversation with a lot more unknowns than we are comfortable with.

Bootstrapping and Diet & Wellness World

Bootstrapping is also the core idea of diet & wellness culture and the primary marketing tactic of the diet & wellness industry. They sell us the belief that anyone can change their body size using only a diet/lifestyle change and hard work (willpower). If your body size doesn’t change or you gain the weight back, you are the problem. Failure is never because of the diet/lifestyle change, but because of the individual. You didn’t have the “right” diet or you weren’t following the diet the “right” way. The diet is never to blame when studies consistently show that 95-98% of diets fail long term. This shame-filled narrative is still pervasive and persuasive. 

Why? Because it gives us a sense of control. It soothes us to know that we have complete and total power over our body size and therefore our status in society. It gives us the illusion that anyone can move freely out of the societal structure of oppression based on our bodies if they “work hard enough” instead of working to dismantle the oppressive structure in the first place. 

Most people don’t want to be fat because they know how fat people are treated in our society and are incredibly afraid of being treated that way. And yet, instead of having an enlightened conversation about body diversity, poverty, food deserts, racial disparities in health care, or other multifaceted reasons people might be fat, we want to blame the individual because American culture has trained us to individualize systemic issues. It is easier to blame a person and say they need to change instead of a system or societal belief because changing systems and societal beliefs requires collective action. This speaks to internalized weight bias that pervades our culture and causes us to pit people against one another.

There is no simple solution or black-and-white answer when it comes to why we have diverse body sizes. Being fat isn’t a moral failing and being thin isn’t salvation. We collectively need to work together to dismantle the idea that anyone can become thin if they work hard enough. It isn’t a matter of work ethic. Also, some people are fat and will stay fat and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. 

Bootstrapping and Recovery

This “bootstrap” logic can also show up when you’re in recovery. People can feel they aren’t “working hard enough” at their recovery or that if they relapse it’s because they didn’t “have the willpower to recover”. This personalization is toxic and counterproductive. Unlearning disordered eating is full of habit and behavior disruption, which is hard for everyone!

What you can do?

When you notice or hear the “bootstrap argument” see if you can add nuance and compassion to the conversation. Ask yourself questions like:

  •  “Who benefits from me feeling this is my problem and my problem alone?” 
  • “Who else do I know who has also had this struggle?” 
  • “Where did the system fail me?”
  • “How is my belief about ____ influenced by cultural messaging?”
  • “How do I feel about myself after using bootstrapping logic? Is that feeling helpful”

Incorporating the collective normalizes a situation as a systems issue. If you aren’t alone and most people also struggle with something then it’s time to widen the lens. Also, think about how “bootstrapping” makes you feel, even if it were your fault (which it’s not), is it useful to make yourself feel like garbage because of it? You deserve better and we deserve better. 


Meeting You Where You Are: Health At Every Size Personal Training

I am Abigail Ladd, an anti-diet health coach, and Health at Every Size fitness professional. I have worked in the fitness industry for 15 years training people of all ages in multiple modalities. However, it was only in the last 5 years I walked away from the traditional “health & fitness” model towards the anti-diet and Health at Every Size frameworks driven by my own recovery from an eating disorder. This shift not only improved my relationship with my food and my body, but it has also made me a better trainer and coach to my clients and truly support them wherever they are with their fitness goals. 

While you may have heard of Health at Every Size or HAES, you might not fully understand what it is. So, let’s define it right out of the gates: 

Health at Every Size is a set of principles that was established in 2003 by the Association of Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH). These principles reject the idea that weight, body size and BMI are sole indicators of a healthy body. Instead, they are merely data points in a complex, nuanced system. We cannot determine someone’s health based on the size of their body. HAES also rejects the idea that weight loss is the panacea of the diet industry and some parts of the medical community claim it is, because people of all sizes experience varying levels of health – not just throughout the world, but also throughout their lifetime. Health isn’t a stagnant thing. After all, every time you get a cold or the flu, your health status has changed. 

As a personal trainer, I have had lots of conversations about Health at Every Size with colleagues in the industry because HAES brings out all the feels on either side of the discussion.

Critics of HAES describe it as “endorsing or glorifying obesity” and “giving up on your health.” First, the portrayals of fat or “obese” people in our media are far from “endorsing and glorifying”, in fact they are full of shame, collective disgust and often verbal abuse of fat people. Fat people are treated terribly and we all know it, which is one of the many reasons people are so afraid to become fat. There is not a multi-billion dollar industry promoting being fat, but there is a multi-billion dollar industry glorifying thinness and disordered eating. So, if we as a society want to be worried about glorifying a body type with unhealthy eating behaviors, we should all have our eyes trained on Diet Culture.

Second, health is not synonymous with thinness. We all know people who are thin, who manage health conditions and we all know people who are fat and manage no health conditions…and vice versa. More to the point though, health isn’t a moral imperative or something you “owe” anyone. Your health status is no one’s business but your own. Additionally, weight loss does not automatically correlate with improved health outcomes. But, health behaviors like stress management, eating nutritious food, and exercise, do correlate with improved health regardless of any change in weight. 

So, putting weight at the forefront isn’t “health promoting” because it is the wrong focus. 

Usually the main reason someone wants to hire a personal trainer and health coach is weight loss. Now, this can be coded in many ways: be healthy, have more energy, feel confident, be stronger, play with my kids more. However, when setting goals with my clients I ask: “If I help you be healthy, have more energy, feel confident, be stronger, play with your kids more, but your body size doesn’t change, will you be ok with that?” most of my clients say “no,” because what they really want is weight loss. They want to look the part. Now, there are many reasons people believe a thinner body will give them health, confidence, energy, strength and make them a better partner, parent or family member, but all of that is marketing. Thinness doesn’t mean you’ll get any of that and, more often than not, the behaviors required to make someone thinner than their natural frame – extreme food restriction, exercise routines and/or constant weight fluctuations are incredibly damaging to one’s health. 

We don’t know if a person’s body size will change as a result of adding in health behaviors. If we did, no one would have to try oodles of diets. They’d only need one. Bodies are diverse and nuanced. But we do know how to build a person’s strength, manage and increase their energy, build confidence, and increase your endurance so you can play with your kids for longer periods of time.

So, with Health at Every Sizes personal training, we do not pursue weight loss and  it’s not “on the back burner” because it’s not a reliable data point to set a goal. Your body might change in size and it might not. However, we can improve your strength, endurance, mobility, stability and your relationship with food. A Health at Every Size approach means we’re not trying to “fix” your body we’re working on the best way to support your body sustainably, so you can support it and yourself as your body changes throughout your life. 

When people think their bodies aren’t valuable as they are, regardless of size, they treat them terribly with crash diets and over exercising. But, when we acknowledge that bodies are inherently worthy and valuable, it is a lot easier for people to care for their bodies because they know how precious they are.

To find out more about my fitness services check out: https://www.abigailladdcoach.com/


Breaking the Feeding Cycle: How to teach your children to eat intuitively

 “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.”

James Baldwin

Our children hear how we talk about bodies and watch how we treat our bodies, including feeding them. They listen and learn how to categorize “good’ and “bad” food. Whether you have children, work with children or just spend time around children in your family, they are downloading the world through the actions and words of adults. We all have power to break the cycle of disordered eating, to stop generational feeding trauma with every interaction with the young people in our lives. 

I know this can seem like a VERY daunting task, especially if you are in recovery yourself and relearning supportive eating practices. It’s ok. That’s why I wrote this blog! 

Let’s talk about how to help children develop intuitive eating: 

1.) Eat together. Think out loud. 

Children learn by observing adults. They are masters at intuiting meaning and subtlety. So, eating with your child is a powerful way to impact their eating habits. Ask them questions about their food, demonstrate mindful eating techniques like taking time to smell your food and discuss the taste. Food is love in our culture, so take time to love them while they eat and encourage them to love sharing and eating with others. 

2.) You provide the structure. They provide the choice.

Children are still learning how to eat to feel good in their bodies. They are still learning the difference between “sometimes food” and “everyday food,” so provide mealtime and snacktime structure, but allow them to choose what and how much they eat out of that structure. “Picky eating” is normal child development. Be patient. Be consistent. Create a joyful spirit of trying new things and a safe place to dislike certain foods. 

3.) Trust your child. Provide Language. 

It can be hard to trust your child when they report they are hungry because it could be every 5 minutes. Ask them about their hunger. Provide them language to describe different types of hunger. Help them identify where in their body they feel it. Ask if it is a small, medium or big hunger. This will build their intuitive sense. If mealtime or snack time is close, ask if they can wait. If they’re going to have an activity over their normal snacktime, teach them how to plan for hunger and eat beforehand. Eventually, your child will be uncomfortably full or feel uncomfortable sensations after eating certain foods. Sit with them, comfort them, discuss what could have happened to make them feel this way and how to prepare for next time. Teaching them to trust their body, means you have to trust their body too. 

4.) Focus on strengths. Celebrate change. 

Diet culture is deficit focused. It is all about the things your body isn’t. Flood your child with the pros of having a body, even the mundane! “Your body is so cool, it digests all your food without thinking about it!” or “You’re so strong you can climb all the way up there!” There are endless ways to think about all the amazing things a body does in a day, be explicit. Praise other people for their power, strength, kindness, persistence in front of your children, show them how to lift people up in ways other than body praise. Celebrate change in all things, but especially bodies. Changing bodies are inevitable. Set their expectations, their body will continually change. It is normal, natural, and not something to worry about because your body is not your worth! 

 

None of this is easy, especially while on your own recovery journey. You don’t need to be perfect. You will make mistakes, you will not have the right words, and you may not have time everyday to slow down and be mindful with your kid. That’s ok. That’s life. That’s a great thing to show them too, but when you can, these small moments can be so impactful to cultivating a strong and positive relationship with their body and food. We all can recall powerful moments with our caregivers or teachers that changed our perspectives. You have power to be that for the young people in your life. Your healing will help heal others! 


The Dreaded Doctor: Advocating for Yourself at the Doctor’s Office

Fat people and/or people recovering from an eating disorder likely have a complicated relationship with medical providers. Most likely, they have experienced weight stigma and fatphobia when engaging in our medical system. Weight stigma research shows that medical providers self-report more bias towards fat people and often prescribe diets or weight loss before testing for maladies. 

Now, while the medical system is changing, it is slow, to say the least. So, in the meantime, I’m here to give you helpful tips on how to speak up for yourself and create meaningful boundaries with your medical provider. 

  • Find a better doctor

      1. Know that there are “fat-friendly” or HAES-aligned practitioners out there. If you have the ability to change providers, you should. Change to someone who will give you higher quality, comprehensive care. Thankfully, someone decided to compile a list by state and country: Fat Friendly Doctors List
  • Prepare

      1. Speaking up at the moment can be hard. So, call your provider’s office ahead of time. Ask them to make a note on your chart that you don’t want to be weighed (YES, it’s totally ok to refuse. Unless you are rapidly dropping or gaining weight, your weight isn’t a “vital sign”). 
      2. Now, some people on certain medications and/or with certain conditions may need to have their weight more closely monitored. Or perhaps you don’t want to refuse to be weighed, which is totally fine. You can stand with your back to the scale and ask them to not tell you the result. This allows them to take their “vital sign” and doesn’t trigger your eating disorder. 
      3. If applicable, also have them note your eating disorder on your chart. Tell them they may not counsel you on weight loss for any reason. 
  • Activate your care team:

      1. If you work with an ED Recovery Therapist, give your medical provider their contact information. Direct your provider to speak with your therapist about any concerns they might have regarding your weight. (You’ll most likely need to sign a consent form). The same thing goes for anyone working with nutritionists or dietitians during recovery, allow the provider to talk with your “care team” if they have concerns instead of activating your ED.
  • Bring a Buddy

    1. If you can, bring someone with you to your appointment. It can be intimidating and isolating to advocate for yourself alone. If you bring a spouse, family member, or friend who can help advocate for you, you might have more success and feel better about the whole situation. 

Most providers make appropriate adjustments when presented with one or all of these solutions. If your provider doesn’t change and continues to have fatphobic interactions with you or is dismissive of your symptoms, find a new provider. It is worth it because you’re worth it. You deserve to have quality health care regardless of your weight or body size. 


Hope Springs Eternal: Use fresh starts to support your recovery

Phrases like “hope springs eternal,” “while there is life, there is hope,” or “tomorrow is a new day” are staples in our society because it feels humanity has a unique capability to renew their sense of hope. Nature is a constant reminder of ebb and flow, death and birth, light and dark, so we come by this hope renewal naturally. 

Our predilection for “fresh starts” and “new beginnings” is often used by diet culture to reinforce their sales pitch to start a new diet, fast, or exercise program. Anyone who has dieted is familiar with Monday start dates for such things. However, this natural inclination to begin again is very helpful to those of us in recovery or just beginning our recovery. 

Recovery is not linear. Meaning it can be full of fits and starts, loops and spirals, and sometimes it feels like you’re on a treadmill. All of this can be incredibly discouraging, but leveraging our desire for renewal can be very supportive. 

To start, utilize natural “new starts” to your advantage. The 1st of the month, the 1st day of the week, a new season (like the onset of spring) are great places to start hope renewals for recovery. 

For example, you could use a new month to reaffirm goals you’ve set or build in new ones. The beginning of a new week to write new affirmations or start a new self-care practice. The start of a new season is a great time to think about clearing out old things, clothing, habits, and bringing in new things to support the new life you’re cultivating. 

Next, find a way to record/track your progress using renewals. Because recovery can feel like a maze, journaling or note-taking can be helpful to demonstrate our growth. Documenting this process allows you to look back and remind yourself of just how far you’ve come. You can journal at the start of a new day, have a monthly check-in chart for your goals, or use a mood chart or graph your emotions throughout the day or week. Pairing natural new starts with journaling or recording thoughts on your phone is the next step to facilitate recovery. 

Finally, develop a practice of seeing “new starts” everywhere. Every day is a new day, so every day is a good time to start caring for yourself better. Just as every moment is a new moment to nourish yourself fully or remember that thoughts are just thoughts. Every inhale is a new start. You don’t have to wait for a Monday to begin. You don’t have to wait for a moment more. You are capable of taking the next recovery step whenever. Life is now.


Surviving a Perpetual Pandemic

I don’t know about you, but for me walking into 2022 feels like staring down the barrel of 2020 all over again. Hospitals and schools scrambling to juggle every demand, workplaces switching to remote or bumping back the ever-receding “return date”, isolation, anxiety, unpredictability, zoom fatigue, and stress around every corner. 

So, what do you do? How do you set intentions for a new year while in a marathon of “unprecedented times”? Slowly, mindfully, and with acceptance.

My answer might annoy some people because after two years of being told to be “mindful” by all the corporations in the world so you’ll be more productive and less stressed is incredibly frustrating. I completely understand that annoyance. But this mindful intention is for you, not for your boss or co-workers. You. In a time of such destabilization, grounding ourselves is critical. 

  • Slow down Slowing down can seem impossible as we whirl from one activity to another or make yet another “pivot” to accommodate the pandemic, but grounding works best when we are intentional with the energy we do have. 
  • Be mindful – The pandemic isn’t going away. The juggle isn’t going away. The best we can do is to control what we can. It is easy to get caught in the churning wheel of anxiety and “what-ifs”. Take time to return to the present and focus on the now. You only have control of the present. Ask yourself: “what can I do to support myself right now, at this moment?”
  • Acceptance – I’m not saying you need to accept that life will be this way forever because that’s just not true. Everything changes and your life will continue to change. But, can you accept your feelings? This is hard. Emotions are a natural part of being human. Can you allow them? Acceptance of our emotions or frustrating circumstances eases the pain of being in them. It also allows us to move through things (or let them move through us) without getting stuck ruminating. This is not easy, but it is worth it. 

These past years have been hard. It’s ok if you’re not ok. Remember you don’t need to set any intentions for the year if you don’t want to. Don’t add more to your to-do list if you don’t have to. At the end of the day, find a way to incorporate more support, predictability, and self-acceptance. 


Savor the Spice: How to Practice Mindful Eating this Thanksgiving

What is mindful eating?

Mindful eating is the act of paying attention to our food, on purpose, moment by moment, without judgment. Read that again. Without judgment. It is an approach to eating that is intentional, sensual (meaning using all 5 senses), and encourages the eater to be fully present throughout their meal. 

Despite what some “lifestyle gurus” will tell you, the purpose of mindful eating is NOT to make you eat slowly so you’ll get full and lose weight. The intention is to allow you to savor the moment and the food. To slow down, notice the process of eating: smell all the delicious scents, admire the colors and textures, feel the food in your mouth, hear the crunch of a bite and taste the flavors on your tongue. 

While this process might seem simple, it is often not simple to do because of all of our beliefs about food and eating. All of the “shoulds” that pop up and cloud our ability to be fully present. 

What are the benefits of mindful eating?

  1. Better Enjoyment – when people are more mindful and intentional while eating, they enjoy their food more and are more satiated at the end of the meal. 
  2. Better Discernment – slowing down to taste food and sense textures, people learn to be more discerning. They begin to realize what food they truly love to eat and become more picky about what they chose to eat. People begin to realize, they eat food “just because it’s there” or “other people are eating it” instead of checking in with their own desires and wants. This way you can choose food because you like it, not because it’s there. 
  3. Better Digestion – Digestion is a slow process that requires a calm, relaxed person. Hence the names: fight or flight and rest and digest. When we are stressed, our bodies don’t digest well because it is not a requirement to survive. It does the bare minimum and keeps moving. However, when we slow down and get present it allows our body the time to do all the important work of digestion and body repair. 

Thanksgiving is a beautiful time to practice mindful eating because it is a day centered around eating. It is a chance to slow down and eat foods you’ve had every year and enjoy or discover you don’t really like some of them. I always recommend getting a little bit of everything, mindfully eating each item, then going back for more of what you really want. AND if that is ALL of it, that’s perfectly fine! If it’s just desserts, totally cool! If it’s only starches, amazing because they are delicious! All of it is ok to eat, but Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to tune into your own tastes and desires. 

How to Get Started: 

Again, mindful eating might sound simple, but if you have a history with disordered eating just the concept can be terrifying. If food is already hard to eat without judgement, slowing down and extending the time with all your difficult feelings can be really tricky. 

So, start small: 

  1. Have Someone Join You – if you have a mental health provider, maybe ask them to eat with you or get a friend who can eat with you. Never underestimate the power of a buddy! 
  2. Time Yourself – time how long it takes you to eat a meal normally, then see if you can extend it by 30 seconds, a minute, a few minutes and grow your tolerance for extended eating time. 
  3. There is no “perfect” – remind yourself there is not a perfect or right way to eat. Mindful eating is a tool, not a rule. Eating mindfully every meal is probably not practical or feasible, so know this is a way to temperature check your tastes. Also, what you like or crave will change, maybe a lot and that is normal. You can’t do this wrong. 

Halloween Candy Doesn’t Have to be Scary: Give yourself permission to enjoy

As the holiday season begins with Halloween, it can be frightening to think of all the  candy and sweets that will be everywhere; at the office, stuffed on store shelves, at your child’s school and probably in your own home. It can be overwhelming for anyone who has been raised in America’s diet culture, but especially for those who are in recovery from disordered eating. 

Because of this onslaught, the desire to police your food or your child’s food arrives to help you cope and ends up adding to your stress. This blog is here to help you support yourself and your children through the food frenzy of Halloween and the upcoming holidays.

Permission

Give yourself permission to enjoy “forbidden foods”. Restriction creates binging. All studies document that when you restrict a food or food group, the thought of it permeates through all else and will eventually cause you to binge on that food. It can be hard to deal with all the rhetoric that “sugar is unhealthy,” but stress is unhealthy and restriction causes a lot of undo stress. Most nutritionists don’t recommend restricting candy, but do recommend including it with meals. Eating the sugar with protein, fat and carbohydrates is a bit easier on your body and blood sugar. However, this is NOT A RULE. Eating it on its own is perfectly acceptable. You are far more likely to eat less candy when you satisfy your craving than trying to substitute with fruit, veggies or water. ENJOY YOUR HOLIDAY!

The same is true for your children. Allow them to enjoy and eat candy freely. The more you restrict it for them the more they will want to eat in a single sitting. 

Check in with your body

After eating candy or forbidden foods, check in with your body. Not your feelings, your body. Our feelings of shame or rule breaking can be overpowering, but try to get still and experience your body. Ask yourself how it feels? Where are you feeling things in your body? Does it feel the same, different, better, worse, or content? Are you satisfied? Was that the candy you wanted? Was it the taste you wanted? If you were/are going to have another, would it be that candy or would you choose another?

As a parent, you can support your child with this same process. Have them investigate their body and how it feels after candy. Help them decide if they want more or are done. Help them choose what taste they want and if they even like the last candy they ate. Help them savor and enjoy their holiday. Allow them to eat as much candy as they want on Halloween night and explain that this is a holiday. Then when they have had their fill, let them put away their candy in some place accessible and choose candy to eat at meal times. Help them claim autonomy in their food choices and decisions.

“Sometimes Food”

Remind yourself and your family that there are no “good” or “bad” foods. Food has no morality, but we all know that there are foods that serve us better than others. It can be helpful to phrase it this way, there are “everyday foods” and “sometimes foods”. 

Everyday we need foods that make us feel good and support us both physically and emotionally. Sometimes we crave other things. Sometimes we need to adjust how we eat based on how we’re feeling. Sometimes we eat (or don’t eat) things for specific holidays, celebrations, religious ceremonies and many more reasons. This is normal. Changing how we eat throughout the year is normal. Always has been and always will be. Try slowing down and enjoying the now, the sometimes, the holiday with your loved ones and the food around you. 


Returning to the New Normal: Reinforcing your Body Image as you Return to School and Work

Most of us have spent a lot of time at home this past year, which while isolating, may have been a relief from a constant fixation on body image

Body Image is the subjective picture or mental image of one’s own body. So, how you think your body looks to others. The primary way we develop our body image is by self objectification through self comparison. We compare the internal image of ourselves to a constant stream of external images of others and rank our bodies based on our own set of internal beliefs about how bodies should look. 

Now, while being at home, our idea of how our body looks didn’t disappear, but the stream of images to compare ourselves to was narrowed to faces on zoom, our social media feed and images on tv. Perhaps you were even able to curate your life and feed to allow you to see more diverse bodies and or less bodies all together and ease some of the self comparison dialogue in your head. 

However, as the world opens up. Kids return to school. Grown ups return to work. The stream is involuntarily widened again due to the increase of bodies you’ll be exposed to, ads on public transportation or the constant socialization around dieting/body discontent that happens at school or at the office. 

So, here are 3 strategies to reinforce your own body image as you reenter a society obsessed with dieting and body alteration:

  1. Remember that your body’s purpose is not to be desirable. Its purpose is to be functional and keep you alive. Write this on a sticky note and put it in as many places as you need, so you have a daily, constant reminder (to combat the stream of messages telling you the opposite). 
  2. Listen to your internal dialogue around self comparison and add self compassion instead. When we compare ourselves to others, particularly our internal body image to curated external images of other bodies, we turn ourselves from active 3 dimensional human beings to passive, stagnant objects, whose sole purpose is to be pleasing to the eye regardless of how debilitating it might be to our daily lives. When we add in self compassion, we ground our internal dialogue to reality in a kind and supportive way. 
  3. Focus on how your body FEELS instead of how it LOOKS. Making choices to support your body and health involve tuning into your own intuition, not looking in the mirror. Try to take time each day to listen to how your body is feeling and make choices to support it. This will also help you remember that your body is an active partner in your life, not a stagnant object. 

Our Body Image can be hard to alter because some self comparison is natural and unavoidable, but the better you can get at undercutting your own self objectification the more connected you’ll feel to your body, who was your first partner in this life and will be with you until the end. It loves you, deeply and unconditionally. 


Intuition is Your Inner Guide to Self Trust and Healing

Intuition is
Your Inner Guide to Self Trust and Healing

in·tu·i·tion
noun
the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.

Diet culture trains us to distrust our intuition. It teaches us our hunger pangs are false, our sore bodies can handle more exercise, and around every corner our intuition is trying to sabotage our chances at thinness (and therefore our happiness).

Of course all of this is false. There is no such thing as “self sabotage”. Behaviors we often call “self sabotage” are merely old programming and unhealed wounds begging for nonjudgemental attention, so we can begin to heal.

After years of rejecting your intuition it can seem impossible to ever trust it. How do you even begin to heal the rift that has been so fundamental to your core beliefs? How do you begin to trust yourself again?

Steps to Cultivate Self Trust and Healing:

  1. Develop a Curiosity

    When you have been running on core beliefs built out of wounds, it can be hard to see them as anything but true. You have been convinced these beliefs are there for your own safety and that fear prevents you from critically looking at them in the present.
    Become curious. Ask:
    – Do I even need this belief anymore?
    – Do I need this behavior anymore?
    – Is this thought serving me today?
    – Am I truly unsafe?
    Why would this thought/behavior/belief keep me safe?
    When we develop a curious mind, we begin to slow down the process between thought and action, which allows us to truly see our own thoughts. We can’t heal what I don’t see. Curiosity is the gentle beginning. It allows you to identify wounds to be healed.

  2. Practice Acceptance

    Once curiosity has illuminated your wounds, it is time to begin acceptance. You don’t have to love them, you don’t have to be grateful for them, you don’t need to be focused on the “silver lining”. That may come in time, but it is not the priority right now. These wounds have been festering in the dark because you were taught to deny them, exile them. Acceptance is the foundation for rebuilding self trust.
    It is being able to say:
    I see you. You are hurting. I may or may not like that you’re there, but you are me and I’m not going to leave you in the dark anymore.
    Acceptance is a reunion.

  3. Add Compassion to your Wounds

    After you have shed light on all your delicate bits. It is time to begin tending to them and compassion is your first aid kit. Adding compassion to your wounds isn’t about ignoring your pain or giving them an excuse for all the hurt they may have caused. It is about adding understanding. It is about connecting you to the broader human experience.
    Add in phrases like:
    – After what you lived through, it makes sense you react this way.
    – Trust me. I have more tools now. I won’t hurt you again.
    – Ouch, that is a hurtful thought. I know other people probably feel that way about themselves too sometimes.
    – I understand you want to want to protect me, but this behavior/thought/belief isn’t relevant anymore. Can we find another way to meet your needs?
    – Thank you for your help, but I don’t want to make that choice anymore.

  4. Really See Yourself

Once you realize your wounds are a normal part of being human, you can begin to see yourself, in your beautiful entirety, as a human being. Your intuition is your birthright and to truly know yourself you have to begin to really see yourself.
Practice seeing yourself through:
– Journaling
– Meditation
– Poetry
– Movement
– Mirror work
– Naked photos
– Through the eyes of your loved ones
– And any other activity that asks you to live in the present.

Healing is possible. It can be slow. It can be messy. It can be painful. It can be hard. However, coming home to yourself is a worthwhile pursuit. You are worthy of unconditional love, no matter what, especially from yourself.