By Amelia Dinallo
Picture this: you’re at brunch with one of your girlfriends; you’re both looking over the menu when she exclaims, “Oh my god, the nutella french toast looks amazing.” Thirty seconds later, a waiter arrives at the table and, when asked, “What can I get for you?” your same friend responds, without hesitation, “Oh I’ll have the granola bowl, please.”
Hold on. Wasn’t this same girl drooling over the nutella french toast just moments ago? Yet, when the waiter arrived, the words “granola bowl” slipped off her tongue so effortlessly, it was as if her admiration of the nutella french toast was nothing but a temporary slip up -- a glimpse into a less mindful, less refined, and less controlled version of herself.
Ok. You’re confused and, honestly, you have every right to be. Why would someone know exactly what they want, and actively choose something different? Even more confusing: if this scenario is so nonsensical, why is it that I can recount countless examples of this exact waiter-customer interaction? Why is it that I, too, have ordered the granola bowl when I wanted the french toast?
The answer to these questions is fairly simple: as women, we are taught to doubt every part of ourselves, including our bodies. We are born with every tool we could ever need to distinguish exactly what we want in a particular moment, yet we are conditioned our entire lives to ignore, neglect, and destroy each and every one of these tools.
Women’s learned distrust of their own intuition is reflected in every relationship we have, including our sacred one with food. Luckily, in the past couple of years, I, and many, have become fascinated by the strength of women’s intuition when it comes to our relationship with eating and nutrition.
“Intuitive eating” has become somewhat of a buzzword recently, so let me quickly clarify what it really means. Someone who intuitively eats, “makes food choices without experiencing guilt or an ethical dilemma, honors hunger, respects fullness and enjoys the pleasure of eating.” In other words, eating intuitively simply asks you to listen to your body, and act on what it tells you. Okay so, theoretically, eating intuitively should be the easiest thing in the entire world. However, so many of us are incapable of doing it -- or at least feel like we are.
Now, if you think you’re one of the few who truly eats intuitively -- you order what sparks your attention on a menu, you stop eating when you’re full, and you dive in when you’re starving -- you might be right, but you most likely are really, really wrong. Clinging on to a distrust of our bodies' natural inclinations towards food has become so ingrained in women's minds that it affects us in ways we’re not aware of and rarely ever question. Have you ever asked yourself: why is it that I can have a bowl of ice cream at 10pm after dinner, but that exact same treat is forbidden at 2pm after lunch? Or, why is it that ordering the granola bowl over some toast variation is the clear “healthy” choice when, at the end of the day, both meals are composed of mostly carbohydrates?
We’re all smart girls, and I think we can all agree that eating ice cream eight hours earlier in the day, or eating carbs of a different variety than we usually do, won’t have any distinct effect on our bodies or our minds. All of us smart girls, however, follow and depend on these rules like they’re our life-line. And, in a lot of ways, they are. The rules make us feel safe, controlled, refined. But who the fuck ever told you that being safe, controlled, and refined was a good thing? I need you to understand that these rules merely exist so that we question ourselves constantly. But if, instead, we stop to question the rules and the effect they have on our minds, one really obvious and really awesome truth becomes apparent. These rules are absolute bullshit.
We’ll be “perfect” for a few days, weeks even: we’ll stay away from carbs at breakfast, we’ll order a much too small meal for lunch, and we’ll skip out on dessert after dinner but, eventually, that inevitable moment will come. We’ll be offered an insomnia cookie, a tortilla chip, a slice of birthday cake; we’ll take a bite, and the floodgates will open. We’ll feel out of control -- we’ll eat and eat and eat, well past the point of feeling full, and then we’ll sit up in an hour or wake up the next day feeling like absolute shit.
Clearly our bodies lie to us -- they tell us to keep going even when we shouldn’t. You may be thinking, ‘whenever I indulge, I binge, so why should I ever let myself eat what I truly want?’ What if I told you, though, deeming certain meals, certain habits, certain food-time combinations “forbidden” makes it so that, when we are finally just let go, and allow ourselves to indulge, all the ignored cravings that have been building up come to life all at once. We feel so much pressure in these moments to eat everything and anything in front of us because we’ve already “slipped up,” and promise ourselves that after this moment of weakness we will be strong again. This thinking, however, is exactly what got us into this mess in the first place, and how this exhausting cycle persists. If you had just ordered that nutella french toast at lunch, you wouldn’t feel that you need to finish that cake or eat that entire bag of family sized chips -- your body knows that it can always have more later, when you want it.
Trusting your body takes a lot of bravery, I get it. It requires you to trash the rules, and actually accept the idea that being kind to yourself is a good thing. I think, though -- no -- I promise you, that if you start talking back to that bully in your head, its control over you will shrink and eventually disappear.
I’ve included pictures of my friends eating intuitively during lunch or dinner after I had asked them to, please, be honest with me and themselves and order what they truly wanted from the menu. I then proceeded to photograph them eating what they ordered, and I think the images are totally heartwarming. They’re all different girls with diverging intuitions and, thus, they are all eating different foods. Some are eating toast, some are eating cookies but, no matter the food, all are undeniably happy. Those are faces of health, of self-love, but also trust. If you want your face to look like that when you eat, then listen to that damn beautiful body of yours. I promise you, if you give it a chance, it will never steer you wrong.