How to eat shouldlessly

My shouldless day reminds me of intuitive eating. Let’s talk about that. 

If you aren’t aware of intuitive eating, the basic idea is that you stop shoulding all over your body when it comes to eating. No more diets, control, punishment, restriction, forcing, measuring. Just tuning in—tuning way in—and listening to what the body is asking for. Is it asking for more food? Less? When? What kind? How much? Every day is different.

We are not cars; we do not run on the same amount of unleaded 87 every so many miles. Some days we want a giant salad. Some days we want a bag of cheetos. Some days maybe it’s both. It’s all neutral. 

If you’ve been living in this society (hi!) this may sound radical, irresponsible, stupid. We tend to believe that our bodies are these reckless agents of chaos which, left to their own devices, would fatally gorge on cake. To avert this disaster, we learn that we must do our research on what the best, healthiest, most slimming, most “super” foods are, and eat primarily those. The “better” we eat, in some sense, the more moral we are. It all has very creepy religious overtones. 

But this causes most of us a lot of grief, not to mention ill health, if you factor in the mental anguish of trying to live like you’re a car. 

Anyway, I’ve been on my own meandering intuitive eating journey for the past four years, and now that I’m also on a shouldless journey, I’m pensive.

Both eating intuitively and living shouldlessly are about trust. It’s about bringing the locus of control right inside yourself, not outsourcing it to a calorie-counting app or a to-do list. 

For many of us, living like our locus of control is outside us causes us to fail. Our bodies rebel against restriction. Our hearts mutiny at the thought of yet another hectic week with no reprieve. 

If you experiment with the idea of loosening the reins, the question becomes, can you trust yourself? Can you trust your body?

That’s an incomplete question. Trust yourself to what? Trust your body to what?

Can you trust yourself to be a productivity machine seven days a week? No, not for long, and the payment for trying will eventually come due.

Can you trust your body to shaped fashionably? No. That’s not its job. No more can you trust a dog to file your taxes. You might be able to train him to do a lot of the tasks, and he might even get some of them right, but at the end of the day, the IRS is going to call you on some major errors. He’s a dog; he needs to walk, and smell butts, and nap. He does not need to collate last year’s statements, and he’s not terribly good at it. 

In the same way, your body wasn’t designed to be thin, to look a certain way. Some people’s bodies may naturally look the way that you wish your body wanted to look, but the whole reason the rest of us generally spend our lives fretting about not looking that way is that our bodies don’t really want to look that way. If they wanted to look that way, they probably would by now. If that dog wanted to file your taxes, you might have found him once or twice poking around your filing cabinet, hunting for your W-2s. 

Letting go of this idea that we can control ourselves into some external version of perfection can be sad, and scary. But I think it’s the only way of starting to living a life that actually suits us, rather than contorting ourselves to fit our lives.

So the whole point here is letting go, relaxing that white-knuckle grip you think you have on your digestion and nutrition and appearance. Tuning in, neck-down, which is the only way you can start to figure out what’s really for breakfast, and what your squishy little self wants your day to be.  That’s the focus of our next post. 

Sometimes eating intuitively looks like this.

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