NEW LESSON: SUMMER 2015
As you learn to become an attuned eater, you will become more in tune with your whole self. Notice that you have needs in other areas of your life as well.
The basic act of feeding yourself can become a metaphor for meeting your needs in other areas of your life. As you check in with yourself to ask what you're hungry for, you're likely to check in with yourself about other needs as well. As you feel entitled to meet your needs by eating when you are hungry and choosing foods that are right for you, you're likely to feel more entitled to meet other types of needs. As you enjoy the satisfaction that comes from making a good match with your hunger, you're likely to feel satisfaction when you meet other needs. As you see that there is enough food in the world to meet your hunger needs, you're more likely to feel that your other needs can be fulfilled as well.
So how does all of this wonderful stuff begin to happen? The key is to pay attention. You already know how to pay attention to physical hunger, and you're working toward identifying your feelings. The combination of these two skills will empower you to listen to other aspects of yourself.
What else do you hunger for? Do you need more friends in your life? Do you desire more activity or less? Do you long to travel? Do you want to end a difficult relationship? Is your work life satisfying?
Here is how the experience of attuned eating translated to another area for one diet survivor. She was the primary caretaker of her elderly father, spending practically all of her free time taking care of him. She realized that she was exhausted and overwhelmed by these demands. As she felt more comfortable with the idea of listening to her needs, she felt empowered to focus on her other needs. She held a meeting with her siblings and told them that she needed more support. She asked that they take on some of the responsibilities. To her surprise, they readily agreed. They hadn't been aware that she felt burdened by the caretaking needs of their father because she had always cheerfully offered to do them. Her capacity to create this change came from the combination of the positive reinforcement of meeting her needs through attuned eating along with her increased ability to identify her feelings.
Another diet survivor realized that she was pursuing the wrong career in graduate school. Her parents had expected her follow to in their footsteps and become a lawyer, and she had never questioned this. However, as she had success in making matches with food, she realized the difference between eating what she was supposed to versus eating what felt right to her. She then applied this skill to other areas of her life. When she was honest with herself, she acknowledged that she didn't feel she was in the right place in law school. The truth was that she was always drawn toward psychology, and that being a therapist felt like a much better fit with her personality. It was a difficult decision to leave law school because she didn't want to disappoint her parents. But she recognized that pursuing a degree in psychology was what would truly make her happy.
Another diet survivor felt that her needs were so huge that they could never be met. How could there possibly be enough love in the world to fill her longing to be loved? Who could possibly care enough for her to fill her emptiness? Yet, as she began to experience the fact that there was enough food available to fill her stomach, she was able to consider the possibility that her other needs were not endless. With the help of a counselor, she began to see that people could care for her. She was able to let herself take in the care from other people and to enjoy these connections.
How can the process of normalizing your eating lead to such dramatic changes? The act of feeding yourself in accordance with your needs is a powerful tool. Once you experience how much better you feel when you listen to your needs, there is no turning back. Listening to your needs is an act of self-care that will increase the quality of your life.
Of course, just because you recognize your needs doesn't mean that you'll be able to meet them perfectly each and every time. As with food, sometimes you'll need to decide what makes a good enough match. Sometimes your needs will compete, such as when it would feel like a good match to go out to lunch with a friend at the same time it would feel like a good match to use that time to accomplish a task at work. However, overall you'll find that you can live your life in accordance with your needs most of the time, and your life will become more satisfying.
Use the metaphors of attuned eating as much as possible. Ask yourself what you "hunger" for. Think about what would make a good "match." Ask yourself if an experience or interaction felt "satisfying." This way of approaching your life will help you learn more about who you are and what you need.
Activity: Attuned Living
Fill in the blanks in the paragraph below to see if you can identify how you can translate the principles of attuned eating into the practice of attuned living.
One thing that I know I am hungry for is _________________________________.
I feel I need this in my life because _________________________________________.
I think a good match to this hunger/need is _________________________________________
I trust that I can meet this need and be satisfied because I know that _______________________________________________________________.
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.
–Henry David Thoreau