Friday, October 07, 2011

Developing a Healthy Relationship with Food and Our Bodies

Honoring Appetite
October 6, 2011
Deborah Russo, Psy.D., Christine Engstrom, RD, LD, Laura Maloch, RD, LD. @ Remuda Ranch

Healthy infants come into the world completely skilled in detecting their body's signals for hunger and fullness. Yet, as professionals we meet so many people who have not only lost sight of this simple process but also describe fear, shame and disconnection from being able to "honor their appetites." For many, understanding real hunger not only means understanding the physical needs of their body, but also learning to trust and balance their true emotional needs as well.
Many individuals with food issues are searching for something that can never be attained on the physical level and consequently are trapped in feelings of deprivation, inadequacy and confusion. This attempt to perpetually seek connection, expression, or control through food or body image elevates food to a position it was never intended to fill. In our experience working with girls and women presenting with eating disturbances, there is paramount confusion about appetite. Cloaked in the language of food and weight, they tell disempowering stories about themselves and expect the foods they eat to do something for them. Whether to be tantalized, entertained or soothed, these attempts cannot fulfill their true hunger. The result is searching for something that can never be attained on the physical level resulting in guilt feelings, restraint from food through dieting, and ultimately isolation.

The development of a healthy relationship with food and our bodies can be interrupted by many different causes. Ranging from the more subtle experiences of inconsistent boundaries in childhood to the extreme cases of verbal or physical abuse. Coupled with living in a culture that contributes greatly to confusing and contradictory messages often encouraging suppression of appetite. To help relearn to trust hunger, those we work with may need assistance piecing together the reasons behind their struggles.

From a developmental standpoint, children learn self-confidence and trust through mastery of skills. For example, in the context of eating, a child learns to trust hunger and fullness cues by being able to ask for food when hungry and refuse food when not. If well meaning parents interfere in this process by controlling the amounts or reasons food is or is not given, they interrupt this internal learning process. These seemingly harmless parenting choices over time chisel away at the child's development of individuality and a strong voice. Under the guise of "being helpful" parents may be sending a loud message of ..."let me do it for you since you aren't capable...or let me make those decisions because yours will be wrong."...finish reading article

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