"Trust my body" when it has proven untrustworthy?

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During my recent inquiries into Health At Every Size, one motivation I’ve heard from proponents is that “people should be able to listen to their bodies.” And again I have to say, I just don't get, or struggle to accept.

Reason 1: To me, this is akin to saying that I’m not going to wear glasses, because “I should be able to trust my eyes.”

Sure, it would be ideal to exist in an entirely natural state, to depend only on instinct, but desire doesn’t always line up with ability. If something’s broken, or operating at reduced efficiency, we can accept that or we can ignore that.

As I’ve often said, how I feel about a situation is not immaterial, and could even be important information. But how I feel about a situation doesn’t undercut the reality of that situation.

Reason 2: I have not successfully listened to my body for guidance on what or how much to eat for decades, which is why, most of the time, I weigh and measure my food.

For years I fought incorporating this discipline into my daily practice because I didn’t want to be chained to outside devices. I considered it nothing less than slavery.

When I went into food rehab, of course, everything the food staff doled out was measured, so I had no choice. But also, I didn’t have to expend any energy on measuring; it was just done for me.

I was sufficiently affected by rehab that, when I left, I was willing to weigh and measure, but I hoped/expected it would be a temporary concession. “Once my eye readjusts, I can forget about this weasuring stuff.”

Except, I haven’t been able to. More than 20 years later, I will still eat in increasingly larger chunks, when I wing it. Not the first meal, or the second, but within just a few days, the struggle returns, and if I don’t return to external measures, it will end in a binge. Imperatively? Maybe not. But it always has, and I have more than enough evidence to forego further testing.

Here’s the really interesting part: What I once considered slavery, I now consider freeing. Yes, I know, it’s like “missiles call peace keepers,” as Tracy Chapman put it, but it’s true, for me, nevertheless.

Even on that weasureless first or second meal, the chatter has already begun: "Is this too much? Is it enough? ... Do I deserve, or can I justify, more? ... I think that protein is a little light; maybe I can have more .. potato chips."

That chatter can start up when I’ve used external measures, too, but in those instances, I can shut them up by knowing that I’ve followed a reliable practice. That is freedom, leaving that hamster-wheel energy available to the rest of my life.

In no way do I say that my experience is the experience of all people. Some people’s innate portioning sense isn’t broken, and other people have suffered a reparable disruption. But just as I don’t maintain that my experience is everyone’s, I do maintain that my experience isn’t mine alone. Counseling people to “trust their bodies” when that method has proven untrustworthy, is not only misguided but cruel.

Author and wellness innovator Michael Prager helps smart companies
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