Relationships are all about communication. I’m not talking about my relationship with my husband (although we’re always practicing our communication too!). No, there’s another relationship that I struggle with constantly…
**Let me preface this post by saying I do not currently, nor have I ever, suffered from an eating disorder. If you DO think you have a serious problem with food, please talk to someone & get yourself healthy with professional assistance. I mean it, cuz I like you.**
My broken relationship is between my mind and my stomach.
My mind is bossy. It says, “Oh look, it’s around 12pm, you should probably eat lunch soon.” It doesn’t matter what time I ate breakfast, or whether I’m actually hungry. My brain sees mid-day as time to eat. My mind tries to boss my stomach into believing that it’s empty, just because of something as silly as the time of day!
My stomach is like an infant – seriously. When it’s well fed, it’s happy and calm. When it’s hungry, it screams at me. It’s also not great at communicating (like babies). It can’t use its words like my mind. It just screams, “HUNGRY!!! Eat food now don’t care what it is just EAT!!”
So, I’ve got a mind that’s bossy, and a stomach that’s demanding. The two of them struggle to communicate well. If my brain says “time to eat” I often say, “ok” without really checking in with stomach. If my stomach screams “EAT FOOD NOW” I usually listen to it, even if the closest food in reach is pizza or fries. One overpowers the other easily, which is definitely NOT healthy communication!
The best relationships have two-way communication, and that’s what I’m working on between my brain and my stomach.
Easier said than done! Imagine if you had someone screaming in one ear, and someone else whispering in the other ear. It’d be hard to hear what the quiet one is saying! Same thing when my brain or my stomach is yelling.
Here are some ways I’m trying to do this:
1) I make sure my stomach doesn’t get too angry by feeding it every few hours. It’s really hard to quiet a screaming stomach. So when it starts to tell me that it’s hungry, I give it something small and healthy – some carrots and hummus or maybe an apple and peanut butter. That way, it doesn’t get to the point that it’s demanding I eat something RIGHT NOW.
2) I pause and check in with my stomach if my brain is telling me it’s time to eat. I mean really, my stomach will be the one to tell me when it’s hungry. It has no trouble doing that! My brain tells me when it THINKS I should eat, usually when it’s bored or upset. If my brain tells me to eat that candy because I’ll feel better, I pause for a second before grabbing it. I check in with my stomach and try to see if it’s hungry, if it wants candy, or if it want something more nutritious. (Sometimes it wants candy, and that’s ok!)
3) I treat my mind and my stomach like children. I already compared my stomach to an infant, and I think it’s pretty accurate. But BOTH my mind and my stomach are demanding and think they’re right all the time, just like kids can be! I try to be the “adult” in the situation that’s reasonable – the one that says, “No, you can’t pretend to fly off your bunk bed, you’ll hurt yourself.” That same type of voice is the one that says, “Stomach, I know you’re hungry. Brain, I know you think you need candy. But you’re getting a salad because you will both feel better afterward!”
This is all really challenging, and sometimes I get discouraged thinking that my brain and my stomach will NEVER be on the same page. But then I remember that communication is a skill you have to practice, just like anything else. If I keep practicing two-way communication between my mind and my stomach, I know it will get better!