Do you believe in magic? “…In a young girl’s heart, how the music can free her whenever it starts?” as the song by the Lovin’ Spoonful goes. I do! I believe there is magic and mystery all around us. Some say coincidence. I say magic. That belief keeps me young and expecting great things for myself and for everyone else.
What I don’t believe in is body magic – the media messages that promote transformation of our bodies into those of movie stars, supermodels, and professional athletes. While we’re watching television or flipping through magazines we are bombarded with programs and products, promising flat abs, thin thighs, tens of pounds of weight loss, if only we’ll pay our money and then pop a pill or religiously follow a particular regimen. We want to believe so we buy into the hype.
Here’s the real magic! Our bodies hold the wisdom to transform us from sickness to health, from obesity to natural weight, from obsession to freedom. Can you take this leap of faith with me? Our bodies are our friends, our allies. Our bodies will not betray us. They speak to us constantly, sending important messages – if we choose to listen.
If your body spoke English, it would say loudly and clearly, “Food is fuel for the body. Feed me when I tell you I am hungry”. True body hunger (not the urges and cravings our minds send us) is a direct communication that your body needs fueling.
What are your body’s true hunger signals? We’re all different but some signals are pretty universal such as a growing emptiness in the belly, growling stomach, feeling shaky. I challenge you to become intimate with your hunger signals. That information will serve you well and teach you how your body talks to you. (And by the way, visions of sugar plums or cheesecake are not hunger signals!)
Here’s a great analogy. True body hunger is like the gas tank in your car. As you drive, the tank sends you messages. The needle on the gauge moves from the full, to the empty position. At three-quarters of a tank, you don’t need to pay attention. But as the needle moves toward empty or the gas pump symbol lights up, you’d better be asking, where/ when am I going to get my car it’s next meal/ refueling. Same thing with our bodies. When they speak, when they send hunger signals, we need to refuel (for most of us, every three to five hours). Otherwise, we’ll run out of gas.
Take this metaphor a bit further. The last time you were at the gas station, did you see a “sugar-water” option at the pump? Silly question, of course, because we’re smart enough to know that cars need (nutritious) gas, not sugar-water, to get them to run properly. So do our bodies! Sorry, but ice cream, cookies, and cupcakes are not proper fuel. Do they have a place in our lives? Absolutely, but not as means to nourish our bodies and energize our brains.
Final part of the analogy. Please, please, please, stop trying to put gas in an already filled tank. How many times have we eaten everything on our plates or gone back for seconds, without feeling or thinking, how filled is my belly (tank) right now? If we slowed down for a few moments, what would our bodies say to us? Maybe we’d learn about our own “you’ve had enough” switch, similar to the one at the gas pump that automatically shuts off when the tank is full. Really, I promise, each one of us has one.
So… although there is no body magic, there is body wisdom that will lead us to health and well being, free us from obsessions with food, and will teach us a language that we will use for life. Listen to your body talk – and your car! I don’t want to see you by the side of the road, out of gas.
Ilene Leshinsky is a licensed, clinical social worker with fifteen years of counseling experience. In her Plattsburgh based private practice, she works with women who want more joy and fulfillment in their lives. Ilene’s BodySense program is open to women of all ages who are in conflict with weight, eating, and body image. She can be reached at 518-570-6164, firstname.lastname@example.org, or www.ileneleshinsky.com.