• Sandy Reynolds

It's my jam

It's June! And I'm officially living in linen now. Summer Sandy is here, and I'm filling up the calendar with ALL the things that make me happy this time of year. How about you?

I had what I thought was a great idea to do another month of ‘sugar-free’ living. On Sunday night, I finished off a generous slice of leftover ice cream cake from my son’s birthday and thought, “that is it until July.” I got up early Monday morning to go birding and decided to have a satisfying breakfast of a toasted muesli round with nut butter and….raspberry jam. I suddenly realized jam has sugar in it. Damn. It started me thinking about this whole experiment of going without sugar. Would one teaspoon of jam really make a difference in my health? Of course not. But more than that, was I being pulled back into a way of thinking I was trying to break free from?

I’ve been working with a wellness coach, and I identified my overall goal as liberating my mind and body from years of messages I had internalized from diet culture. I decided that what I want in my life is to increase my energy, flexibility and strength. I’ve been having fun working out, and I feel good about how my body is responding. I refuse to measure myself by a scale or tape measure any longer. I have already been swimming twice this season, and both times I have felt immense gratitude to my body and refused to judge my appearance in a bathing suit. I remind myself of that saying, “Want a bikini body? Wear a bikini. Now you have one.”

So, back to the sugar incident. I realized that cutting out sugar was really a holdover from diet culture. I was putting rigid rules around food because I wasn’t trusting myself to make good choices by being attuned to the cues from my body. It’s an internalized message that has kept me stuck in judging my body and feeling like a failure if I gain 5 pounds. It’s fueled by the $71 billion diet industry funded by the 45 million people in the USA who are on a diet at any given time. By the way, 95% of those people will regain their weight and buy into another diet. NO THANKS!

Are you wondering how this relates to people-pleasing? I think that there are at least three ways that jump out at me.

First, we are far too worried about other people’s opinions of our bodies. I know I’m not the only woman who has felt body-conscious in a bathing suit. I have always felt self-conscious wearing just spandex - no matter my age or shape. I know I’m not the only one who has felt disdain for my body if I am carrying extra weight due to another winter during a pandemic. The truth is most people think very little about us. I know our ego doesn’t want us to go there, but it is true. Maybe for a minute, we think that person looks great or has gained weight, but we quickly go back to thinking about ourselves. We certainly don’t lay awake at night thinking about it. People-pleasers are worried about what other people think about us. We are worried we won’t be loved or accepted if we don’t live up to someone else’s idea of who we should be.

Second, we don’t know how to listen to ourselves. We’ve been focused on making sure we get it right. We are so focused on listening to everyone else that we haven’t paid attention to what we want or need. In the book Intuitive Eating the authors write, “Ultimately IE is a personal process of honouring health by listening and responding to the direct messages of the body in order to have your needs met.” Read that last part again, “in order to have your needs met.” If you have spent a lot of your life making sure everyone else has their needs met, you will not even know what your needs are. Learning to listen to yourself in order to have your needs met is something you will need to do in all areas of your life, not just with food.

Third, we don’t trust ourselves to choose what is best for us. Sharon Blackie writes in If Women Rose Rooted, “To step into your power means to trust yourself, your instinct and your intuition. To let the fear go, and the shame, and tell the stories which need to be told.” For people-pleasers (and chronic dieters), that means reclaiming the story that you are okay the way you are. Your body is good, not shameful. You know what is best for you, and you can act on it - even if other people have a different opinion.

It’s freeing to trust yourself. It’s freeing to listen to yourself with confidence that you know what is right for you. It’s freeing to let go of what other people think about your body, your choices and your life. The truth does set us free.

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