Before you can influence others, self-acceptance is the first thing you need to accomplish. Liberation guide KaRonna Lynn joins Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen in this episode to shed some truth on what it truly means to accept and liberate oneself. She explains the origins and meaning behind body positivity and gives insight into social media influencers within the body acceptance circle. Learn what subliminal messaging is and the possible dangers it poses to your health, both physically and mentally. Also, know why you need to start listening to your body as she explains why you have thoughts of wanting to lose weight. Listen in as KaRonna goes deep and answers the heavy questions surrounding body positivity and provides help by giving a very simple but effective practice that can change your perspective about eating what you want.
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Unpacking Body Positivity, Intuitive Eating, And Self-Acceptance With KaRonna Lynn
A couple of years ago, I remember seeing a social media post in the sea of the tens of thousands, or God knows, hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of social media posts we get bombarded with every single year depending how much time we spend on our phones or computers. This particular post stuck with me and I wanted to use it as a kick-off point for this conversation. To paraphrase, because I didn’t save the post, unfortunately. It spoke to this idea that if suddenly the massive people in the world were to fully accept and love themselves exactly as they are, to not default into not-enoughness, to not feeling unlovable, to accepting themselves as they look, the shape they are, the shape they’re in, and fully embraced themselves, if human beings were to do this, the entire beauty, diet, a lot of the fitness and self-help industry, we’re talking billions and billions of dollars, would collapse overnight.
I remember that stuck with me profoundly because I feel as human beings, we are subject to many messages from brands and companies, our society, culture, experts and gurus, trying to subtly or sometimes not subtly, let us know that we’re not enough. If we simply buy the product, do the course, enroll in the program, do the thing they tell us to do, we’ll find our enoughness. We’ll finally find our worthiness and feel a sense of wholeness. I want to kick off this conversation with that stance because it stuck with me so long. The first question to both you, KaRonna and Whitney, is knowing that there’s this tangled, sometimes vicious web psychologically we have to deal with, how do we begin to unravel this for ourselves? Where the hell do we even start with that giant, sticky, crazy, and sometimes debilitating ball of wax that we have to deal with in our society?
This is such an incredibly important topic, Jason, because it is a big giant mess in many ways. One of the first steps that are important is self-awareness and doing reflection to come to an understanding of where did I learn about my body? What, in my lifetime, has influenced me? Who has influenced me? When we can look back and see, “It was that one thing that kid said in high school, those comments, and my grandma would make, the way I was taught in church or in school about my body versus someone else’s body.” All of those little things that often start in childhood, they accumulate over time and it gets to this outrageous place where the majority of Americans hate their bodies and thinks that they need to be smaller.
That’s such a heavy burden, some way to live and it takes up brain space for one thing. I believe the thing you saw on social media that you referenced. Millions of businesses would go out of business, would lose all of their money and because of capitalism is banking on our insecurities. That’s the crux of the ideas inside of capitalism in many ways and white supremacy as well to make it a real big picture. It’s people profiting off of our insecurities.
I am passionate about this subject matter too, and it’s not my main focus. Hearing you discuss this when this is the big focus of your work is exciting because it’s incredibly needed. For me on a personal level, I wish I had more resources like you when I was growing up and struggling, having disordered eating, and perhaps bodied dysmorphia. I tread lightly when I use those words. I used to use the term eating disorder a lot and I never quite felt right until I heard it phrased as disordered eating. I want to be mindful of how I speak about those challenges and I’ve also learned over time to be mindful of how relative these types of experiences are.
To both of your points, most people struggle with their body image because of the way that capitalism rules the media and social media. It’s a huge issue that’s practically universal for many countries like the US. The relative side of it is super interesting to me. The word relative is tricky because when we talk about mental health, it is relative. What does that mean for you? When we talk about depression and anxiety, it could be clinical depression, feelings of being depressed and feelings of anxiousness versus diagnosed anxiety. We try to be mindful of talking about this versus saying them as absolute. Going back to the eating disorder thing, being mindful of when we use those words to get sympathy from others or to bring us closer to others. I tried to be careful about exaggerating and take ownership of my personal experiences and how they may be different from somebody else.
For me, it’s been interesting because, as a friend pointed out, no matter how much weight I’ve gained, fluctuated, how small or large I’ve been in my life that’s relative to me versus somebody that might be sized larger or smaller. In this conversation my friend was frank with me and said, “Whitney, no matter how many times you felt you struggled with your weight and body image, it’s different than me who might be classified as obese or based on my weight seen as overweight.” I was reflecting on that a lot and this is also interesting to discuss since it is relative.Tweet to use in the blog post: So much of capitalism is banking on our insecurities. Click To Tweet
My body image struggles may seem less of a big deal to somebody else based on their weight and their body size. It’s made it hard for me to have these discussions sometimes because I don’t want to offend anyone. It’s like, “I struggle with my body too.” Somebody is like, “Not as much as I do or maybe you don’t understand as much.” The same thing is true of talking about racism, in some ways. We talked about things like privilege. There’s only so much that I can understand. Being a white woman, I’ve never got to fully understand what racism is to somebody of different skin color or ethnicity. It’s important to acknowledge those things upfront.
What you said is valuable, especially using all of the things that you addressed as a lens through which to look at the idea of body positivity. Body positivity is this mainstream movement. A lot of people are talking about it. There are a lot of body-positive influencers, especially on social media. The movement has been co-opted by thin white women. Body positivity was started by fat black women for fat black women. That’s one of the examples of many of the things that we as white people co-opted things ignorantly or not.
For us to interact with the idea of body positivity as more of both end, it’s extremely important for us to recognize the origins of body positivity, where it came from, and who it’s for. As a fat woman myself and I use fat as an identifier, it’s not a negative word. There are barriers to existing in the world in a fat body that people commonly referred to as street sized bodies, which are bodies who can easily find clothes in most mainstream stores. There are true barriers to living in the mainstream world in a fat body.
The idea of the fat acceptance movement which is what gave way to body positivity is the idea of literally and figuratively making space for all people in the world instead of catering a world to fend people and this particular beauty ideal. It’s extremely important to recognize that, especially in doing any activism work. Recognizing the origins of the body positive movements even its roots in racism and simultaneously honoring our own journeys through our personal body image experiences.
We all have them. We’re all influenced differently by mainstream media. BMI, for example, was never intended to be a scale of health. It’s been completely twisted and manipulated to be something that it was never intended to be. Overnight, they changed one statistic on the BMI scale and half of America became suddenly overweight. That’s not a good indicator of health and health is one of those relative terms that you were speaking of because what is health? Who gets to define health?
It’s important to recognize that we all have to honor our own journeys and processes through body image and to be mindful of the things. I struggled with disordered eating my entire life and everything is relative. Binge eating, for example, is something that a lot of people refer to and believe that they struggle with like, “I binge all the time.” It’s often used in the same way that people overuse and stereotype OCD like, “You’re being OCD.” It becomes this passing phrase. It’s valuable the way that you’re honoring the intentionality in your language and recognizing that it is relative. It’s the same way that we have to look at big social justice issues like racism. We are coming from the process of thinking and talking about it, our own personal experiences, and not being afraid to get it wrong and to be open to continuously learning.
It ties into a conversation we had about cultural appropriation and what you were saying about how this movement started with black women and the body positive movement there. It’s eye-opening because when I think of body positivity, I think of Instagramers who are usually white. It’s fascinating to me and I bet you a lot of women experience this too, which is why I’m excited to discuss this with you.
It’s fascinating to me being on social media as a content creator whose career is based around creating content. This show’s content, our YouTube Channel, Instagram, and all these different platforms that I’m on by myself and/or with Jason. Sometimes it’s a feeling of overwhelm or feeling like I don’t know where my place is because there are many people talking about body positivity. I feel conflicted with that because some people talk about body positivity when they’re a nice size and I find myself thinking, “I can’t even relate to them. They’re insecure about their bodies? That makes me feel more insecure about myself instead of comforted.” Body positivity should be about people feeling more confident in their skin, but when you see someone that’s smaller than you or has flaws that you’ve perceived yours as being worse, it can almost have the reverse effect. The number of people, it’s become popular. It’s a trend on social media for women to point out their flaws. I feel cliché if I ever do that, but I want to participate in this movement.
There’s that other big trend that’s been going on with women that show what their bodies look when they pose versus what they look when they’re not posing. Even some of that, you feel women are forcing themselves to look a certain way they’re not naturally slumped over. They’re forcing their cellulite to show. I start to feel it’s not even authentic anymore. Are they doing that to get more likes? That makes it confusing because I can’t even identify with these women or trust them. I feel they’re doing it to get more attention to make themselves look more relatable.
I’m sure you come across this all the time, given that a lot of those women are not doing that work that you’re doing. Maybe they’re an influencer who’s doing it to promote a brand. I’m not trying to judge or shame these women for doing that. I do think ultimately it adds something positive. I’m curious about your experience since your work is based on teaching people about body acceptance. In a way, does it feel frustrating for you to “cut through the noise” of all of these influencers who are using this trend to get more eyeballs?
Yes and no. Overall, it’s good. It’s well-intentioned and most of the time I want to believe the influencers who are popular for talking about body positivity. There is a large group of people who they are supporting, helping them feel better about themselves and see bodies and their own bodies in a different way and that is valuable. Where I get frustrated is the mainstream body positivity movement is a 180 from the way things started with body positivity. It started with fat acceptance .That was the focus of the movement.
That is not what you hear from most body-positive people online. You don’t hear them talking about fat acceptance. You hear them talking about loving your body as it is, especially for the people who are successful and body positivity is one of their main topics. There’s often an unhealthy distortion that’s happening inside of their content. They’ve recognized, “I can talk about this and show my cellulite and my stretch marks and it will get likes.” They haven’t done a lot of their own deep inner work, unpacked and untangled themselves from things.
It might be like, “Here’s a picture of me and all my roles.” Simultaneously in this caption, I’m talking about the ways that I nourish my body. The language gets tricky because body positivity and especially fat acceptance, it’s anti-diet in a lot of ways. It’s a focus on having an intuitive relationship with your body, food, and understanding that you can be healthy at any size and even unpacking the idea of having health.
It can be dangerous when influencers haven’t done a lot of that work and are talking about concepts and ways that are still largely urging or pushing diet mentality in subtle ways like, “It’s okay if you have stretch marks and also make sure you’re working out five times a week.” That frustrates me because that’s what got us to this place, in general, as a society where many people are struggling with their bodies is subliminal messaging. It’s taken on a new form. That’s one point of frustration for me.Making space for all people of the world instead of catering to thin people. Click To Tweet
The other is posing and not posing things, for example. Whenever I first started learning on my own journey of learning about body positivity, body acceptance, and intuitive eating, I learned completely 100% from thin white women. I never even thought about it. These were the predominant people talking about these topics and it was helpful for me. I’ve got to a point on my journey, where I’ve come quite long ways. I’m like, “I’m body positive. I would identify as that. I get this. I’m doing this and practicing this but why do I still also simultaneously struggle with my body?”
It took me a while to realize the thing that you were mentioning, everyone that I was looking at who was talking about body positivity, their bodies did not look like my body, even their “not posed body.” In many of the pictures of cellulite, rolls, and stretch marks, they’re posing to show me those. They have to bend over to show me that on them. They have to move their body in a certain way and my body doesn’t require me to do that. I started slowly recognizing that there was this separation between my experience as a person in a larger body and these mainstream influencers. What happens for a lot of people who struggle with body image? Largely, I’m familiar with women who talk about body positivity, but I know this is true even in the realm of men who talk about body positivity. What’s challenging is when the mainstream influencers fit the majority of beauty ideals.
For example, a pretty average size, maybe even buff guy talking about body positivity and all bodies are good. Your body looks like the people on TV. The same thing goes for the mom who has six kids, who is showing her stretch marks from having her babies, and always showing her jiggly stomach or posting pictures of her rolls. It’s helpful. It’s good to normalize those things and at the same time, it’s almost like another layer of the ideal if that makes sense. It’s normalized in this ideal body, in this body that’s already so close to the ideal.
To me too, KaRonna, there are a lot of things that brought up for me but the one immediate nugget out of what you were talking about is, it brought up something I haven’t thought about in a while as a man and looking at body positivity from I suppose a masculine perspective. I remember being a young man, preteen, teenager, in my twenties and going to the supermarket and seeing Men’s Health Magazine as an example. I’m not throwing them under the bus, but the first thing that came to my mind was, “All the guys on this cover are ripped, big muscles and somehow they’re always oily or sweaty or both.” The headlines on the magazine would be, “Get Ripped Abs in Ten Days or Less and Here’s How to Make Sure Your Woman Always Orgasms in the Bedroom.”
All these messages of, “If you look like this as a man, you’ll be financially successful, sexually desirable, be able to sexually please your woman and you will have all the things you’ve ever wanted.” Those are the headlines and messages being bombarded on this. I remember looking on the opposite end of the spectrum. Interestingly, I’ve always been a thin guy. When I was young, I was skinny and looking at those messages not only with men’s health but all the archetypes of the superheroes. All those comics and Marvel movies and things were usually these big ripped muscle-y dudes coming to save the day and if you’re not that, you’re not going to save the day. You’re a weakling. Having girlfriends and having family members saying, “You’re too skinny. You look weak you.” I felt fine.
I’m glad that you brought that up because in my own way I’ve had to do some unraveling of feeling I’m not enough of a man, I’m not strong or desirable enough, I’m not something that a woman would want to be with because I’m too thin. I might look frail or skinny and a “real man” is this herculean ripped dude who’s oily and glistening all the time and saving everyone. It’s by no means trying to make light of the struggle as a man seeing those standards as anyhow greater or less. I’ve had to unravel a lot of that for myself and I want to thank you for touching on that and giving me the space to bring up that part of my own journey.
That’s heavy. I know that this journey of body image is vulnerable, deeply personal for all of us and it looks different. Whitney was speaking to this. I have sensed within the movement and ideologies of body positivity. There seems to have become of this is who is in and out. This is who this is for and this is who it’s not sometimes. That’s a distorted idea and simultaneously it’s possible for us to hold space for the truth of the idea that body positivity somehow can’t be for everyone and focus on valuing the origins of it at the same time.
Everyone does have such a vastly different experience with this. A lot of times, body positivity is specifically around weight and size. When you think about people who are disabled or neurodivergent, there are so many different ways that we all are different. When you zoom out on the body positivity movement, it has become white people talking to white people. There are many different groups within the global majority who are getting left out and that look many different ways.
That’s why body positivity in and of itself is not the stand-alone final destination because body positivity says, “We’re all good. Let’s accept and love ourselves. Practice positive affirmations and look at yourself in the mirror.” Those are all good things, but the problem is the systems that are in place that influence all of us so it can’t stop with let’s all hooray about our own bodies. That’s an important part but it has to go deeper and wider than that as well.
In your work, you use the word liberation a lot, KaRonna. I love that word because for me, it feels potent, deep, and visceral when I feel into that word liberation. You briefly mentioned affirmations and making eye contact in the mirror and the positive self-talk. If we’re talking about going deep down the liberation path and choosing that and being fully aligned with it, what are some other methodologies, techniques or things that you encourage your clients and the people you work with to liberate themselves? More than that, digging into your personal story a little bit, in your ongoing journey, what are those methods or those ways that you have learned to liberate yourself and pass that teaching on to others?
What we mentioned at the beginning of this conversation about reflection is one of the most powerful tools in the process of personal and body liberation. It can take many different forms. To give a little bit of my backstory, I come from years of dieting. I put myself on some food restriction, I remember, at the age of five and I come from a long history of disordered eating and being deeply indoctrinated and a lot of ideologies. In a few years, I’ve done a lot of personal development and self-development work.
I made a transformational recognition that in all of my personal development work, I had been operating out of the belief that I was inherently not good enough so I needed to continue to do more personal development and inner work. I never ever saw that and heard anyone talk about that. That clicked for me because I recognized there was never a destination. This personal development work, this journey I was on, spiritual self-personal development, I always felt there was more to do, needed to heal and to fix. I recognized that there was a correlation of this is the core idea of I’m not good enough as I am.
I took a hard fast break when I realized that from doing personal development work because I do not want to operate in my life out of the core belief that I’m not good enough. That’s a damaging place for anyone to operate from and I had no idea I was doing it. I put a hard stop on personal development and did a lot of reflection and came to the conclusion and realization that any of us are broken. I don’t think any of us are in need of fixing and that’s one of the damaging root ideas that run as a thread through a lot of personal development work. In a lot of the language that’s used, it’s this, “We need to fix this. We need to do this inner child work.” I’ve done a lot of inner child work myself. We need to re-parent ourselves.
There’s all of these self-help tools and ideas that are useful and by no means disregarding them but there’s much of it that is operating out of this premise in that same thread is the basis of the diet culture, “My body is not okay so I need to change it and fix it.” I’m saying that because when I realized I was operating out of this core premise that I wasn’t good enough, I went back and started doing more reflection. I was not doing inner child work, but reflecting on where did this start for me?Reflection is one of the most powerful tools for body liberation. Click To Tweet
That is always the beginning of the work that I do with people. Where did this start for you? If it’s a body image struggle that you felt for years that you hate your body and you don’t like the way you look, it’s too big or too small, too this or too that, where did you first start hearing about that? When as a child did you learn about your body? Which people in your life? Which people groups? Which communities? Was it school? Was it friends? If you can think through that, through your teenage years and adulthood, there starts to become this obvious pattern like, “People have talked poorly about their own bodies and my body in most of my life.” That core piece of reflection is powerful.
The reason why I use the word liberation is because when we do that active intentional reflection, not to change anything, not to fix it because we’re broken but to recognize, “I didn’t get here on my own. I am suffocating inside of years of conditioning, other people’s expectations, cultural, social, and religious ideologies. I got here because of what I’ve experienced. This is not my fault. I didn’t do this to myself.” That’s a sneaky idea inside of body positivity. Sometimes it’s like, “I’m hard on myself. I did this to myself so I need to change the way I talk to me.” It’s back to that self-blame. Liberation, for me, I imagine it as we’re all working inside of a web of systems. We can either be effectively maneuvering the system, utilizing them or we can be trapped in them and get stuck and being suffocated.
Some of us have more privileges and resources than others and some people have next to no option to get unstuck on their own. There are many different ways that individuals are interacting with these systems, have the capacity to interact with these systems. Liberation is the idea of recognizing, what has influenced me? How have I gotten here? How can I untangle all of these ideas that I was taught, were put on me, and pressured to believe over the course of my life to get fully free and live from a place where I don’t have to practice affirmations every day trying to convince myself that my body is good enough?
I know it is. There’s no question about it. I know that it’s this system, that system, those people and this experience are all the things that made me feel my body wasn’t good enough but now I can detach from those things. I don’t have to buy into those narratives because I’ve liberated my own personal self, my soul, and body from those experiences. I’m truly free to operate inside of confidence in this body, regardless of what anyone else says. Bringing it full circle, that’s why I feel that reflection is such a deeply valuable practice to reflect on it and see what all is there.
You’re eloquent and passionate about this. I’m grateful to listen and have you share all of this because it’s such an important subject that we haven’t gone that deep on before on our show. We’ve only skimmed the surface of it and I feel grateful to have your voice. It resonates with me because this has been a huge thing on my mind for as long as I can remember. Looking back over when I was struggling with disordered eating, when I was a teenager and how I started to wake up to why I was doing that. I went to therapy for that disordered eating. My journey started. For anyone reading who hasn’t done much beyond their own self-exploration and reflection, that’s the beginning of it, but getting some professional help sometimes is necessary.
I remembered finding the courage to mention it to a nurse when I was getting a physical checkup. I remember feeling like, “Maybe I should say something about what’s going on.” She referred me to a nutritionist, which was interesting. I remember going to that appointment and feeling everything that the nutritionist was saying to me was basic. I realized at that moment that it wasn’t that I didn’t know the difference between “healthy food or unprocessed food” versus “junk food or more processed foods.” It was a psychological challenge for me. It’s what you’re describing. It’s all of these expectations that were around me and the culture and my experiences.
Luckily, they referred me to a therapist who was a psychiatrist and that we got to perhaps the core quickly, maybe in the first appointment we had. She pinpointed it that it was coming from a lot of the expectations my mother had of me. We spent most of my appointments after that talking about my relationship with my mother and I’m grateful that I went through that process. I’m grateful for that nurse who led me down that path. Even if she didn’t think much of it, it created a pivotal time for me and that’s when I started to get even more passionate about psychology. I’ve always been drawn to that learning about who I am and why I do what I do and why other people act the way that they act. It’s interesting to me.
That experience that year where I started doing all of that reflection was a big shift. However, to your point, I also spent many years, and still do in some ways, a little too focused on that constant adjustment and optimization. I’ve been mindful. I’m trying to stop using the word optimization as much as I have for all these reasons that you’re sharing. We as a culture become obsessed with constantly improving. Sometimes that may come across in our episodes. We’ve been trying to be more intentional on the show about exploring and reflecting versus giving advice and checklists and doing these things.. A lot of people want affirmations and they’re drawn to it for the reasons that you mentioned, which is like, “Maybe if I do these things, I’ll feel better about myself.” Many people are on this constant search for how to improve and that is a huge core with the weight loss industry. That’s something I’m curious about your perspective on. I struggle a lot with this in my work. I want to assist more.
Self-acceptance is a huge core of my work and the reason that I do it and body acceptance is a huge part of that. I’m still trying to figure out how to respond to somebody who says, “I want to do this to lose weight.” I got an Instagram message from somebody who bought a book of mine, and she said that she bought it because she wants to lose fifteen pounds. I tried hard to make this cookbook more about the nutritional benefits of that way of eating than the weight loss side. I also knew that a lot of people would buy the book because they want to lose weight and I was hoping like, “Maybe if I can help them and give them some suggestions, that might make them feel good. It’ll be less about weight loss.” There’s been this sinking feeling that I have like, “How many people are going to buy something that I made or watch one of my videos?”
I’ve talked about weight a lot over the years of my content and it’s tough sometimes because I don’t want to add to that capitalistic weight loss, self-obsessed, vanity side of things. I’m still learning how to approach it. What do you say to somebody who says they want to lose weight? It’s not that you can say to them, “You’re perfect the way you are. You don’t need to lose any weight.” That doesn’t help. Affirmations don’t help. To your point, the reason somebody wants to lose weight or change their body in any way is the result of many years of experiences. It’s not that you can simply ask somebody to switch it off and say, “You don’t need to do that.” If you’re binge eating, “You don’t need to binge eat. That’s not good for you.” It’s even smoking, which we talked about in an episode. If somebody is a smoker, you can’t say, “Can you please stop smoking?” They’ll instantly stop. Most of these things that we’re doing and thinking have been the result of our entire lives. The next question is, how do you approach that when somebody wants to lose weight and feels convicted and they feel it’s the right thing to do for themselves?
I want to take a moment to honor and speak to how incredibly intuitive and introspective you are about all of this. The question around weight loss is valuable to consider. I put together a list of questions people can ask themselves when they feel they want to lose weight. I was talking to many people who were having a similar experience. I loved the way that you connected the dots between these capitalistic ideas of optimization. Everything has to be optimized. That includes our bodies and the way we look and the way we function. It leaves little room for purely existing and being when we’re always focusing on productivity and optimization.
When it comes to the experience of wanting to lose weight, feeling you should lose weight, there are several components at play there. Years of experiences, stories, and even education around what health is and what health means. There’s a conflated idea that equates health to having a thinner body. Health At Every Size or HAES for short is a good tool. For a good resource, there’s a book by Lindo Bacon and they have a website, a podcast, and all things. They have lots of research and information to learn about the concept and the research around being Healthy At Every Size.
When someone is reaching out to you or whenever, someone speaks to me and that’s the forefront of what they want. It’s like, “I want to lose weight. I’m buying your book because I wanted to lose fifteen pounds.” It can be valuable to engage in conversational questions and to unpack, why do you want to lose weight. For me in my own journey, I started trying to change the way my body looked when I was five because as an adult, I’m six feet tall. I’m a large person. I’ve always been large so as a kid, I was bigger than everyone else. I heard, in the conversations with all the adults around me, no one was specifically telling me that I needed to change my body or that I needed to lose weight. I heard the other women in my lives and in my community talking about their bodies and their experiences, or other parents telling their kids they shouldn’t eat XYZ because it will make them fat things along that line.
I’m grateful that my parents did not do that with me, but I picked it up even from other people. I started restricting my own food. I started watching what I was eating. I started trying to be specific about my food intake and put myself on a diet from a young age. I went through this whole journey in my whole entire life until I was 26. I fully believed that in order to be healthy, you had to be on some diet. I’m not talking about Keto, Weight Watchers or Atkins or Low-Carb. I’m talking about any idea of needing to restrict or specifically curate the way that I’m eating in order to have some desired outcome or effect. That’s what I refer to as a diet. I spent all of these years doing that because I believed that’s what it took to be healthy. You have to follow these food rules. You have to change and watch what you’re eating in order to be healthy. It’s impossible to be healthy without that.I don't think any of us are broken or in need of fixing. Click To Tweet
It took me getting pregnant, having a baby, and the accumulation of many years of failed diets. The dieting cycle, which is feeling you need to change your body, starting some restrictive eating process, giving in to the cravings that you have, bingeing on eating the things going back into the diet. I was in this cycle of yo-yoing for years. When I got to the point after having my son, we’re doing good if we could eat corn dogs every day because he wasn’t sleeping and eating. I wasn’t sleeping. My husband’s job is crazy. It was so much and instantly as a mom I was feeling like, “I’m gaining weight,” or, “I need to lose all of this baby weight.” I had this heavy feeling of the need to change my body after having a baby so I need to start some diet. I didn’t have the capacity to start a diet.
I’m sharing this part of my story because whenever I got to that point, I thought I was broken. I was like, “I have tried dieting my whole life and it always fails. I never stick to it. I’m broken. Something is wrong. I do not have any self-discipline.” I 100% believed I had a major self-discipline issue and I had been in therapy for other things from my childhood for five years and I thought, “Therapy has always been helpful for me,” I googled food counseling because I thought maybe there’s somebody who specializes in this. What I found in that Google search was intuitive eating.
It’s incredible that you, Whitney, had the thought and awareness to share your experience with disordered eating with someone and thought, “Maybe I should tell someone.” I never thought to tell anyone because I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it. I didn’t know disordered eating was a thing. I thought dieting was the way to be healthy. When I stumbled upon the practice of intuitive eating, my mind was completely blown because I had no idea that there was another way to live. This is a long way around answering your question specifically because when someone is struggling or has the experience of wanting to lose weight, it’s often related to their beliefs around health.
“I want to lose weight because I want to be healthier, more active, be able to play with my kids and meet my grandkids.” There are all these ideas and I had all of those same experiences. I’ve had them over and over again in my life. When I got pregnant, I was like, “This is it. I am going to change my lifestyle because I have a kid and now everything is going to be different because it’s for this kid.” It doesn’t work. It didn’t work that way because it’s not about willpower and it’s not about self-discipline at all. It’s much more than that. Once I started my own process of learning about intuitive eating, I reference intuitive eating because it was the 180 framework that I needed to start unpacking all of my body image stuff.
When I started learning about intuitive eating, it called into question everything that I thought and believed about my body and food. Weight loss or wanting to lose weight is almost always tied to some idea about health or how we look that we should look some certain way. Intuitive eating is a framework. There are mindful eating and different ways to do it. I am a big fan and I utilize intuitive eating in my work. It gives clear steps and one of the first steps is to stop listening to the food rules. The food rules are what directly impact why we think we need to change our bodies. From infancy, we’re born intuitive. Most of us are born intuitive eaters. No matter how hard I try, I cannot make my two-year-old eat broccoli. He doesn’t like broccoli so he will not eat it. He’s intuitive and he knows how to trust his body.
What happened was when we’re kids, our parents introduced these food rules, because that’s what we believe is healthy and right. We stopped trusting our bodies and it introduces the subliminal idea of, “I have to trust these rules about my body size and about food, because I cannot trust myself. That’s why there are rules.” It erodes our ability to trust our bodies which completely falls into our ability to trust ourselves in general. That’s directly tied to us going through life with these heavy burdens of insecurities and feeling that all these people in this personal development, beauty, and weight loss world they’re telling me that I’m not good enough. They’re telling me I need to follow a different set of rules. They’re telling me I’m doing it wrong. They must be right because I can’t trust myself. Do you see how that’s all connected?
For sure. When I started reading about intuitive eating, which wasn’t until either 2020 or maybe at some point in 2019? It still is hard. I’m still trying to let go of all of those things I’ve been taught over the years. Jason, I’m curious about your perspective of this because the two of us have worked in this vegan world. Being vegan is much about what you eat and there are a lot of restrictions, rules, and there’s food police, which Jason I know you get fired up about. Jason has also worked as a chef and he’s been consulting with people. You can share so much about the industry side of it and this is part of the challenge. I start to wonder how much I’ve been contributing to these mentalities and unintentionally doing it because like you, I thought that was the way to do things and that’s the way I was raised.
I always try hard not to make it sound like I’m blaming my mother, or my father, both of them, as I’ve talked about in other episodes, the way that I was raised was based on what they perceived as healthy. I trust that they love me and they were doing the best that they could with what they knew and they were also under the influence of this capitalistic perspective. They were both concerned about their weights and weight was a huge topic throughout my life. You mentioned poor body talk and now I’m sensitive.
I can’t stand it when anybody talks poorly about their body. Not only does it break my heart for them, but I know deep down that’s reinforcing something within me and I get triggered by that. I’m like, “Please don’t talk about how old you are, about your cellulite or your stomach,” I feel that there’s something wrong with me too. It’s two sides of self-production and also wanting to protect them too. Get us out of this crazy world that we’re in because I want to be liberated for all the reasons that you’ve been talking about.
It haunts me almost every day. I was thinking about it. I’m about to go on a trip with a friend who loves taking photos for Instagram and I’m nervous about going because I think about, “What if she takes a picture of me that I don’t think is flattering and posted online and I feel ashamed about my body?” I find myself wanting to see if I can change my body or wear certain outfits and I step back from that and think, “Why am I obsessed with looking good on camera all the time?” That’s adding not only to my challenges but anybody else who sees me online. What if somebody sees me and is like, “I want to look like how Whitney looks in this photo.”
Maybe that’s not even what I look like because it’s been edited. All of us are in this together. We have responsibility and we can have such a ripple effect for better or for worse for people. Jason, I’d love to hear you dive in. I’m curious what has your experience been as a chef as somebody that’s constantly teaching somebody about different ways to eat? If you want to also touch upon how you get triggered by the vegan police.
Over the years, working with celebrity and non-celebrity clients, there’s been a mixture of intentions and reasons why they would have me come in and teach them how to make food or in many cases for years, I worked as a personal chef. If I reflect on the core reasons why people would hire me to work with them, it was either body image or the idea that eating a certain way would be more virtuous in terms of, “This is the healthiest way to eat. This is the diet that’s going to help me look better and youthful.”
If I look back on those experiences, there was a high motivation and it makes sense living in a place like Los Angeles and Hollywood where people are image and body-obsessed here to largely unhealthy degrees. If we talk about all the mechanics and layers of conditioning and programming that we’ve been discussing this entire episode, Whitney, and I live in one of the epicenters. It’s not that this doesn’t permeate every aspect of American and many aspects of global society regardless of the culture. Los Angeles seems to be such a microscopic environment where people are shockingly obsessed with how they look from plastic surgery, to dieting, to exercise, to longevity. Some of the people I worked with spent hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars on this stuff every year.
Looking back on it, there was this overarching mentality that if I eat, live, and work out in a certain way, this is a privileged and wealthy perspective. If I’ll hire the hot chef that’s doing longevity stuff and plant-based, I hire this yoga teacher, and I’m going to hire this plastic surgeon and do this and all of these crazy biohacking modalities. I’m going to do intermittent fasting and infrared light therapy. It’s a never-ending rabbit hole, but I got to see the inside of that of working with these specific people. They were willing to throw any amount of money at this thing that they believed would make them more youthful, vibrant, sexier, slimmer, or whatever those virtuous types of things that they thought they would do.Liberation is the idea of recognizing what has happened, how you got here, and how you can unravel to get fully free. Click To Tweet
The second part of that question, Whitney, it’s somewhat related in the sense that there is a mentality that if someone chooses a Vegan diet, a Keto diet or a Paleo diet, an 80-10-10, Atkins, or whatever the case may be, it’s this idea for many people this is the way to eat and live. I have discovered the proverbial holy grail that is going to unlock all of these things I’ve wanted. I’ll finally be able to love myself.
It’s a virtue-signaling to other people that I know what I’m doing because I’ve chosen this thing and this is the healthiest way to live. That mutates into a mentality of looking at other people and judging them because they’re not living or eating the same way you are. They’re like, “If you want to be healthy, you should be vegan. If you want to be healthy, you should be doing Pilates. If you want to be healthy, you should be doing colonics three times a week.”
There are a million different permutations of this mentality, but I am triggered by it because it’s a myopic, singular way of looking at life of, ”My way is the way.” The way that I eat, worship, or whatever it is. There’s amount of zealousness that people fall into, “I’ve seen the light. I found my thing and now everybody ought to do it. If you’re not doing it, you’re stupid and you should do it my way.”
Reflecting more on this, I feel fired up about it Going back to the vegan thing, there’s much infighting. It always makes me laugh a little because the core of being vegan is about compassion and yet we often leave out compassion when we’re relating to one another. I’m sure this is true within Paleo and Keto, and all of these different types of eating, whether somebody is eating a certain way for weight. I’ve done Keto, myself. I find a lot of benefits to Keto beyond weight loss and the restrictions. There’s actual medical research that indicates that it might be good for your long-term health and all that stuff. I often feel that you don’t have to be restrictive.
We’re all eating something so why not eat something that makes us feel good? I don’t want to feel bloated. If I could have a choice, I don’t like the way that I feel. It’s not about how I look. It’s like, “I like it when my stomach isn’t upset.” There are things like that. If I had the choice, I would love to live a few years longer and if this certain way of eating might give me a better chance at that, great. Do I need to become obsessed with optimizing? No. Do I need to restrict myself? For me, Keto, for example, which I was into for a little over a year, I had to constantly check in with myself about what my motives were. I wish I had your checklist because I could have used that and maybe this will be a good inspiration for me sharing that. I was drawn to Keto for the weight side of it. I felt overweight and out of control. I experienced body shaming. There were a lot of things that made it emotionally tough for me when I decided to try it.
When I made that choice, I was like, “I am going to find a way to do this that’s going to be balanced and I’m not going to make this about restriction. I’m going to try every day my best not to make this about my weight. Even though I want to be smaller for all these conditioning reasons and I’m still struggling with the shaming.” That’s when I found intuitive eating and I started to weave in like, “Eating a Keto diet does make my digestion feel better. Is that true? Is it my brain tricking me into thinking this?”
I allowed myself to have those questions, but also to experience it and start to learn about what intuitive eating is and feel that out. That is the whole point of intuitive eating. Each of us are on all these different paths and I feel that there can be this crossover. Like Jason, I feel frustrated when somebody judges me for this or that. When I was doing Keto, I was afraid to talk about it because people would talk about Keto like it was the worst diet on the planet. They’re like, “You should be eating a high carb diet. You should never eat fat.” They’re equally as restrictive. It was ironic that they were promoting the opposite end of the spectrum.
I don’t think enough people talk about intuitive eating for one and I also don’t think that many people talk about how hard it is to feel judged for your food choices. Even if you’re “eating that trendy diet” or that diet that everybody says works well for your health and weight, you can be judged for every single food decision which leads to it feeling confusing and takes you farther away from your intuition. I feel a bit resentful over all of these people that have told me in the span of time that I’ve been vegan, the amount of rules and restrictions people have wanted to put on each other makes me furious. Being vegan can mean many different things and I too have been that person.
I’m not taking myself out of that equation because there were times I was extremely judgmental about vegan junk food and about eating a high-fat diet or high carb diet. I’ve been that person as well. I’m trying to take ownership of that and move forward in a way where I’m no longer participating in that. Also, setting some boundaries so I don’t feel manipulated by the people that are trying to put their own labels on me or their own right or wrong viewpoints about what I should or shouldn’t be eating.
I’ve been that person too, Whitney, my whole life. When I got married a few years ago, I felt much intimate awareness of the ways that I have, especially with my partner pressured and shamed him, unintentionally. My intentions were. “I want you to be healthy, live long, and be your best self.” What that was me shaming him, putting rules around him, and doing all of these things. I’ve been there too. One of the core reasons why I focus on liberation instead of positivity or acceptance is for these ideas that you’re talking about. One of my best friends who mentored me in a lot of ways in intuitive eating, she’s now on a plant-based diet. She’s an intuitive eater who also is on a plant-based diet for reasons of her own personal values.
There is space for interweaving whatever works for us, whatever makes us truly in alignment for us as individuals. It can sometimes be a little tricky to unpack and recognize, is this my value or is this what I feel that I am supposed to do? All of these intense people are telling me there are all these rules and all these right and wrong ways to do it. Is this mine? Is this what I want or is this what I should be doing? There’s much space inside the idea of being intuitive with your food, body and even being intuitive with yourself and your life in general. They do leave space for a lot of both.
I recall hearing a podcast by Christy Harrison. She’s a registered dietitian and anti-diet registered dietitian and she was specifically answering someone’s question about the intersection of veganism and intuitive eating. I found it insightful because she also was advocating for the idea of, “Yes, you can live by your values and your personal desires.” Where it gets tricky and we have to be aware, is when all of those rules start to come into place and it’s like, “Whose rules are these? Are these my personal choices? Are these my personal values? Am I doing this to make someone else happy?” That’s the power and the idea of finding personal and body liberation, especially in the way we relate to our bodies and food because the rules are always external.
Using intuitive eating as a framework, there’s a specific reason why to identify and ignore the food police is one in two of the ten principles and gentle nutrition is the last one. Many of us have lost a true understanding of what nutrition is, lost the ability to listen to our bodies, and know, Am I having a reaction to this food or is my body reacting to the stress I feel about this food?” That’s an insightful experience for me personally with dairy. Since 2012, I have been extremely sensitive to dairy. It started after I got back from a trip to Kenya, and people in my life made fun of me. They laughed at me because of the reaction of my body to eating ice cream. They’re like, “ KaRonna, why are you doing this? This is gross.” I was shocked. I was like, “This is new, what’s going on?” I would still have the experience of gas and bloating. Out of all these uncomfortable experiences, the people would make fun of me for it so it made it even worse. I felt shame around it.
When I started learning intuitive eating, at first, I completely avoided dairy and I was making a conscious choice to avoid dairy because I knew that it wasn’t going to make my body feel good. The further along I got on my own journey with that I recognized that I had a lot of shame attached to dairy in my body. I was still bingeing on ice cream, for example, even though I knew it would make my stomach upset. I was bingeing on it because I was trying to avoid it and the shame attached to it. There are a lot of layers there. I’m pointing that out because it’s important for us to learn how to listen to our bodies. Gluten is something I can’t eat. It messes my stomach up all the time and I can do that intuitively and it’s not from a place of judgment or righteousness or better than. It’s truly honoring what makes my body feels good and that’s the power of both and that can be incorporated into finding freedom in the way we feel about our bodies.Leave space for 'both' 'and' to find freedom in the way we feel about our bodies, Click To Tweet
I love that you brought up ice cream, KaRonna, and here’s why. Here’s the craziest serendipity. We had a small window to take a bathroom break and do things. I was like, “After we get done with KaRonna, I am going to have some mint chocolate chip ice cream.” I got a fresh pint. Self-admittedly, there have been moments through this show where I’ll see my mind drifting and going like, “I got to have that mint chocolate chip after this episode.”
Here’s the question I want to talk about and, Whitney, I would love your perspective on this as well. With intuitive eating, I get tripped up some moments in the somewhat fine line in my being between what my mind is telling me I want and what my body is telling me I want. Maybe I can give a little bit more context before you both answer and give me your perspectives. There are sometimes where I’ll have the perspective of going out to the grocery store or shopping for ingredients and all of a sudden I’ll get a hit in my body of like, “Go get cauliflower.” Suddenly, I’ll have a craving or there’ll be something in me that’s saying, “You need to get cauliflower.”
I have no explanation for it, but something arises in my body of like, “Get cauliflower.” I’ll make the cauliflower into whatever. Make a cashew cheese sauce or whatever and I eat it and I feel nourished and energetically charged up by it. There are moments also this thing of, “I want mint chocolate chip ice cream.” I wonder if that’s an old pattern of me wanting to somehow psychologically reward myself after a long day of working versus my body saying, “The mint chocolate chip ice cream is going to nourish us.” I get tripped up sometimes in I suppose cravings versus intuitive eating. How do you both navigate cravings versus intuition?
It’s interesting that you bring this up because I got triggered when I was on TikTok. There’s a lot of interesting things happening on TikTok in general. There are in any corner of social media people that go on there and share advice that might be completely out of alignment with your perspective or that might trigger you. On Instagram, there are people on there talking about food and body image on many different ends of the spectrum. There was an anti-diet person, I don’t know what she did, but on TikTok, you can duet people. Meaning you can find a video and comment on it through a video of your own and put things on the screen. It’s creative. She did a duet and it was her pointing out a video by somebody I happen to know who’s popular on TikTok.
She shared this video of this girl that I know is talking about cravings. The comment section of this was fascinating because a ton of people were triggered and felt disappointed in this creator that I know who was talking about something called the banana test, which I didn’t know about. I didn’t pay enough attention to it to fully understand it. In my surface-level understanding is that if you have a craving, you should eat a banana, and if that satisfies your craving, you’ll maybe eat that instead of eating ice cream.
That’s what it is about and a lot of people felt triggered because they were saying, “This is body shaming. This is restrictive and food shaming.” All of that. I could see that perspective well. I knew this creator and she was trying to encourage people to go towards more nutritious food before indulging in something else. It’s a tricky thing, Jason. I’m glad that you brought it up. KaRonna, I can’t wait to hear your perspective on this too. From an intuitive eating standpoint, It’s like, “Whatever you feel eating is the right choice for you.” It’s not about stepping back and reading the ingredient label.
For someone like me who did Keto for a while, I wanted to try out the Keto out of that curiosity, but also to see how it would benefit me. The downside was I found myself reading labels and inputting things and it started to become a little slippery for me from that restrictive standpoint. I remember when I switched over and got more relaxed about it and got more into that intuitive eating, it felt much easier to take food and eat it as opposed to turning it over and looking at the label, reading the ingredients, and going through this mindset. It’s an internal battle of, “Should I eat a banana right now? Do I want these chips or maybe I should eat a banana first before I eat the chips?”
There’s nothing wrong with doing that. It might be nice for your body to have the nutrients that a banana would give you but there’s also nothing wrong with eating the chips or ice cream because you want to eat them as there’s nothing wrong with you saying you want the cauliflower and eating that because you feel it. That is still a tricky thing for me, Jason. I’m curious, KaRonna, if you have come across banana testing and if that’s a thing. Your feelings about this too when it comes to eating what you feel like, is that the simplest way to describe intuitive eating or is there any benefit to reflecting on it first and be like, “Do I want this ice cream or maybe I should have something else instead of it?” A lot of people struggle with that. It’s confusing.
I love the topic of cravings for all of these reasons. The answer to the last two questions you asked is it as simple as eat whatever you want or should you check in with your body? The answer to both questions is yes and that is why it’s confusing, notably. I want to unpack this a little bit and this is the beauty of my personal experience and understanding of the practice of intuitive eating. There is a lot of space for exploration. Intuitively, if we’re talking about the mechanics of our body and the way our bodies work, our bodies are designed biologically to communicate with our brain and let us know what they need.
In all of my years of dieting, of looking up certain cravings of, “If I’m craving chocolate, it means I’m low in iron. I should go eat some rugelach.” I would do that all the time because I thought my cravings are indicating something about my body, but I shouldn’t listen to what the craving is if it was for ice cream. I’ve never heard of that “banana test.” In my years of experiencing and being fully immersed in diet culture that was a common practice. If you’re hungry, but it’s not “time to eat,” chew a gum or eat water. If you’re craving sweets, eat a banana. I’ve never heard of the banana test but I’ve done that in the past.
This is both. I want to unpack the idea of both and.. I have learned from some prominent helpful anti-racism educators and specifically women of color around some of the predominant characteristics of white supremacy and white supremacy as a mindset and a viewpoint. Either or is one of the big ones and that is presenting the idea of, there’s only one right way. You both referred to this and all the experiences of different ways of eating and only being this one right way to do it. The same is true inside of all body image things and it’s an exclusionary framework to approach things from. It’s either you’re doing it right or you’re doing it wrong. That’s why I keep coming from the both-and approach.
Bringing it back to cravings and intuitive eating, if someone is starting out, practicing intuitive eating, and learning about the principles of intuitive eating, it’s important to let go of the food roles. One of the big things that a lot of people that were challenged by when they first started learning about intuitive eating is it does seem to eat whatever you want, and you’ll be fine. That’s not the core idea but that’s what the first 3 to 5 principles feel like because it’s about removing the rules around food. Jason, when you go to the store, and you have this intuitive hit in your body, “I need to get some cauliflower and it feels good to eat that cauliflower.” That’s intuitive. Craving ice cream at the end of a hard day, that can be intuitive too.
In my own journey and the way that I unpack cravings and these ideas around what foods I should eat, it’s more about the way that we relate to food. What I mean by that is emotional eating is a healthy coping mechanism. It’s good to have that coping mechanism. It’s important, useful, and helpful. Some of the challenge comes if that is our primary coping mechanism. It doesn’t mean that emotional eating or eating to numb or eating to feel better doesn’t mean that’s wrong. It’s not. It doesn’t mean the food that we’re eating, the food that we’re craving when we’re emotional is wrong. It’s not.Having the core belief that you’re not good enough is a really damaging place for anyone to operate from. Click To Tweet
What it does indicate is that it could be helpful to expand our coping skills to where we’re processing whatever we’re feeling and being aware of what we need not just nutritionally but emotionally in our lives and our relationships. There’s a long stretch in 2019 or so where every single day at the end of the day I was like, “This has been hard. I’m at home with my kid all day. I want to eat ice cream and veg out in front of the TV and do nothing.” That’s fine. That’s okay.
I started becoming aware of what was happening in my own emotional tank and my energy reserves. I’m an introvert and I was depleted all day every day. I was using eating ice cream and watching Netflix as a way to numb my feelings and I wasn’t addressing the fact that I had real needs that weren’t being met. It’s both and like it’s both okay to eat ice cream when we want to reward ourselves or when we don’t feel good, and when we want to feel better. It’s important to practice body and emotion awareness and be in tune with ourselves.
There’s not a right or wrong when it comes to craving and intuitive eating because intuitive is the process of constantly tuning back in. It’s okay to say, “I’m emotional now. I recognize that. I’m aware of it. I’m tuning in and I’m going to choose to eat the damn ice cream anyways.” That is okay. That’s my approach whenever I’m unpacking the idea of cravings. I try to stray away from the idea of there being a right or wrong way to handle it. There almost always are layers because we are complex human beings. There are layers in our experiences and that doesn’t make one more right or better than the other.
I want to say how much I love that answer and how much heaviness you take away from the process. As you were describing the layers to this and how complex we are as humans, this white supremacist approach of there’s only one right way of doing something, if you’re not doing it the right way, in the way that we say you’re doing it wrong. Sugar for me has always been my go-to in times of stress, loneliness, depression, and heartbreak. I’ve talked about this on multiple episodes in some of the relationship episodes and frameworks that Whitney and I’ve talked about.
Wrapped up in the emotional comfort you were talking about and the relation to cravings, I’ve always had this fear that if I allow myself to indulge, I’ll start to indulge too much, particularly with sugary things, desserts, and whatnot. That will somehow lead me tumbling down a slippery slope of, “If you start to have your favorite ice cream after a hard day, what if tomorrow was a hard day and what if the day after that and what if you start acting every day is a hard day?” It becomes this mechanism of using desserts as an emotional crutch.
If I look at reality, I have to trust myself. We go back to this idea of trusting. I know that if I allow myself to indulge in something that brings me joy and some semblance of comfort. I love some comfort food, I have my go-to’s with my comfort food. It’s by not restricting and denying myself and allowing myself to do it. I look at my track record or my eating habits. I never do go careening off the ledge. The only time that I’ve ever had an issue with overindulgence is if I convince myself that it’s bad for me to have it and being a naturally rebellious person, that’s my archetype is. I am rebellious. It’d be like, “You told me it was bad so now we’re going to eat the whole pint.” Whereas if I eat it when I want to and have a couple of scoops, I never go careening off. It’s never as bad as I think it’s going to be is what I’m trying to say. By virtue of allowing myself to indulge and have the things I want, I never spiral out of control like I’m worried I might.
It comes back to one thing that we started talking about at the beginning, which is, what would the world be if we had less judgment? Another thing that this conversation reminds me of is that common experience that people have when they find themselves gaining weight when they go to college, start dating somebody, getting married or in a comfortable relationship, and even during COVID. A lot of people are afraid of gaining COVID-19, 19 pounds or whatever. I remember people bringing that up and getting all concerned like, “I’ve got to keep working out during COVID.” I’ve got to keep myself on track.” We have to remember that the entire world is going through an incredibly stressful time. Hopefully, this isn’t permanent.Many of us have lost the true understanding of what nutrition really is and have lost the ability to actually listen to our bodies. Click To Tweet
To your point, I wonder what would happen if we allowed ourselves to eat however we wanted to eat and not worry about how long it was going to last for? Even with that Freshman 15 that cliché thing. It’s like, “So what?” Why do you have to get back to where you were before that? Why do you have to get back to where you were before COVID or before your relationship? There is fear and judgment around getting out of control and finding our way back to what we perceive as balance. That’s part of what makes all of this incredibly tricky. We’ve spoken for so long already, but I feel we could talk about this for hours because it’s such a complex subject matter.
One thing I would love to do is to put some books that have been helpful in the resource section and I want to include the checklists that you made, your website, and all of the great resources. I went to your Pinterest and saw all those amazing pins that you’re putting up there. There’s so much to share to continue this journey. One book that has probably been the most helpful for me, because I tend to research different perspectives and I love history and putting things into context. A huge book that shifted my perception about our appearances is called Beauty Sick.
It goes into depth about all the different ways that we are focused on our image and have less concern about what we look like. We could free ourselves up to do much more with our lives that would make a bigger impact. That book was healing for me in a lot of ways. I think about it often and that’s my go-to thing. It’s like, “Is it serving me to be focused on how many carbs are in something or should I eat whatever I feel like? What if I can train myself not to be concerned about what I’m eating and put much stress, time, and effort into figuring out what I want to eat and eat what I want when I want to eat it and free up myself to focus on much more important things.
I want to circle back about the fear of letting ourselves eat what we want to eat. If I eat the ice cream, if I indulge, then I’ll indulge too much. Jason, you perfectly addressed how we can “prevent” that. What that fear highlights is the underpinning of fatphobia because when we go there, it’s like, “If I indulge then, I’ll indulge too much, and I’ll eat ice cream all the time.” When we see where that fear goes, for many of us, the fear is getting fat. If the fear is getting fat, it highlights for us, “There’s some deeply rooted fatphobia inside my own internal narratives and inside of the way that I’m relating to food and the way I’m relating to my body.” That’s recognizing, “I have fatphobic ideas, beliefs, or ways that I relate with food.” It’s not a slap on the wrist for any of us. It’s an opportunity to recognize, “This is how I’ve been treating myself. I have the power now to do something about that because I’ve recognized it.”
A helpful practice that I wanted to share with anyone who might ever want to use this is when we have a fear that might start with if or what if, if I do this, this might happen. A helpful practice is what I call the What If practice. It’s asking ourselves, “What if that did happen? What if I eat ice cream tonight and I ate the ice cream tomorrow and the next day and forever and for the next three years, I eat ice cream every single night? What if that happened?” The fear might be like, “I wouldn’t be unhealthy. I would be fat. I would feel gross.” You can fill in the blank with whatever the answer might be there. What if you felt that way? What if that happened?
It starts to get to the space where we can see what we’re trying to avoid, “I’m afraid no one would love me, I wouldn’t be attractive and I would die.” It starts to highlight the underpinnings of where those fears are and that’s where we can see, “I can go here and unpack this particular topic.” One of my big things was I was afraid of getting fat because I wanted to get married and I wanted someone to love me and I thought if I was fat, no one would love me and I wouldn’t be attractive.
That’s huge and damaging to carry that belief. That’s such a hard way to interrelate my body, relationships, my expectations in many things. Recognizing that offered me the opportunity to see, “I have some beliefs here around what it means to be attractive. I have some beliefs here around what is expected of me inside of a relationship. What’s expected of me in relation to beauty and my appearance as a woman? I have some expectations around the importance and value of looks and ‘health’ inside relationships.”
That what-if practice opens up this world of a recognition of what’s underneath the surface, what it is we’re trying to avoid and that can be helpful. Jason, you mentioned, the restriction is usually what reinforces the action. Telling ourselves we shouldn’t eat the ice cream is usually what makes us want to constantly eat ice cream. If we’re truly free to eat, we have the choice of any food that we want and there’s no longer this scarcity attached to foods. It might not be a physical scarcity of, “It’s not going to be here.” It might be more of a psychological scarcity of, “I have to eat all the ice cream right now because I know I won’t let myself eat ice cream again.” That is what reinforces a craving for a specific food. If we allow all foods back on the table and in the cabinets, that’s how we can build a much healthier relationship with food in our bodies.
To give a book recommendation, The Body Is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor. Her book is powerful and one of the things that I love that she touches on is she talks about the experiences of people who might not be in “stereotypical or traditionally healthy bodies” especially people who are experiencing chronic illnesses. I haven’t finished reading her book myself, but I love all of her work and I’ve heard wonderful things from several people. The fact that she does intentionally touch on more than the external and psychological experience with our body, she also talks a lot about the internal biological experiences with our bodies. That’s powerful and it’s a small powerful read.
I feel grateful, KaRonna, for your depth and your heart and how comprehensive you are with talking about and researching and sharing your perspectives on all of this. I feel that we could keep going for another couple of hours on many different subjects. As we reach the tail end here, I do want to point our readers toward more of your resources because there are many other layers of depth that we can go to with your work.
For any of the readers who want to dig deep deeper into KaRonna’s wonderful messages, her offerings, and working with her you can go to her website, which is KaRonnaLynn.com. KaRonna, this has been lovely having you here. We deeply appreciate it and I’m sure Whitney feels the same way. We’ve been going so deep with you.
I appreciate this conversation. Thank you both for being willing to go there!
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About KaRonna Lynn
KaRonna Lynn is a Liberation Guide. With intuitive gifts, years of untangling herself from toxic beliefs, and a clinically focused Masters of Social Work, KaRonna connects the dots between the physical (our bodies), the mental (our thoughts), and the social (our systems & cultures) at the core of body image struggles in order to help people find deep personal liberation & body confidence.
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