A wonderful guest post from my client Terri Barger, as she bravely moves along her unique path to Intuitive Eating:
Sometimes the simplest phrase can have the most profound impact. Some friends and I got together for coffee last week, and we were discussing why we avoid certain fitness classes – even though they sound fun, even though they might be good for us. We talked about not wanting to put too much pressure on damaged joints, or worrying that we couldn’t keep up, or any number of other reasons we skip out on something potentially fun and healthy. One of the women, amazing yoga instructor Annie Carlin, said something like, “Why not go anyway? When you go to a fitness class, you still have agency. You don’t have to do anything in a class that you don’t want to. It’s your body.”
The comment didn’t stick with me at the time, but as I moved through my weekend, it kept coming back. How often, lately, have I given up my agency? When it comes to our health, we live in a society that encourages us to give up our agency. Many, many people are happy to tell us what to eat and what not to eat, and when and how to exercise. A quick Google news search for the word “diet” suggested that I should eat more fish, that I should become a vegan, that low salt diets are unhealthy, and that how I chew might matter more than what I eat. I have recently had two different doctors give me contradictory advice about my exercise routine. One told me to stop doing a particular exercise altogether, the other told me to do it more often. One of them added, “but listen to your body.”
And that’s the key. At the end of the day, it’s MY body. Doctors, nutritionists, fitness experts can all provide valuable input. They have knowledge about all sorts of things I don’t know about. The best of them, like Annie and Jenna, educate their clients. Only I am an expert on me, though. Only I know when an exercise isn’t helping, it’s hurting. Only I know if a food makes me feel good and energizes me, or causes me to feel bad or tired or bloated.
As a result of her comment, I made some changes. First, I stopped going to a fitness class because I wasn’t getting enough out of it. Second, I stopped a relationship with a doctor I wasn’t comfortable with, but had continued to see. Annie’s comment also made me reevaluate some of my eating choices, digging deeper into the “diet mentality” and finally acknowledging that yes, some “healthy” foods make me feel awful. I am not obligated to eat them.
Giving over the power to choose when it comes to our health is easy – healthy living is confusing and sometimes difficult, but holding on to my agency in the face of all the pressure to give it up has been incredibly empowering. It not only impacts my health, but it also makes me more confident in other aspects of my life as well.