It was one of those moments to be remembered: you know- an “ah-ha! moment". On a surprisingly warm wintery Saturday morning in Atlanta, I was getting ready to lead an adolescent process group at the eating disorders center where I was interning. My husband left for a jog a few minutes earlier with our dog. After he left, I continued to get ready, made my coffee and breakfast, and was about to head out the door when he came charging back inside after maybe 10 minutes. Huffing and puffing, my good man exclaimed, “Chick-fil-A’s breakfast ends in 14 minutes! I need to make it there and get a chicken biscuit before it’s all over!” He dropped our dog off and “ran” right back out the door before I could express the hilarious irony of the situation with him.
And that was that. He ran a few minutes, realized the way he truly wanted to spend his Saturday morning, weighed his options (pun not intended), and made the best decision for himself in that moment of that day.
I can learn something from this.
I thought about this throughout group and for the rest of my day. At the eating disorder center, we talk about intuitive eating and listening to our bodies and our emotions and thoughts. We stress the importance of being in tune with what we are truly craving- what we need and want. We ask of our patients, “What need is this eating disorder fulfilling?” “Are you willing to try to meet it in a different way?” “Can you let go of control?” “Do you want to live differently?” To be honest, I ask myself a version of these questions right a long side my clients.
Don’t we all desire to get to the point where we can accept that we want a chicken biscuit and we don’t necessarily want to run 3 miles AND (wait for it…) be totally OK with that realization? Some days, we will truly want to go for a run, and that’s great too. In a day and age where fitness, physical aptitude, and “discipline” are glorified to the extreme, we seldom acknowledge the need to be in touch with what our bodies want or need. Can we truly know when our bodies need rest, nourishment, and movement? In spite of all the noise around us, I believe we can still get to that place.
We do not need to deprive or overindulge, though we can recognize there are times when we will. Can we be OK with those times? Can we get to a point where we do not internally beat ourselves up if we don’t exercise for a few days? What if each time we looked in the mirror, we made a point of recognizing something we LIKE about ourselves? How transformational it would be if we said something affirming to ourselves instead of something disparaging.
I believe getting to a place of self-acceptance and intuitive living is possible- for my clients and for myself- which is why I continue working with this population. Those of us who work with clients struggling with disordered eating and related issues are keenly aware of the uphill battle we are fighting. We are working against engrained cultural concepts of “beauty”, of “fitness”, and of “health”. Though it is not easy, I’ll continue the fight.
Thankfully, I have my Chick-fil-A- loving husband to keep me in check most days.
Megan Broadhead is a counselor who is entangled in the pursuit of theological and psychological integration and women's issues, for more information go to www.missintermission.com