We've all heard the saying... actions speak louder than words. True. But I also believe that intention speaks louder than action. Let me explain. As you probably know by now, through my work with clients I tend to steer away from the typical "diet" advice, and instead help my clients learn how to tune into, and trust, their own bodies' cues. Easier said than done.
The problem that often comes up with my whole "listen to your body" approach is that it's hard to show somebody what that actually looks like. Sure, there are plenty of principles we can work to implement like honoring your hunger and fullness, nourishing your body every few hours, moving your body in a way that feels good, meditation, and rest. But what happens all too often is that these practices are followed with a diet-like fervor that often leaves people feeling depleted and confused... not really the result I'm going for!
Ultimately it does not come down to what you're doing, but how you're doing it. Here are a few examples of the SAME action with different intentions...
Going for a Run
Diet-Mentality Intention: Summer is here and I have been so lazy all year. I have to start running everyday so I can "look good" in my bathing suit next weekend when I go to the beach.
Self-Care Intention: I feel so energized when I run. I love this route near my house where I get to be out in nature. It's the one time in the day where I feel truly connected to my body.
A less obvious example...
Diet-Mentality Intention: I have to make time to meditate. If I slack off with meditation I am going to be so cranky and unproductive. Calming my mind has to be my first priority. I have to get this done right away before I do anything else.
Self-Care Intention: I have such a busy day ahead of me. I'm going to take a few minutes before I get started to take a few deep breaths so I can really be present for everything I have to do today.
Eating a Brownie
Diet-Mentality Intention: I know this brownie is unhealthy but now that I'm an Intuitive Eater I need to practice "all foods fit". I am going to eat this brownie because I don't want to be held prisoner to diet culture! In fact, I'm going to eat five brownies!
Self-Care Intention: That brownie looks so delicious and decadent. I'm going to enjoy this with a hot cup of coffee.
See the difference???
This is NOT about tricking yourself into loving running or hating brownies. I'm not saying that if you have a more positive attitude towards running it's going to make you run more... or if you have a more relaxed experience around brownies it's going to make you eat less. This exercise is more about understanding why you're doing any of these actions in the first place. Are you operating out of a desire to feel love, joy, care, and connection or a fear of weight gain or poor health? Are you trying to follow a particular set of "rules" or are you truly trying to connect to what's going on inside of your body?
It's easy to take any ideology, no matter how holistic, and turn it into a strict set of rules. Don't get me wrong, structure is helpful, and I think having a little bit of structure can create a great framework for implementing health-promoting behaviors into your life. But it's also important to have a little bit of radical honesty and acceptance when it comes time to implement some of these health-promoting behaviors.
If meditating is a practice you enjoy to connect with yourself on a deeper level, awesome! But if your lack of meditation is going to result in you beating yourself up for your less-than-perfect meditation practice then... we have a problem. So next time you find yourself feeling like you "should" or "shouldn't" do something, think about why you feel that way. Is it because you feel bound to a set of rules and guidelines that are going to make you a better person? Is it because you are attached to a particular result (weight loss, muscle "tone", perfect health etc), or is it because it is something that honestly feels better than the alternative?
Clarifying your intentions behind your actions makes it much easier for you to tap into your intuition, and really practice that whole "listening-to-your-body" stuff I always talk about. It allows you to take a break from running if your body is just not feeling up to it. It allows one deep intention-filled breath to be "enough of" a meditation practice, and it allows brownie-eating and coffee-drinking to be healthful and fulfilling experiences.
I'd love to hear if this is something you've struggled with. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!