Why Can’t I Listen to Myself?

“Why can’t I listen to myself?” This is what a woman asked last week. She said she knew she should order a salad but ordered the burger and fries.

Who is the I? Who is the self? Warning: this could get a little deep. It has to. Superficial approaches to food, eating, weight and body image give predictably temporary results. If only we could “listen to ourselves” we would be able to have ongoing balance with food, eating, weight and body image.

The “I” referred to here is the person we think we are, or were, or will be. We attach to positions and possessions, to roles, responsibilities and relationships. The “self” being referred to is the truer, inner self. Take a breath. Notice your breath. Your self is the one noticing your breath. (It’s the same one that was there before the specific person, job, bank account, house, etc. to which you are attached now). It’s not your physical body, nor is it your thoughts or emotions. We could say it’s your being, presence, awareness, consciousness, whatever word clicks for you. Does that inner self need food? (If you are in touch with it you will know the answer is no).

What food does the physical body need? Food from the earth: fruit, vegetables, beans, legumes, whole grains, maybe dairy or meat depending on your belief (let’s not argue).

So who needs Cheetos, burgers, fries, candy, or too much otherwise healthy food? The I gets stressed out trying to make it all about the I. “I have to save this relationship, I have to get the kids to those activities, I have to stay at work until I collapse, I have to make more money.” The I is, well, all about the I. It takes over the needs of the body and the self. The body has needs: rest, sleep, movement, water, breath/air, nutrition. The self has needs: quiet and stillness so that it can be felt, experienced, known and listened to.

On this journey where we grow inside in order to shrink outside, it is the self that grows, the I that shrinks, so that the self becomes stronger than the I. And then…we will no longer find ourselves wondering while eating the burger and fries when we know we should have ordered the salad, “Why can’t I listen to myself?”