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woman sneaking cookie off plate with text overlay that says "Experts Be Damned: Just Eat the Cookie"

Are you as tired of these kinds of headlines as I am?

  • Never Eat Anything You Can’t Pronounce!
  • Never Eat These 5 Foods!
  • If You Eat That Nutter Butter, You Are a Bad Mom!

Okay, I made that last one up, but it’s definitely the subtext of a gazillion blog posts, articles, and social media posts.

It’s enough to make your head spin. How do you make sense of all those warnings? All that advice? All that judginess? How could you possibly follow all the experts? It’s impossible, really. Here’s some of the “expert” advice out there:

  • You should not eat anything, just drink juice because it’s detoxifying. (And when you pass out, it’s because of THE TOXINS.) Oh wait, no – juice is full of sugar, so that’s not allowed.
  • You should only eat raw foods because cooked food has no vital life force. Oh, wait, no – if you eat raw foods you have a higher risk of food poisoning.
  • You must avoid all animal products, because it’s like eating Death. Oh wait, no – you should put butter in your coffee. Because putting butter in your coffee will… Hell, I have no idea what miraculous thing butter-coffee is supposed to do.

Again, it’s time for Exorcist-type-head-spinning. WTF happened that we’ve come to believe grown-ass grown-ups aren’t competent to feed themselves? It’s part of the over-$60-billion/year weight loss industry. The underlying beliefs of this industry assume in part that fat = bad and health = moral superiority. These underlying assumptions are so pervasive that they have become invisible. OF COURSE I want someone with no university-level nutrition training to tell me what to do. If they know how to use the right filters on Instagram, that’s all the credentials needed. Even in the world of enlightenment, the belief that you are unable to make your own food choices is pervasive. There’s a wonderful wave of personal development healers and coaches ready to help us return to our true selves. Encouraging us to listen to our internal voices. Our inner wisdom. Our inner goddess.

Except when it comes to eating. Then you are supposed to ignore all your inner desires.

We are supposed to connect with our inner wisdom – except when it comes to eating. We are supposed to seek self-acceptance – except for our body. Why do we hitch happiness, peace, and self-esteem to the size of our body, or the way that we eat?

The message boils down to “Trust yourself – unless you want a cookie.” Or, “Honor your soul – unless your soul is hungry after 7:00 pm.” Or, “Accept yourself – except for your thighs and the little poochy spot under your belly button.”

I’m here to tell you to eat the damn cookie. If that’s truly what you are hungry for, no amount of kale or quinoa is a good substitute. Resisting your own inner wisdom about what to eat makes you cabinet-surf after dinner, even when your belly is full. As the 1990s low-fat craze taught us, swapping a fat free Snackwell’s cookie for the real thing just makes you eat the whole package of Snackwell’s.

If you want to be more in control of your eating, the answer is to stop trying to be in control. In fact, calling on your willpower is a really great way to set yourself up for overeating. At the very least, it tends to make you obsess about food.

So if it’s not about willpower and control, then what?

The key is self-trust.

Trust your body to know how to feed you. Trusting yourself reduces overeating and bingeing. Trusting yourself allows you to tune in to when you are really hungry or full.

Trusting yourself can be scary, though. I get it. It’s hard enough to trust yourself in other areas of your life as you step away from approval addiction. Plus, when it comes to eating, we’re inundated with media and cultural messages telling us we are incompetent.

But you are not incompetent.

You are just out of practice. Babies and toddlers know how to feed themselves until adults get in their way. You know that “open up the hangar, here comes the airplane” stuff? It teaches children to ignore what their tummy is telling them.

That is how the indoctrination begins.

You can undo that programming. It’s a process that won’t happen overnight, but it surely can happen. Bit by bit, you can return responsibility and trust to yourself. “Expert” advice and weight loss or eating plans can never know about you in the moment.

Only you can know when you are hungry or full, no matter what the clock says. Only you can know when you feel satisfied, which is different from having a full belly. (You could fill your stomach with grass clippings, but that’s only satisfying for cows.) Only you can know if you are eating for emotional reasons. While all eating has some emotional component, it becomes a problem when it displaces a real solution. As you probably already know, no amount of potato chips in the world can fix the rift between you and your partner.

Here’s a challenge to you.

Start being bold in all areas of life, including at mealtime. Make friends with your body. Make friends with your appetite. Remove guilt and moral judgment from eating. Once you do this, you might just realize that the forbidden chocolate hidden in the bottom of your lingerie drawer doesn’t even taste very good.

Funny how that works.