In this episode, Jessica Smith shares her journey from struggling with an eating disorder to becoming a Mind Body Eating Coach who supports others in their path to intuitive eating. She connects the dots between people repressing their appetite with food to repressing their appetite for life.
So often we forget that when we were little girls we had no concept of body hatred and that’s actually something that we’ve been taught. When I reflect on the women on my life, growing up, it really wasn’t ever spoken out loud, it was very...it was communicated in a different way and it was communicated in a way that said food is a beautiful thing, but it’s also forbidden is kind of what I was taught and what I mean by that is just comments during a meal about how bad you’re being and going back for second and how naughty that is. Them speaking to themselves, that was never said to me, but of course children and adolescence pick up and everything, all of those messages and my parents going on diets together all of those messages kind of soaked into my brain all of those messages of, ok so this means I’m being good, this means I’m being bad and a lot of like being rewarded with food which I experienced a lot which I think we all do because food is emotional there is no getting around it. Whether you're celebrating you get food, if you’re having a bad day then it’s like ok what do you want to eat tonight. So I definitely learned to use food to deal with my emotions.
I struggled with an eating disorder in college and after college. I was really lost. I was very disconnected from my body. I had a very abusive relationship with my body and my mind and food. And I went through individual and group therapy. I met with a dietitian for years and once I had that label of “in recovery” I kind of felt ok that was then, this is now, I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to think about it. No one wants to hear me talk about that. And I moved to Cincinnati to Michigan and I found myself in this new city and new state, kind of all alone and I walked into my first yoga class and I realized in that yoga class that my story, my relationship with my recovery, was not over. And yoga really opened up a new relationship with my body that I had never had before so I knew that I needed to explore that deeper. I met a friend of mine. We met in Indianapolis for a yoga intensive weekend specifically for yoga for eating disorders. And we founded a non-profit in Cincinnati called Good Vibes Tribe Cincinnati, so it’s our mission to heal negative body image through the power of yoga and community. So through our meetups with other women I was kind of forced to be in a position where I shared my story a lot with women and seeing how they reacted to that. How it opened up to them, that they could share their stories as well, it really pushed me further along in this journey. I was just continuously getting these nudges from the universe, like you need to keep following this. Your story is not over. So, I ended up going through the Institute for the Psychology of Eating and got certified in mind body eating coaching which is what I do now. And through that as well as reiki, which is energy work, Thai yoga bodywork, EFT tapping, and yoga and meditation. So I come at a woman...you know women are complex. We’re dynamic. We’re not black and white. So we work together in the intellectual intervention through coaching, but also touching where is your energy? Are you holding emotions and trauma in the body? Let's work on that. Let's work on limiting beliefs through EFT tapping and all of that.
Diet culture is pervasive and it’s totally embedded in our culture. It’s almost like our culture is diet culture or diet culture is our culture. The diet industry is a 70 billion dollar industry, so this is really big business and it’s big business in...people have an invested interest in you hating your body and having a disordered relationship with food. And we’re taught essentially to be cut off from our body. We’re taught that if only we had enough willpower. If only we were strong enough then we could control all of this going on below the neck. But the reality is, but when we allow ourselves to trust the body and allow the mind and the body to come together that’s where a lot of healing comes in. And there are a lot of layers to that. It’s not as easy as just don’t eat this and eat this instead. And move your body this way don’t move your body this. There is a lot to it. Which also makes it really complicated. Because we’re very used to a diet in telling us this is good, this is bad, right? Like black and white. Tell me what to eat. Tell me what not to eat and all of my problems will be solved and I’ll be happy and I’ll have the relationship. I’ll have everything that I’ve ever wanted, but that’s not the case. So what I want to get at in my workshop and with my clients is, “ what are you actually hungry for?” out of life, right? Let’s talk about that. Because our relationship with food, our unwanted eating behaviors are directly correlated to how we live life. So, what I mean by that is are you giving yourself permission to find pleasure in life? If you're not giving yourself permission to find pleasure in food and actually receive from food. If you’re fast eating. If you’re mindlessly eating. We’re not really sitting with the beauty of food and what it does for us. Food is supposed to be beautiful and nourishing and we’re supposed to enjoy it. But we really don’t because we use it as a way to distract or numb and when we allow ourselves to receive that pleasure and just receive in general from food we can then realize I’m not allowing myself to receive pleasure in life, right, I’m not allowing myself receive love in life, so it’s looking at our relationship with food as a reflection of how we’re actually living.
It all comes down to money. It all comes down to our diet industry and where they want the money to go. There are figures that say that up to 90% of the household financial decision making is left up to a woman and the diet industry is not unaware of that. So in order for us to purchase items that will make our cellulite decrease or our stomachs flatter, we have to first be told that that’s a problem and that it’s our problem and then we have to be presented with these quote-on-quote solutions. There’s always more to be fixed. That we’ll be happy when...When we lose the 10 pounds then we’ll be happy. When we have a certain figure then we’ll get the guy etcetera etcetera. The thing is the list never ends because there is always going to be more, but when we learn that all of these things that we’re chasing we already possess within us and I don’t mean losing more weight or having a certain figure. I mean what is it behind that that we’re searching for. So, we’re searching for what? Unconditional love? Acceptance? To be loved as we are? Those things are at the root of what that issue is that we’re trying to mask with food or surgery etc. Those things we already have within us. It’s just giving ourselves permission to find it.