What if someone came up and told you that you MUST have 6 hours of sleep each night? Anything more than that was sheer excess. What if, from when you were a little kid, when you complained of being sleepy, your parents told you that it just meant you were lazy or not dedicated? What if when you got more than 6 hours of sleep, society told you that you were a failure? What if there was this social stigma on the less sleep you got, the more successful you'd be; the happier you'd be; the better husband you'd catch; the better person you would be.
But what if 6 hours of sleep just isn't enough for your body? What if, by trial and error, you found that you really needed 8 hours each night? What if you felt shame about that?
Wouldn't that be silly?
My relationship with sleep is a good one. When I don't get enough, I know it. I drag the next day. I'm inattentive. Because I feel so good, so ME when I get the amount of sleep I need, I make getting enough sleep a priority for me. And if I don't sleep well one night, I think about WHY I didn't sleep well (too hot, too cold, too many loud noises, etc.) and then go about rectifying that so that I will sleep better the next night.
If I get too little sleep one night because I'm hanging out with friends, I know that I will pay for it the next day. But I also know that sometimes it's worth it. Sometimes what I'm doing INSTEAD of sleeping is worth the drain of energy. But I know that I can't do that for many nights in a row. My body feels miserable when I go without quality sleep for too long.
I really have no judgement about the amount of sleep my body needs. I'm neutral to it - I just know I need it.
So what if I approached my relationship with food and how I eat with the same energy as my relationship with sleep?
What if, instead of shaming myself that I'm still hungry even though I know that I've had plenty, I just trust my body and eat a bit more? This is similar to if I had already had 8 hours of sleep and still wanted to sleep a bit more because I was still tired.
What if, instead of eating when I'm no longer hungry, I trust my body's signals and stop? Just like if I woke up at 6 AM on a weekend and realized I was no longer sleepy and decided to get up.
What if, instead of beating myself up for eating something that was not the healthiest choice, I just moved on - and "made up" for it by making healthier choices the next day? It's just like getting low on sleep one night and then sleeping a bit more the next day.
What if, instead of looking at food as only a source of pleasure and a way to escape, I looked at food as a way to re-energize myself. Sleeping and/or taking a nap is decadent, but it's mostly a way to re-energize myself.
What if I didn't judge myself for how much (or little) food I needed to feel satisfied?
It seems SO simple when I look at it like this. To me, it was profound, a huge light bulb moment, an AH-HA! moment.
I sleep when I'm tired. I don't deprive myself of sleep or force myself to sleep to punish myself. When I've had enough sleep, I simply get up and start my day. I have a healthy relationship with sleep.
And someday these statements will be true in respect to food, too:
I eat when I'm hungry. I don't overeat or starve myself to punish myself. When I've had enough food to feel satisfied, I simply stop eating and continue with my life. I have a healthy relationship with food.
Maybe you don't have a healthy relationship with sleep. In that case, I encourage you to think about what you do in your life regularly to take care of yourself that ISN'T a compulsion. Maybe it's that you brush your teeth, wash your face, shower, shave, or WHATEVER when you need to. Think about how neutral you are to that activity - how it carries no shame and that you don't do them for emotional reasons.
Attribute that same energy to your relationship with food and I hope you'll see the same light bulb I did.