Building body trust during the holidays

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During the holiday season, you may feel worried or stressed about maintaining your health habits with all the traveling, holiday dinners, and general routine changes.

In this episode, Claire talks about how you can build a strong foundation for sustaining your health habits during the holidays by cultivating more body trust. She breaks down the concept of interoception, finding satisfaction in your eating experiences, and much more.

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Transcript

Claire Siegel: You're listening to the Flourish podcast. I'm your host Claire Siegel, founder of Flourish. We're on a mission to help women get healthy for good. Join me each week for a new episode that'll help you sustain healthy habits and nourish your body so you can Flourish in life.

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Inside the Flourish membership, you'll get unlimited access to credentialed nutrition and mindset coaches, you'll get community support from women who are on the same page as you, and you're also going to get an evidence-based curriculum to help you cut through the clutter and guide your daily actions.

Now, we're still invite-only, but I'm giving friends of the podcast early access. So use code PODCAST to get started with a totally free, no strings attached 30-minute strategy session with one of our coaches, and then spend the next week checking out the rest of the membership totally free. The link to sign up is in the show notes. And again, use code PODCAST to sign up today. Alright, let's get in to the episode.

Claire Siegel: Hello, and welcome back to the Flourish podcast! Y'all we are a little over a week out from TG, from Thanksgiving, baby. It is for many the beginning of the holiday season. Although I think sometimes we consider Halloween the beginning of the holiday season, but regardless we're, we're kind of in it right now.

And, you know, many consider the holidays kind of like the beginning of the end for health habits, you know? It is often seen, consciously or unconsciously, the last 60 to 90 days of the year, um, are kind of seen as a time where it is impossible to prioritize health and health habits. And, you know, if that is what jives with you, if that is actually what your, your body and brain feel called to do right now, by all means, go ahead.

But if that doesn't sit right with you, or if that doesn't feel like something that's ultimately going to serve you, because perhaps it hasn't in the past, then I really want to invite you to be here in this... in this session I was going to say... um, in this podcast in this episode to explore a different way of approaching the holidays.

Now, I will say that this may not be the time to kind of like go full throttle into new health habits because there are a lot of unique aspects of this season, right? There is certainly much more irregularity in terms of your schedule, right? You're not in your normal routine with work, maybe you're traveling, you're not exposed to the same foods, you're not exposed to the same people as you normally are... so there's a lot that is quite different about this unique time of year, at least for most. And that's okay. Right? So the fact that this isn't perhaps the best time to take on an abundance of new habits is not a bad thing. And it also doesn't mean that you have to like throw the baby out with the bath water and give all healthy habits the middle finger, especially only if that's going to result in you feeling like crap and doing a hard and therefore unsustainable reset in January.

Right? Like if that's the cycle, um, that tends to happen, maybe this is the year that we, we approach it a little bit differently, okay? I think that this time of year is such an opportunity to focus on sustaining health habits that are built upon a strong foundation of body trust. And that's really what we're going to talk about today is how to experience, well, not only experience body trust, but we're actually, again, use like this last month and a half or so of the year as a time to actually cultivate more body trust.

Okay. So I think a great place to start would be like, what do I even mean when I say body trust? Um, what is that about? So, you know, I think body trust can kind of sound like cute and nice and soft. And it is all those wonderful things, um, but is actually a well known and well studied, you know, scientific phenomenon. Okay. It is called interoception. That is kind of the more scientific term, I guess you could say, for what I mean when I say body trust. All right, so interoception is your ability to tune into the physiological signs and states in your body. Okay.

And typically those kind of fall within, um, three categories. So in your body you will experience sensations related to emotional states. Okay. So if you've ever felt... um, I went and spoke to a class yesterday at UT business school, and I had like massive impostor syndrome (which we could do a whole episode about), and I could literally feel my state of nervousness, right?

Like that my nerves, my anxiety, some of my fears were very much present.And I could feel them and I could sense them. Right? And that was my interoception of my emotional state at that time. Okay. So that's one of the three states. Um, there are other physiological states, and that's kind of a category inherently.

So that would be like the experience of having to pee, um, the experience of feeling cold and being driven to put a sweater on, right? Those are other kind of physiological states that you may experience. And then the third one has to do with your biological hunger cues. Okay? So the feeling of being hungry, the feeling of being full, right? Those, those physical experiences that we have that upon noticing them we are called to respond. All right. So again, interoception is, you know, your ability to receive and respond to those signals, right.

Which gets us to, kind of, I think the next important aspect of interoception is that it actually occurs in two distinct stages or two distinct steps. So first there's interoceptive awareness. Okay. So are you actually aware of some of these feelings, right? Are you actually aware of the signals that your body is sending you?

Now, it's really interesting because I think for a lot of physiological states, like having to pee, um, feeling tired, feeling cold, feeling hot, we tend to really trust in those signals. For many of you listening, that's probably an area where you have a high level of body trust. You have a high level of, of interoceptive awareness, but perhaps when it comes to some of the emotional states, that might be a little bit more difficult.

And then certainly as well, those biological hunger cues or, you know, hunger and fullness. That may be a place where your level of interoceptive awareness is not so... not as high. You may not be as in touch with those signals, right? Or maybe are in touch with those signals, and the challenge that you have is with the second step of interoception, which is interoceptive responsiveness, right?

Because we can be aware of many signals inside our body and still not choose to respond in turn, okay? So really what we're talking about here with interoception— and within that interoceptive awareness followed by responsiveness. We're basically talking about the connection between your body, your mind, and your actions. Again, the, the relationship and communication between your body, your mind, and your actions in that order. Right?

So let's talk about an example of building body trust as it relates to biological hunger cues. Let's say it's 10:00 am. You had breakfast at eight, and your stomach starts to growl. Okay. So your body is exhibiting a physiological sign of hunger. Cool.

Your mind, in turn, could think up a thought if we're building body trust here, something along the lines of, "Huh? I guess I'm just having a bit of a hungrier day. Let me go get a snack." And then the action is to get a snack. That is a check on the box of building body trust. Now that is when your awareness and your responsiveness are line.

Now let's look at an example of where there's awareness, but a lack of responsiveness. So same situation: It's 10:00 AM. You had breakfast at 8:00 AM, and your stomach starts to growl. And mentally you may note, "Huh? I appear to be hungry, but I can't be hungry. I just ate breakfast. Can't be. What's wrong with me? Why am I hungry again? How could I possibly be hungry again?" Right?

This is where a lot of the drama and the judgment comes in. Right? And so then the action in this case is to actually deny those hunger cues to try and suppress the hunger and not feed your body. Okay. So this would be a time where you're actually breaking that body trust. Right? And not fully experiencing interoception because you're not matching the awareness with your response.

Okay. So again, the reason why we're talking about this is because I think the holidays present such an interesting time to focus on sustainable, healthy habits that are again, built upon a foundation of body trust. All right?

So how do you do this? Specifically during the holiday season, how do you cultivate more body trust? How do you layer healthy habits on top of this strong foundation of body trust? I'm going to walk you through some distinct steps to get there starting with... and if you've been listening to the podcast for some time, or if you're one of our Flourish members, you probably already know what I'm going to say, because I say it almost every time, but you have to start with awareness.

Okay? And specifically, I want you to start with awareness of the many, many, many, social and cultural pressures that are at play that are actively encouraging you to override your bodily needs. Actually not only to override them, but to mistrust, to mistrust and therefore override your bodily needs. Okay?

So during the holidays, this could take the form of pressure that you feel from relatives who did the cooking, right? You don't want to offend your aunt Cathy who made sweet potato casserole even though you don't really like sweet potato casserole. But you're going to get a serving, and then she's going to ask you if you want more, and you're going to say yes even though you didn't even like it in the first place. Right? So there's that pressure at play.

Um, perhaps you feel really called to be a Grade A member of the clean plate club, again, because of perceptions that may, that may, um, take place if you don't, right?

Maybe you feel a different type of pressure that has to do with the people around you. But maybe you do that thing where you're kind of like looking around at everyone else's plate and wanting to make sure that you don't eat too much, that you don't eat too little, that you actually outsource your decisions around what to eat and how much to eat to everyone else around you. Right? So you're trying to match what other people are eating so that you feel accepted and acceptable.

Or maybe the trigger that you experience that causes you to override your own needs is more to do with like your own closely held beliefs, right? Beliefs that have just been on repeat for so long, year after year, that you don't really ever stop to question them... until now. Right? I'm talking about the really common tropes about overeating during the holiday season and during holiday meals. Right?

There's like so many... people will say things like, "Oh, I'm so glad I wore my stretchy pants," or "You're going to have to roll me out of here!" we say these things and we think it's funny and it's not not fun— I don't know. I don't actually think it's that funny, I think it's like we've just..... We've been there. We've done that. We've told the jokes. They're, they're not that good.

And I think for so many of us, they can become kind of these foregone conclusions, right?

Again, there's these statements, these beliefs that we just say over and over and over again, without really questioning... is this true? Does it have to be true? Is it serving me? And do I want to do something different this year? Right? If you don't want to have to be rolled out of Thanksgiving dinner, then don't. Right? Don't buy into that belief that the holidays have to be about overeating, right? Now that this is very different from making a very intentional decision to overeat. And if you're making an inten... you know, a, an intentional decision to overeat that is grounded in autonomy and agency, and what feels good to you right now by all means, go ahead. But don't do it just because it's how you've always done it.

Especially if it is then followed by feelings of regret and guilt and shame, and again, that unsustainable hard reset. That's just not worth it, and if you've been in that cycle and you've, you've experienced the mental and emotional exhaustion that often comes along with it, then I really invite you to do it differently this year.

Okay. So that's the first step again, we're talking about building and sustaining healthy habits upon a foundation of strong body trust and specifically how we do it during the holiday season. Okay?

So once you have an awareness of what some of those external and internal triggers are that actively, kind of, cause you to override your body's signals, it's time to tune in, right? So you start by reinstating your autonomy here. And, and this will often come in the form of, of questions, right? Leading up to, you know, a holiday meal, decide what is, what is your intention? How do you want to feel before, during, and after holiday meals? And I mean this physically, mentally and emotionally. Okay?

So physically, how full do you want to be leaving a holiday meal? Okay, well then work backwards from there. Well then, how hungry should you be going into it? If you want to feel comfortably satisfied leaving a holiday meal, well then don't go in feeling starving because that's not, that's not going to set you up for success.

How do you want to feel emotionally? Do you want to feel present and grounded and joyous and connected? Well, great. Then what do you need to do during that experience to get you there?

What do you want to experience during this occasion? Both in terms of food and then everything outside of food, right? Maybe you can actually take some of the pressure off the whole food thing by reminding yourself of what the holiday season is really all about and how you want to focus your energy and attention based on that. Okay?

So once you have kind of like a clear mental intention set, and you've sort of like forecasted how you want to feel after the event, then throughout, you know, it's really about using your body's hunger and fullness cues as, as a guide for decision-making. Okay? So an amazing intention that you can set here is: I will eat what appeals to me and I will respect my hunger and fullness cues. I will eat what appeals to me and I will respect my hunger and fullness cues.

So with inherent, within that respect, right, is both the awareness and the responsiveness. I will feel my feelings of hunger, I will feel my feelings of fullness, and I will respond appropriately. Okay. Now, we can and probably should do an entire episode around hunger and fullness cues— mental note that I should, we should bring Elizabeth, our nutrition coach back onto the pod to talk about it with y'all, but in the meantime, if you do need some support, kind of like gauging... cause I know sometimes it can be difficult, especially if you've been dieting for some time, it can be really difficult to tell, okay, what is the difference between meal hungry or snack hungry? What is the difference between, you know, a little hungry and being hangry or starving, right?

Sometimes if you have been actively suppressing those hunger signals for some time, it can be really difficult to get back in touch with them. Um, and of course the same is true with, with fullness. So for that reason, we've actually included a link in the show notes where you can download a copy of the hunger and fullness scale, which again can just be really, really helpful as you, again, work to cultivate more of that, um, awareness, the awareness piece of the body trust.

It's also helpful for the responsiveness part of it as well, because it's like, okay, well, when should you respond? Right? Like when is... When is hungry enough to eat? When is full enough to stop? Okay. Cause it can be tricky, right?

Now again, we're continuing to look inward. First, we develop the awareness. Now we're looking inward. We set our intentions. We're focusing on hunger and fullness, but that's not all, okay? Because beyond hunger and fullness, there's also the consideration of satisfaction that I really want and need you to, to make, okay? It's not actually, for me, this is really for you. It has nothing to do with me.

Because if you think about it—you know this—you know that you can get full on any food in the world. You can get full on any food, but unless you're also satisfied, you're going to remain hungry from an emotional standpoint. I'm going to say that again. You can get full from any food in the world, but unless you're satisfied, then you're still going to be hungry from an, an emotional standpoint. Okay?

So find satisfaction by staying present while you're eating, by paying attention to the taste, the texture, the aromas of what you're consuming. Note your feelings throughout the experience. Ask yourself, am I actually satisfied by the food that I'm eating?

Again, because so many of us go into these holiday meals with a foregone conclusion of, "Okay, well it's Thanksgiving, so I'm going to eat too much," then we settle for eating food that doesn't, that we don't actually like, that doesn't actually satisfy us only to, again, end up so stuffed and physically uncomfortable that the regret and the guilt and the shame kicks in and then the cycle starts all over again.

So to, kind of, tune into your satisfaction is, really, really powerful. And again, it's a powerful aspect of body trust because it is inherently connected to, um, that, that fullness, right? And, and really knowing when is the right time to stop eating for you. Okay?

So we've got the intention. We've got the awareness. Now let's talk about the emotions. I want to encourage you all the time, but certainly during the holidays, I want to encourage you to allow food to be emotional. Okay. One of my favorite sayings that I believe I came up with in the shower, where I do most of my best thinking, is: food is fuel with feelings. A lot of times we want to have this like food as fuel, super like functional approach to food, which, I mean, I think in some ways can be helpful, and it is so not realistic to think about food purely as fuel. Food is emotional. That's, that's why we do so much food stuff around the holidays or around like every celebration and joyous occasion, birthdays, weddings, right?

And it's very possible by the way, to have a mindful, emotional eating experience when you're intentional, right? When you're tuned in both emotionally and physically. And that actually creates such a rich eating experience. Okay? So allow food to be emotional, allow it to be a celebration.

If you're trying to have kind of a more balanced or healthy holiday season that does not mean that the eating experience needs to be stripped of emotion. Okay? In fact, like embracing it right, and recognizing like... you know, who I think actually, um, from what I see on TikTok is a beautiful example of this is I'm thinking (and you're probably going to guess it already) Emily Mariko, right? She really just like savors—again, at least from what I can tell on Instagram or on TikTok, who knows what's real and what's not?

But she really seems to savor not only the experience of planning, preparing her meals, but then eating them. Right? Like her little, her little smile, um, that she does when she's eating a bite, right? Like that is part of, of health. It is part of a healthy relationship with food. It's part of a healthy experience of food. So again, I really love that you're here and that you have an intention of having a healthy and balanced holiday season, and that includes an emotional food experience. Okay?

So follow along with me. You've got the intention, you've got the awareness, you've got hunger and fullness, you've got satisfaction, and you've also made room for your emotions. What is the last piece? The last piece is being gentle with yourself. Okay?

The act of building body trust is always a journey. Okay. It is always a journey. It is never linear. It has its ups and downs, and I think that is certainly true during the holiday season when there are so many just like unique stimuli. Okay? And this isn't just another thing to beat yourself up about. Okay?

If you have moments throughout the next, you know, month and a half or so, where you experience some uncomfortable fullness, or if you wait too long to eat, that's okay. It is really about the journey, the practice, and the intention. It's just more data that you have to, to learn from.

And food guilt, is just, it's, it's really antithetical to a healthy relationship with food. And specifically around like this time of year, that experience of food guilt can really take you away from the presence of being connected with your family. Right? And, and all of the wonderful and, and frankly, healthy things that come along with community and connection. Okay?

So let's summarize this one more time. What you're going to do is entering this holiday season set out to sustain healthy habits that are built on this foundation of body trust. Okay?

That starts with an awareness of the pressures that you may experience all the time, but certainly during this season to override that body trust, right? How do other people's beliefs, other people's behaviors, or even your own, how do they cause you to override that body trust? Just notice.

Then it's about tuning into your body's hunger and fullness signals. And again, we'll have the hunger and fullness scale link down below.

It is seeking out satisfaction during those holiday meals, because satisfaction is a huge part of it, as is making room for an eating experience that is emotional, right? And not trying to eat in a way that is devoid of emotions during the holiday season.

And then it's simply being patient with yourself. Okay? You may miss the mark at certain points during the tail end of the year, and that's okay. Again, that's simply data. It's information for you to learn from and to respond to next time it comes up. Okay?

Now, I do want to give you, um, a few more resources, okay? Cause we do have a ton of other more like topic-specific episodes for you to dive into as you prepare for the season. So let me kind of walk you through some of these topics, and I'll point you specifically to the episode. And, again, we'll have everything linked down in the show notes. So if you have some concerns around dealing with family diet talk, we have an episode on that called "Dealing with family diet talk." It'll be linked in the show notes.

If you have some concerns around food guilt, we've got an episode on food guilt, all about kind of disentangling that morality from, from food. That could be a good one to listen to in preparation for an eating experience, or perhaps in response to one, if you are feeling some of those feelings of guilt come up, because we don't need to feel guilty about food. It's just unnecessary. Unhelpful.

If you have some concerns around emotional eating, we've got an episode called "what to do if you eat your feelings" in the show notes.

Sugar! Sugar abounds during the holidays. And what should you do if you feel that you are a sugar addict? We've got an episode about that. All right?

And then we've got another episode that is again, kind of just more, more general, um, around the holiday season called "How to not freak out about the holidays." So if you're freaking out, that's okay. We've got you, all right? So lots to dig into here on the podcast.

I am sending you so much love as we enter this holiday season. If you like today's episode, please leave us a rating and review in Apple podcasts. Subscribe, share with your friends, and I'll see you next time. Bye!