How Self Trust Is Like A Jar of Marbles

I’ve now been a bike-commuter – riding approximately 2 hours per day, 3-4 days per week – since May. This has had a few measurable impacts; of note, my thighs are like rocks boulders, and my hair is permanently helmet-flattened. I had some volume to spare, at least.

Aesthetics aside, my daily hours of biking has given me ample time to self-reflect, and loads of time to listen to podcasts and audiobooks.¬† I finally got around to paying off my $25 library fee (the first overdue fee I’ve ever let gestate, by the way) and watch out world!! Lock up your books. I’m on the warpath for all of the nerdy self-help and business development books that I’ve been too cheap to buy from Chapters, and I’m foraging the shelves of the Ottawa Public Library like a literary Pac-Man.

Most recently, I’ve been listening to Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly in audiobook form. Brene won me over in her Ted talks on shame and vulnerability, and we pretty much became best friends when I watched her interview with Jonathan Fields . In the book, she discusses how trust and vulnerability go hand-in-hand, and how trust is earned, not given. The illustrative example given is that of her daughter’s elementary school classroom, where the teacher places marbles in a jar when students make good decisions. Once the marble jar is full, the students get to leverage them for a celebratory party. Sounds pretty fun, no?

The elementary school marble jar example got me to thinking about trust, and how the rules that apply to awarding others with our trust also applies to our relationships with ourselves, and developing self-trust. So often I hear people – aspiring weight-losers and ‘normal’ eaters alike – lament that they can’t keep chipscandychocolatepizza in the house because they don’t trust themselves not to overeat said yummy food. Look, I get it – I have several of these black-listed foods myself. But at some point, something has to give. What kind of message are we sending ourselves when we ban foods because we “can’t” be trusted?

Like in all relationships, self-trust is a snowball; first we build a little, and then it grows bigger and bigger and bigger. When someone violates your trust, you might hold a grudge and you might keep a mental tally of their trustworthy behaviours and activities until you feel they are to be trusted again. Some people never earn our trust, and true enough, there may be some foods that we’ll never feel comfortable ‘trusting’ to be in our homes. But if your list of untrustworthy foods is ever-growing and has expanded to include foods that were innocent a week ago or that you’ve started exploiting as you’ve crossed other foods off (think diving into peanut butter because you stopped keeping ice cream around), you might want to reconsider your strategy. I can almost guarantee one day you’ll look around and wonder what’s ‘safe’ anymore.

Here are a few practical tools to help you build your self-trust:

  • Practice. Anyone who has been through the cycle of binge-restrict-binge or even just overeat-restrict-overeat knows the nail-biting, cold-sweat inducing feeling you have when you’re in a heated mental battle with the cookies in your cupboard or the ice cream in your freezer. My advice? Whether you maintain your iron willpower and resist the food or give in and eat 10 cookies, tell yourself you’re just practicing. Because you are…and you will be, forever. It’s all just practice.
  • Start Small. If the idea of bringing home a gallon of ice cream and white-knuckling your way through every evening in an attempt not to grab a spoon and go to town, try bringing home a single-serving portion and…you guessed it – practicing eating it in a way that makes you feel proud. When you feel like you’ve mastered the single portion, bring home a slightly larger portion and (yup) practicing some more. Keep moving on to larger portions until you feel comfortable. With this strategy, you can practice going from serving yourself a single portion of something and putting the bag/box away, to eating an appropriate amount with the bag/box in plain sight, and so on progressively. This one is tough and takes time – I’m still working on it! I learned this strategy when I worked with Coach Georgie last summer.
  • Be Kind To Yourself. Most of us struggle with beating ourselves up after we eat more than we’d planned or eat something we perceive that we ‘shouldn’t’ have. This habit will¬†not serve you in losing weight, even though it seems logical that if you punish yourself you will be ‘good’ next time. I’m going to guess that self-flagellation is your go-to reaction for when you ‘slip up’. How has this worked for you so far? We all know the old adage about the definition of insanity; doing the same thing that has failed you over and over again will not likely yield different results. Instead, try being kind to yourself. This is easier said than done, so it’s helpful to reframe your self-talk as if you were talking to a child or to someone you care deeply about. Odds are you wouldn’t tell your best friend that she’s a worthless cow for eating a pint of ice cream, so why do you think it’s OK to treat yourself that way?

So there you have it – the starter steps to help you develop some self-trust around food. Do you find you have some foods that are just no-fly in your house? I’d love to hear what they are and how you deal with not overeating them when you are around them!

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3 thoughts on “How Self Trust Is Like A Jar of Marbles

  1. Pingback: The Overeater’s Guide to Halloween | Well, Danielle

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