Most people tend to strive to be better. To know more. To do more. To see more. To weigh less. To waste less. To love deeper. To smile brighter. To work harder. To play wilder. To be more unique. To be less weird. This desire – coupled with capitalist programming around productivity – makes us eager to cash out on fad lifestyle “diets” while gurus cash in.
According to BookNet Canada, between 2013 and 2017, there was a 56% increase in print sales in the category of sale-help or personal growth- with 22% growth just between 2016 and 2017. The top 3 selling self-help books of 2017 were The Little Book of Hygge (From the Happiness Research Institute), the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and the Happiness Equation. We are quite literally trying to buy happiness. And it doesn’t stop with print media. Audiobooks, podcasts, youtube videos, lifestyle coaches – these have all experienced growth in the past few years as people search for this elusive happiness.
We track our mood, our goals, our food, our sleep – always promising ourselves that this week will be the week that we go to bed before 11, work out at 6am, drink 8 glasses of water, fill in the bullet journal, be a badass b*tch at work, meditate, keep up with friends, run the 10k, and maintain a picture-perfect relationship. And then we fail. Much like the person who gains 10kg after losing 5kg on a crash diet, the failure feels heavier after the concetrated spurt of effort.
In the world of dieting and health, these diet cycles lead to disordered eating and problematic relationships with food. Enter intuitive eating. Intuitive eating is about eating what you need, when you need it, to satisfy hunger. The model is then complicated by intrinsic and extrinsic factors that define what it means to “satisfy” (fashion vs fitness motivations; social vs emotional drivers, etc). For now, let’s just go with eating what your body asks for, when your body asks for it.
Like most eating trends, “intuitive eating” is another label that allows books to be sold, YouTubers to be paid, and people to feel in control. Contrary to a lot of other dieting fads however, intuitive eating is associated with “more positive body image and positive emotional functioning,” and less disordered eating. It’s also more associated with weight maintenance and stability.
Naturally, this made me think… if intuitive eating offers some respite from volatility, shouldn’t “intuitive being” do the same for general mood and wellbeing? That is, doing what you want, when you want with the purpose being to satisfy a personalized type of soul-hunger. For some, that hunger may be curiosity, for others it may be space, for still others, it may be love, and so on. I’ve had a strange few months and while I know that I have some kind of deficiency, I don’t know exactly what would feed my personal hunger.
Last month, I installed a goal-tracking app on my phone with items like, “morning exercise,” “read before bed,” “sleep before 11,” “limit phone use to 1 hour,” and so on. I managed for two weeks before I started ignoring the notifactions. This morning I noticed that I’d gotten completely accustomed to chastising myself as I look at the notifaction stating that I’ve missed my streak for the 14th day in a row. Basically, I gained extra weight in internal guilt.
Like a chronic dieter, I have to first learn how to listen to what my body and mind need before putting them on a diet of assorted “good habits.” This month, the goal-tracker’s getting the boot. My only goal is to find the little things that satiate.