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  • Writer's pictureTalia Cooper

My sleep journey (and how it connects to intuitive eating)

I knew I’d be embarking on a sleep journey when I became a parent, but I NEVER predicted that it would’ve gone how it did.


I recently had an opportunity to tell my story to Beth Kendall, holistic sleep coach on her podcast Mind. Body. Sleep.


Here’s a highlight from my sleep journey:


After my daughter started sleeping well, I got desperate about my own sleep. So much so that I started doing "diet culture like behavior" to control my sleep. Except instead of food rules, I implemented sleep rules. And lots of ‘em.


Sleep rules, like no screens before bed, don't sound like a bad thing in principle, and can be helpful for some! But as Beth says, sleep is about effortlessness, not effort. The more control we try to exert over a thing our bodies naturally know how to do, the harder we (unintentionally) make it.


It wasn’t until I discovered Beth’s work that I understood what was happening to me. Her writing helped me stop my obsessive sleep rules and start sleeping well again. Phew.



It was WILD to see so many similarities in how Beth talks about sleep and how I talk about food (something I DID NOT see while I was in the midst of my sleep control phase).


Now that the podcast episode is out, here are a few more similarities and differences from my food and sleep journeys:


Food "diet" and Sleep "diet" similarities

I’m using "diet" as a substitute for “control” or “effort” or “rules in an effort to effect a particular outcome”

​Food

Sleep

The THRILL of the beginning (I can control my eating! My life will get better!)

The THRILL of the beginning (I can control my sleep! My life will get better!)

At first, the diet worked for me! (AKA weight loss)

At first, the sleep rules worked for me! (AKA more sleep)

Then I gained weight

Then sleep got hard again

I blamed myself for it

I blamed myself for it

So I added in more food restrictions

So I added in more sleep rules

Constant counting of calories, steps, carbs, protein

Constant sleep tracking

Obsessive research of health tips

Obsessive research of sleep tips

My mind was in "threat mode." It couldn't distinguish between a real famine and this "self-imposed famine." This unintentionally taught my brain that food was scarce, which made me think about and WANT food ALL THE TIME (which sure makes dieting harder...)

My mind started interpreting "being awake at night" as a threat, which caused hyperarousal-- something Beth talks about a lot. Spoiler alert: hyperarousal sure makes sleeping harder...

The multibillion dollar diet industry tells the story that you can't trust your body to eat

The multibillion dollar sleep industry tells the story that you can't trust your body to sleep



Image: a Koala fast asleep on a tree branch, not a memory foam mattress. Strange.

Image: a Koala fast asleep on a tree branch, not a memory foam mattress. Strange.


The recovery process had similarities too

Food

Sleep

I had to stop researching diets, cleanses and health tips, and unfollow anyone who pushed them

I had to stop researching sleep tips, and unfollow anyone who pushed them

I had to release ALL my food rules

I am currently releasing all my sleep rules

I chose to trust my body to eat

I chose to trust my body to sleep

Eventually I realized that I stopped thinking about food so often. I think about food when I'm eating, cooking, and grocery shopping. (And the thing I NEVER thought would happen: I sometimes buy cookies and FORGET I HAVE THEM!)

I'm still recovering from my sleep challenges, but I am already finding myself obsessing about it less and less (and sleeping more).


There are also differences:

Food

Sleep

When you stop trying to make weightloss happen, your body becomes the size it's meant to be (largely dictated by DNA). For some people this results in weight loss, for others it results in weight gain, and some people's bodies don't change.

When you stop trying to make sleep happen, sleep happens.

I'm sure you already caught the difference...


Our societal bias and prejudice against fat (sometimes referred to as fatphobia).


Fatphobia and thin privilege make the idea of just letting our bodies be the size they are meant to be a harder pill to swallow. If we lived in a world where all bodies were loved and valued, we'd have a much easier time eating intuitively.


Ultimately— Beth and I have a similar message: our bodies were born knowing how to sleep and eat. Do less. Trust more.


How about you? Any similarities or differences you’ve noticed in sleeping and eating? Any other dots you’re connecting?



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