Group support is absolutely one of my favorite things that I get to do as a therapist and coach. I continue to be in awe of how powerful it is to be genuinely seen, heard, and deeply understood by others who have similar struggles and shared aspirations. The realizations and changes that occur for us often happen quickly and naturally in a group setting as we experience a sense of connection we may not currently have in our lives. It also offers different perspectives that support us in seeing things differently.
Many of us living in this diet-obsessed, thin-obsessed culture have attempted to form a sense of community and a sense of belonging by joining gyms, talking with our friends about our new diets, or pronouncing how much we hate our bodies. It’s how so many women are trying to connect with one another and it makes me sad and often angry. At the same time, I totally get it, we are all living in a world in which women are constantly told that our worth and value is based on our appearance and meeting whatever the current standard of beauty is. It affects all of us so of course we are going to commiserate about it, it’s in our face everywhere we turn! However, once we start exploring Health At Every Size and Intuitive Eating we often start to cringe when we hear other women talking this way or we feel like we might be doing something wrong when others bring up their newest diet or “working out to get ready for summer.” We start wondering, is Intuitive Eating the right path for me? This is why it is so imperative that we surround ourselves with a new community who shares our values of truly listening to and nourishing our bodies, not focusing all of our energy on changing them. It is extremely hard to go at this anti-diet and health at every size lifestyle without support. As human beings, we are wired to crave a sense of community and have a strong desire to be accepted by others. Evolutionarily speaking we lived in tribes that kept us safe and fed. And the truth is we still need a tribe and a community! Having a tribe of women who also want to deeply nourish themselves and their bodies as opposed to starving and manipulating them is how we can continue to be safe and fed in this culture!
The brilliant, Brene Brown, talks a lot about the difference between fitting in and belonging. Very simply put, fitting in is when we attempt to be like others to gain approval, as Brene says “twisting yourself into a human pretzel in order to get them to let you hang out with them.” Belonging, however, is something different, Brene defines it as “showing up and letting yourself be seen and known as you really are.” The thing is, all any of us wants is to belong and be accepted for who we truly are. We can never gain true belonging if we are just trying to fit it, as we don’t even give others the opportunity to see us. Thus even if “they let me hang out with them” it doesn’t really fulfill us, as we are not sure they would really accept our authentic selves, we only know we’re allowed “in” if we put on a façade. The idea of fitting in is so much of what is reinforced in diet culture, we are told we need to be a certain size to be loved and accepted. However, we will never truly feel loved and accepted if we are working so hard to “human pretzel” ourselves into a size we are not naturally meant to be. We can only truly belong and feel deeply accepted if we show up as ourselves, whatever size that is, and experience firsthand that we are still loved and “allowed to hang out.”
This is one of the main reasons group support is so helpful, it allows for a safe space in which we can really show up as ourselves, struggles and flaws and all, and see that we are accepted and not “the only one in the whole world who’s had these crazy thoughts.” Groups are such supportive places to experiment with setting goals for ourselves where we know we will be held accountable weekly to challenging ourselves in an environment that is nurturing and understanding; in this kind of space we are free to take more risks and try new things! When I participated in a Mindful Eating Support Group many years ago I grew exponentially in my journey with being deeply present to myself, my emotions, my body, as well as my needs and desires. Knowing that I was not alone in my struggle and that others were rooting for me to live my fullest life as I began practicing new skills completely kickstarted my healing journey. Since then, I have loved facilitating groups professionally and I truly believe that it is one of the most effective tools for change and growth.
Are you feeling isolated and alone in your Intuitive Eating Journey? Do you want to meet other women who are also on the Intuitive Eating Journey and form a community? Have you tried Intuitive Eating in your life but want more tangible skills to really implement the principles in your life? Do you want to focus your energy on nurturing yourself as opposed to trying to manipulate your body and set goals aligned with this? If you answered yes to any of these questions, I encourage you to check out my Women’s Intuitive Eating Group both online and in person.
I have been running a Women’s Intuitive Eating Group for a few years now and have learned many wonderful things from Clients in my group as well as seen them grow in incredible ways. In the most recent round of the group, during our final wrap up, one of the group members stated that her biggest take away was learning to intentionally choose “connection over control.” And this is why group support is something I feel so passionately about, it really creates a space for our deepest desires of connection and belonging to be honored and fulfilled.