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When Did We Stop Trusting Ourselves? And Why?

“…a sixty-billion-dollar-a-year diet industry…”

“Our worth in the world has always been tied to our looks…not to the amazing miracle of mere existence.”

“Women can’t imagine a world in which they stop dieting or trying to fix the size of their thighs…. They have whole friendships built on commiserating about the 20 pounds they have to lose and the jeans that are too tight and the latest greatest diets. They fit in by hating themselves.”

“I felt as if I were sinning by announcing to the world/myself that I could trust myself.”

~ Geneen Roth in Women Food & God

Yesterday Marsha Hudnall wrote about why counting calories doesn’t work on A Weight Lifted.  Most of the people who left comments didn’t agree.

I think we all know, on one level, that counting calories/following a program can help a person lose weight. It helps them become more aware of what and how much they’re eating. And if they eat less and exercise more, they will lose weight.

This brings up questions for me:

  • How did it get to the point that we need to count calories/go on diets in the first place?
  • When did all of this start and why?
  • Does counting calories/following a program result in a permanent, healthy weight? Forever and ever?
  • Are we THAT out of touch with ourselves and our bodies?

After years of consciously and unconsciously thinking about it, writing about it, and after reading books like In Defense of Food, The End of Overeating, and Women Food & God, I have come to the conclusion that over time, and for a variety of reasons, we been systematically taught that we can’t trust ourselves.

Add to that:

  • The evolutionary stuff, like cravings for fat, sugar and salt (which used to be scarce and are now available – supersized – 24/7)
  • A psychological unwillingness to be with uncomfortable feelings
  • A society that seemingly values and dictates appearance over substance/existence
  • An industry (diet/food) that spends tens of billions of dollars a year to keep us coming back for more
  • Peer pressure/peer commiseration. If we all stopped worrying/dieting then what would we talk/blog/Tweet about?

And it’s not just that we don’t/can’t trust ourselves, I think it’s safe to say that in some cases we don’t want to! There have been plenty of times in my life when I just wanted someone else to take care of me, to tell me what to do. Because then, if I screwed it up, it wouldn’t be my fault.

Geneen Roth was on Oprah yesterday talking to women in the audience who have read the book. Here is just one of the stories. A beautiful red-headed woman named Christine stood up and said:

“Back in 2008, in span of three months, I gave birth prematurely to my daughter who weighed just two pounds, I lost my home in a flood, and my father diagnosed with cancer. I ate all emotions, weighed 220 pounds. I decided that I needed a goal. So I went online and signed up for the Miss Iowa USA pageant. I’m just worried that after this big event that I am going to fall back and have to feel all of the emotions that I didn’t feel in those three months.”

Roth asked if her if she were on a diet. She smiled and said:

“I just exercise a lot, and I eat well, my personal trainer’s mother is here with me, and yes, I am on a diet (almost shamefully said)…but I just eat whatever…but under a certain amount of calories per day…but reading your book, it’s night and day from dieting to what your book is and I don’t know if I have the tools…am I ready? I don’t know if I am.”

And Oprah asked: “Ready for what?”

“Am I gonna fall back into the 220-lb Christine that’s eating 4000- calorie lunches?”

Roth responded: “We don’t know what’s going to happen, but we do know that if you want to be aware of yourself, if you want to use your relationship with food, as the doorway, as a way to get through to yourself, then you can start at any time.”

And Oprah added, “I know what she’s feeling. She doesn’t feel that she can trust herself (pan to shot of Christine nodding in agreement) because she had to use a diet to get herself here, and she had the goal of the Miss Iowa pageant to get herself here. I know, having Oscars, and Emmys, and big awards, and ceremonies and this thing and that thing coming up, none of it’s enough.”

And so, as I said yesterday, my goal is trust: I trust myself to know what my body needs, I trust myself not to buy into fads that will only keep me distracted from trusting myself, and I trust myself with my feelings…I trust that I will not fall apart, curl up and die if feel my feelings.

Do you trust yourself? Really?


  • Posted July 13, 2010 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    I’ve been writing about this the last few weeks. It’s amazing isn’t it? How we don’t trust ourselves at all. And our need for goals and distraction is like a drug addiction.

    Good stuff lady.

    I just finished Women Food and God and saw Oprah yesterday. My prayer for all women is that this becomes a revolutions for our western culture. We need it so bad.

    • karen
      Posted July 13, 2010 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      Thanks for stopping by…off to check out your blog :-)

  • Posted July 13, 2010 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    I feel lost without a goal, I don’t trust at all. What a long battle I face ahead of me because of that. But I’m choosing to follow the new path, because I want that trust and peace within myself. I don’t want to fight with myself anymore.

    I can’t wait for this book to arrive. Thanks Karen, for putting your finger right on the button (for me at least :)

    • karen
      Posted July 13, 2010 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      Cathy, I think that having a goal and trusting yourself, both at the same time, are possible. I know in the past I have thought that goals are evil (for me) but I also envy those who can set a goal and work towards it. Lovingly. :-)

  • Posted July 13, 2010 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    reading listening absorbing.
    dont want to comment as I feel I do so voluminously already.
    on my blog.
    in my podcast.


  • Gwen
    Posted July 13, 2010 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    I read this book and also took her online course. I too kept asking the question why did our society forget how to eat and when did we stop trusting.
    Enjoyed reading your post.


  • Posted July 13, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Amazing post. I think my ultimate goal is to be able to trust myself with food. I don’t yet. Not completely anyway. However, this stopped being about weight loss for me. This is now about improving my quality of life and treating myself well because I feel better when I do. The number on the scale is just a number. I monitor it, yes, but it’s not the be all, end all.

  • Posted July 13, 2010 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Nope. Don’t trust myself one bit. At least, not yet. I’m in the middle of “In Defense of Food” right now, and I’m learning A TON.

    I just don’t know if I could let go and lose weight. I think, maybe once I get to a healthy weight, I could then learn to trust myself in order to maintain it…

  • Posted July 13, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    My biggest is not only not trusting myself but not LISTENING to me either!

  • Posted July 13, 2010 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Great post! I hit enter before I finished!! ugh! LOL

  • Posted July 13, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Great post, Karen. You bring up so many important facets of this problem that often go ignored. It’s so complicated but straightening things out does start with believing we can do it. And trusting ourselves is at the core of that. Thanks for this post.

  • Posted July 13, 2010 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    Just a little bit ago I posted this sentence on my blog: “See, here’s the thing you need to know about me: No, it may not be the best of my traits, but there’s nothing I like so much as someone, particulary a more knowledgeable someone, telling me what I need to do.”


    I’ve been doing Weight Watchers going on seven months, and I tell myself and friends that I want to get to the point where I don’t need it anymore. But I’ve heard so many people say that they always end up coming back. I heard one leader say that she joined ten times! I don’t want that to be me.

    You’ve certainly brought an issue that’s been tugging at the back of my mind to the forefront.

  • Posted July 13, 2010 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    This is a great post. Before my blog turned into a food blog, I was obsessed with the numbers in dieting: weight, calories, inches. That’s the problem with a “diet,” part of how it works is by putting your focus on things that aren’t as importantly as, you know, being healthy. I’m trying to practice a more intuitive eating approach now. Like I wrote on my Twitter, getting to the point where we have to be re-taught how to eat in a healthy manner because of the overabundance of calorically-rich, but nutritionally devoid foods is such a first world issue. Just like that woman who used the pageant as a weight loss goal, I’m embarrassed that while people in other countries are malnourished because of poverty, I’m malnourished because I have money to blow on junk. This is turning into a rant now, haha.

    • karen
      Posted July 13, 2010 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

      Rachel, you bring up a great point…it’s no longer a “cornucopia” (horn of plenty)…it’s a horn of too much! Supply exceeds demand!

  • Posted July 13, 2010 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    we live in a world where trust isn’t anywhere. we don’t trust anything anymore and yet that is exactly what dieting industries harp on. ‘You need x product, cause then you’ll be able to lose weight’. I suppose that there are WW success stories..and there are a hell of a lot of WW failure stories. Because at the core of it, it has NOTHING to do with food..really. It has everything to do w/ your trust, your soul and your personal love. Thank you for being a voice in this Karen and I am so lucky to have you as a voice of support in my journey to just be w/ myself and enjoy life.

  • Posted July 13, 2010 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    GREAT POST! I read her book and saw the episode yesterday. I don’t trust at all.

    Like Christine, I stuff down any feelings with food and have no idea how (or no power?) to change that. With 3 small kids,I simply cannot follow Geneen’s eating rules. (eat without distraction? HA! I can only wish!)

    So I hope that one day I can trust, but for now? no.

  • Posted July 13, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    When I was shopping at the supermarket today, I was oogling a bag of pretzels. I wanted to buy them to snack on, but my “Voice” said “No, don’t buy them. I can’t be trusted with those.” It was an interesting moment. I followed Geneen’s advice and vehemently said, “yes, I can be trusted with those!!” I took a moment to decide if I REALLY wanted them or not. I did, but not for hunger reasons. More for overeating reasons. I could picture it in my head – mindlessly munching down the bag. I decided that I deserve better. No pretzels for me. I’ll make the choice. For the right reasons. And slowly take my time to build my own trust. I know I can do it :)

  • Posted July 14, 2010 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    I don’t think it’s a matter of trusting or not trusting. (counting calories) I think often it’s a matter of educating ourselves about what we’re eating. So often I misjudge a food – I think it’s “good for me” and it turns out to be super high calorie. And I eat it and then I’m sad and baffled when I gain weight or my blood sugar skyrockets. I don’t think that KNOWING things (our weight, the calorie or fat/fiber content of food we eat) is the enemy – I think our relationship with it is. I do keep track of my food in one way or another (it varies; right now I’m photoblogging which has been pretty amazing).

    Some people can’t “handle” counting calories or food journaling because they’ve had bad, demeaning experiences in the past and it’s just a painful thing. Other people can’t handle having a scale because it makes them obsessive and neurotic.

    I think it’s different when you have a chronic illness like diabetes, like I do. For us, we often do not KNOW what our blood sugars are, and so it is important to monitor. I was living in a dangerous range for much of last year because I thought I could ‘intuitively’ eat and exercise to keep myself healthy. That was so not true.

    So I feel like monitoring is a friend to me, not an enemy or something anti-spiritual.

    This is my own rant, I guess. I feel like you CAN be aware of the “numbers” – of calories, of your own body weight AND have a spiritual, intuitive relationship with food, and they are not anywhere near exclusive. I know that for myself, I need a combination of intuition, being aware of my body, as well as being aware and educated about my own food and fitness choices.

    • karen
      Posted July 14, 2010 at 8:34 am | Permalink

      I was thinking about all of this last night after I turned the computer off and was having some quiet time before going to bed. I think what Geneen Roth advocates goes way beyond eating intuitively or mindfully, although yes, that’s what’s on the surface. What she really advocates is using our relationship with food to get in touch with who we really are, because in that moment that we’re…

      figuring out if the food we’re about to eat is “good” or “bad”
      not trusting
      feeling guilty
      about to binge
      already bingeing
      feeling disgusted and sick because we’ve already binged

      …we’re not feeling a feeling that for whatever reason we’re afraid to feel.

      Yesterday I read in two different places where people talked about “distracting” themselves by doing something else in order to get past the desire to eat. What was is it that moment that they were afraid to feel? So afraid that they had to find something to distract themselves with? I don’t mean to imply some deep dark secret…it could have been that they were tired and needed to rest, but couldn’t even acknowledge that.

  • Posted July 14, 2010 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Love this post…Karen, you so hit it on the head. Why do we not trust ourselves? Something I’ll be thinking about for a while…I do not yet trust myself to eat the right things in the right amounts. I have Geneen’s book, but haven’t started reading it yet (it arrived yesterday). I want to build trust in myself. I have in other areas, just not with food yet.

    Something to start working on…like my weight training, exercising my trust in myself will probably start with lighter weights and progress to heavier ones as I get stronger.

    Thank you for this…

  • Posted July 14, 2010 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    There are several keys here Karen. Thank you for pointing them out. As you know, I’ve been a coach for permanent weight loss for 10 years, and achieved it myself.

    My clients never trust. It’s hard to trust when we make such effort and the weight comes back every time.

    Why are we taught not to trust? Well, it drives a consumer economy. (See my post on sheeple, people mindlessly driven to eat and diet by food manufacturers and diet industry).

    Our doctors and the diet industry thrive because we are sheeple. I have interviewed doctors who simply believe we cannot change. So, they prescribe drugs, make the drug companies happier, then perform surgeries that alter bodies forever and (66% of the time) result in weight regain.

    Yes, people go to weight watchers 10 times. Many of my clients go 12 times before they realize they are heavier with every attempt.

    Well, I’ve got news for all these people. I did change, thoroughly. You have too, Karen. You’ve looked beneath the surface.

    Another thing I’m glad you’ve touched on is this: Why do women fall into it more than men? Well, from an early age we’re taught through fairy tales that someone will take care of us. We’re programmed to be victims and give our power to other people, especially authority figures. (I was taught doctors were omnipotent – I actually believed my doctor when she shook her head and said “Oh, you’re better off not dieting. You’ll never keep it off anyway, no one does.”)

    Anytime we give away our responsibilities in life to someone else, we are a being a victim. Harsh language, I know.

    But each of us has a responsibility to our bodies. Our doctors don’t know what it needs (of course, they have a general idea but they don’t really KNOW specifically). Why? they don’t know what produces energy for your body. Every BODY is different. That’s why we are the only ones who can own this job.

    That’s also why I stress OWNing weight loss, not renting it. When you lose weight on a prescribed program, the program has the power. When we believe in calories (long story why a calorie is not a calorie – the calorie counter has the power. Deep down, we all reject being controlled and told what to do so eventually we rebel. This is hard-wired in. We would not have survived as a species unless we had that drive for autonomy and freedom. We don’t have any control over when this kicks in. It might be the minute we reach “goal” weight; it might be a year later.

    Think about it. Everyone’s richer if we don’t take charge and own our own lives. If we stuff our feelings with food, our husbands, bosses and children are happier.



    (Sorry, I’m yelling!)

    This is an extremely complicated subject but it’s become a cultural one for those of us living in the U.S. It’s also a gateway for women, I believe, to take charge of their lives and OWN them instead of giving their power away.

    Of course, as you can tell, I’m passionate about the subject and love the post!

    Pat Barone, CPCC, PCC
    “America’s Weight Loss Catalyst”

  • Posted July 14, 2010 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful. I found this post cause Geneen Roth tweeted it. How cool is that? :)

    You are right on target, honey. This is a message that I’m on a mission to share with the world. I was a Weight Watchers meeting leader for four years and found that counting, tracking, weighing, and measuring was not the answer. I watched members struggle – and commit themselves to a Lifetime of struggle. I watched myself struggle – even as a smart, sassy leader who had all the answers. And I finally decided to END the struggle by going deeper into myself and developing that relationship of trust. Oh, and it has SO many implications. It becomes about so much more than food. It becomes about living our passions. Life is SO SO good without the struggle.

    I look forward to exploring your blog more – just read this post and had to comment but I’m curious to read more of your story.

    Much love and light to you!

    • karen
      Posted July 14, 2010 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

      It’s very cool Joy…thank you for finding me and for reading and for sharing.

  • Posted July 14, 2010 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    This is the first most important question I ask my clients. Trust is imperative! When you don’t have trust in yourself, results will never be for life. Great blog!

    • karen
      Posted July 14, 2010 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

      Thank you Michelle…it sure feels good.

  • Posted July 14, 2010 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    It’s both really hard and really easy to learn to trust yourself. I struggled. Hard. For two years going back and forth, throwing out my scale, freaking out, buying a new scale, starting to diet again. But once that door had been opened there was no going back. Not really. I had to just do it. Listen to my body and listen to *myself*. What am I feeling? What do I need? What am I afraid of?

    I still stumble sometimes, but the fear is gone. This is such a great post. I’m thankful that you wrote it.

    • karen
      Posted July 14, 2010 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

      Yes…stumbling. I still do too. But you’re right, the fear is gone. So what if I feel? Bring it!!

  • Posted July 14, 2010 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for a great, thoughtful post. For myself, I didn’t trust myself to make good choices when I lost my 158 pounds. I had too many years of wrong choices and falling back into bad food habits during times of stress, etc. But one of many things I learned along the way was that I needed to lose weight in a way that was sustainable forever. Not always counting, not always monitoring, but just enough of both to have a balance with freedom.

    • karen
      Posted July 14, 2010 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

      You and Foodie bring up excellent points…and I wonder…can we get to the point of trusting ourselves without the counting/monitoring/education first?

  • Posted July 14, 2010 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    Our whole way of life has changed but we haven’t changed our diets/lifestyles to match. When we lived off the land, hunted and gathered, and all that good stuff, we didn’t need to worry about diets or calories or gym memberships. We survived. If we weren’t healthy or fit, we wouldn’t last long.

    Now we sit around in cars and at desks and in front of the TV all day. We eat processed, sugary, fatty foods because it’s there, not because we’re hungry. We consume and consume and don’t generally have the lifestyle to work it all off. So we need to count calories. Or, at least, be conscious of what we’re putting into our bodies and how we’re treating ourselves.

    I think education is HUGE. Once people really know and understand how our body processes different types of foods and the benefits of various exercise, it becomes way easier to make healthy choices. In the end, it comes down to knowing enough to be able to make good, healthy choices for yourself – not just measuring everything in terms of calories consumed and burned.

  • Posted July 15, 2010 at 4:37 am | Permalink

    Great post Karen. I think I need to buy this book. Trust is something I am working on. Funny, sometimes I really feel like I have it and other times, not so much. It is definitely a process.

  • Posted July 15, 2010 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    NO, I do not trust myself and there is no reason to do it. Some people have a take it or leave attitude when it comes to cigarettes, some know that one puff can get them started smoking 2 packs a day again even after 20 years not smoking…why? Because we aren’t only emotional spiritual people, we are also physical! The physical part is extremely powerful, remember that the BRAIN controls every part of our being, the brain is PHYSICAL and it has millions of little receptors to signal all kinds of pathetic things to you, including the memory of habitual over eating. IMO, Do not forget the psychological part of dealing with food. An example of one of the million things our brains can do is; our natural senses which can be on overload like when we pass a restaurant and the fragrance/odor of our most favorite food is wafting out…YES, I do not trust myself, BUT because I know that…I can trust myself to TRY be very aware.

  • Posted July 17, 2010 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    I can’t wait to get that book! I’ve been mulling over a blog post about trust – having been a sneaky eater for most of my life, there is a whole lot of ground to cover on this subject.

  • Niewidi
    Posted May 6, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Permalink


    you write from the depths of my heart. Since I read Geneens “Breaing free …” I currently think about that stuff. Why can´t I stop eating until I am stuffed. Why do I start, when I am not hungry? I can´t find the reasons. Maybe I do have trust issues. Will think about it and I will definetly geht Geneens new book.

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