Your Body Is A Wise Machine
By Abigail Natenshon
Author of When Your Child Has An Eating Disorder

Your body knows what it needs to function well and keep you active, alert and happy so you can learn, succeed, love and be loved. People do not need to “control” their eating. When you learn to trust the wisdom of your body, eating becomes a function as naturally regulated as breathing or sleeping.

Your body has its own unique wisdom and can be relied upon to function in a predictable and well-regulated manner if you take good and proper care of it.

Learn to Understand and Trust Your Body’s Wisdom

Here are some examples of how clever your body is:

If you try not to eat and don’t feed your body what it needs, it will only get hungrier and will stimulate you to want to eat more and more. This kind of eating is called gorging.

If a person stops eating or misses meals regularly, her body goes into a kind of hibernation which is similar to what happens to the bear who curls up and sleeps all winter long, eating nothing. The body’s “metabolism” is a function that burns up the food you put into it, transforming it into fuel and energy. If you do not eat enough or stop eating altogether, your metabolism will slow down markedly; when that happens, a person can retain or gain weight eating little or no food at all! Your body’s first priority is to survive and you can count on its going to any lengths to do so.

The body requires water and fluids to survive. If a person does not take in enough fluids, or if she losses too much through sweating or diarrhea, the body will make up for this loss by tenaciously holding onto whatever fluid remains, causing swelling and bloating in a condition called edema. This process is similar to what happens to camels or desert cacti that conserve water to survive the dryness of the desert.

Dieting is the least effective way to lose weight. Are you surprised? People who diet and restrict food intake when they are young generally have the tendency to become fatter adults. This is because they damage their metabolic function through restricting food and yo- yo dieting during childhood years.

Fat-free eating is not healthy eating. The body needs fat throughout your childhood and adolescent years to develop the nervous system, absorb vitamins, and allow young girls to become mothers one day. Fat performs important functions for us throughout our lives.

Learn to listen to your body and respect the messages it gives you.

How good are you at recognizing what you need? When you are hungry, eat. When you are full, stop.

When you eat healthfully, three meals a day of a variety of nutritious foods in the right amounts, you can count on your body to regulate itself so that you will not have to worry about becoming fat. As you grow, your body will find and maintain the right weight to keep you alert, alive, and energetic. Once you have stopped growing, eating healthfully and exercising regularly will allow you to reach and maintain a “set point” weight, a more or less constant weight which may fluctuate slightly over time. Our bodies are houses for our souls. We are only given one body in our entire lifetime. It is important to care for it well.

Psychotherapist Abigail H. Natenshon has specialized in the treatment of eating disorders with individuals, families, and groups for the past 28 years. She is the author of When Your Child Has an Eating Disorder: A Step-by-Step Workbook for Parents and Other Caregivers, Jossey Bass Publishers, San Francisco, CA. October 1999. Based on hundreds of successful outcomes, this book shepherds concerned parents step-by-step through the processes of eating disorder recognition, confronting the child, finding the most effective treatment for patient and family, and evaluating and insuring a timely recovery. A guide to eating disorder prevention, this book is useful to parents, health professionals and school personnel alike in countering the pervasive epidemic of unhealthy eating and body image concerns, and destructive media and peer influences. Her work can be reviewed further at her web site at To order visit

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