Behavior As Language
It occurred to me as I was shopping for a laptop computer a while back, that I had very little idea what most of the salespeople were talking about when they detailed the differences among models. Feeling as if they were speaking a completely different language than one I knew, I was at a loss. Then I realized that this is exactly what many disregulated eaters experience when I and others talk about eating “normally.”
With language, the one we use most frequently gets laid down neurobiologically in our brains. If we learn several languages, neural pathways for language acquisition increase in number and it becomes easier to pick up another. We all are fluent in certain kinds of “languages,” from knowing an awful lot about gardening to being an expert on the Impressionists, from being a topnotch downhill skier to having a head full of tips about travel. My point is that bodies of knowledge build and, therefore, come easily to us. We don’t think much about them until, perhaps, we go to share our knowledge with someone who doesn’t understand, that is, who doesn’t “speak the language.”
My fluency is in psychology, specifically, the ins and outs of eating, but the language of computers leaves me in a fog. What are the languages in which you are skilled? Do you recognize that this facility was learned in the same way you’re learning to eat better? When you’re muddling along with “normal” eating—learning its language—remember that you will learn it in time. What initially seems foreign will, with practice, become familiar. I don’t mean that you’ll be able to talk about eating as an expert, but the map in your brain for “normal” eating behaviors will expand and deepen. You’ll feel more confident and will engage in positive eating behaviors more automatically. As with learning any new language, occasionally you’ll forget or stumble over words you “should” know, as well as surprise yourself with recalling ones you didn’t realize you do.
With effort and time, you’ll become more fluent. Think of learning to eat “normally” as comparable to learning a language, and you’ll be less hard on yourself when progress stalls. Sometimes with language acquisition you must pause and let new words and idioms sink in. The same goes for acquiring eating skills. New information needs a chance to become integrated into your brain. As neural pathways grow, just as you find that you’re suddenly speaking a language with more ease, you’ll find you unexpectedly understand more about how to eat “normally.” You won’t have to put so much attention on it; the behaviors will flow more fluidly. Consider each day a new lesson in “normal” eating and you’ll eventually learn to speak (almost) like a native.