Recently I asked a client to repeat what she’d said because it was such a profound statement. She said: “Because I can take care of myself with food, I know now that I can take care of myself in other parts of my life.” So true—taking care of yourself by effective feeding may be your first step in doing right by you, period.

Because feeding ourselves is one of our first important tasks, it’s a huge step. Do you recall how good it felt when someone asked what you wanted to eat as a child, and you thought about it and told them, and they gave it to you? Alternately, do you remember how bad it felt when you were told that you didn’t really want the food you asked for or didn’t receive what you requested? To feed oneself adequately is a bold statement that says, “Of course I know what I want to eat and how to care for my body. It’s my body and I can take care of it.” Even expressing what you crave is an empowering statement that proclaims, “I know exactly what my needs are.”`

I couldn’t help but notice that as my client became more skilled at setting better limits with people she improved at stopping eating when she was satisfied. She also began to overcome her fears and fill up her life with pleasurable activities at about the same time she curtailed her non-hunger noshing. Clearly her eating skills were starting to transfer to other activities. Simultaneously, as she found more pleasure in being alone, she could eat more mindfully and focus on what she was eating without distraction.

This is why she was able to transfer her self-care behaviors in other areas of life after learning to respond to her appetite. It’s as if she thought, “If I can feed myself well, who knows the limits to my self-care.” By learning to say yes and no to food and by recognizing and responding to what’s enough, you are practicing a skill that can’t help but cross over into other areas of your life. If you can nourish yourself physically, you have a better chance of nourishing yourself emotionally because you know you deserve that nourishment. As you set limits with other people, speak up for your needs, and set boundaries according to what feels appropriate, you are setting the stage for “normal” eating. If you’re able to care for yourself emotionally and mentally, it’s natural that you’d want to give your body what it wants.

Take a minute to consider the connection between feeding yourself well and treating yourself well in other areas. Notice how improvements in eating and life parallel and inform each other. Enjoy the pride derived from learning to not only eat, but live, well.