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Intuition, Fear, and Food

Updated: Nov 8, 2020

Content warning: this post discusses eating disorders.

Strength tarot card and Wild Unknown tarot card box

I was cut off from my intuition at an early age. I grew up in a home riddled with disordered eating and started my own disordered relationship with food at the age of 9. By the time I entered high school, I was severely restricting my food intake and had begun a tumultuous restrict/binge pattern that would continue in some form for seventeen years.

Disordered eating can offer respite to the perfectionist, the over-thinker, the anxiety-prone. It offers control — or the illusion of it — and a preoccupation from deeper, messier, uglier demons. At least, that’s how my disordered eating functioned.

For several years I thought I had it under control, but the pressures of my upcoming wedding beckoned me back into the more extreme waters of my disorder and by the fall of 2017 I had hit rock bottom. On a cold November morning, while listening to an unrelated podcast, I stumbled across the practice of intuitive eating. I immediately recognized myself and my experiences in the guest’s story. I, too, felt out of control around food, felt that the more I tried to harness my appetite, the more it ended up in control of me. The promise of intuitive eating, that a healthy and easy relationship with food can exist if we listen to our bodies, was overwhelming in its simplicity and its beauty.

I bought a digital version of Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole’s now-classic book on intuitive eating and devoured it by the following day. I subscribed to several podcasts — notably Christy Harrison’s Food Psych, Paige Smathers’ Nutrition Matters, Rebecca Scritchfield’s Body Kindness, and Jessi Haggerty’s The Body Love Podcast — and set off on a self-guided recovery journey.

The recovery itself took years and is still ongoing. But my mindset and habits quickly changed and I became more in touch my body and its cues for hunger, fullness, movement, rest, and pleasure. I used yoga as a tool for healing, spending long evenings in my office just sitting with and stretching into my body.

There’s a saying in the intuitive eating community that intuitive eating leads to intuitive living. I know I would have gotten there eventually, but the introduction of tarot into my life accelerated this process.

A few months into recovery, I saw an illustration online of Kim Krans’ gorgeous nature-inspired Wild Unknown deck. I had gotten tarot readings in the past, but never imagined doing it for myself. I asked for, and received, the deck for my birthday that March. An ice storm had brought about an unexpected snow day, so I was relieved of teaching duties and spent my birthday cozied up in my office with my deck. I pulled my first ever card: Strength.

I used a tarot tracker book that first year, pulling a single card in the morning and at night and writing down my observations. Some cards called to me constantly that year: Ace of Wands, Son of Wands, Daughter of Wands, Four of Swords, Five of Cups, the Emperor.

I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that my disordered eating recovery and my journey with tarot began to unfold at the same time. In my first year of learning tarot, I avoided those cards with the bleaker, darker reputations. If I drew Nine of Swords, I braced myself for a difficult day or would even pull a different card. But over time, I began to see the beauty in these cards. As my relationship with food and my body began to heal, I was left to face those deeper, messier, uglier demons that I had been using the disorder to suppress. This melded into my understanding of tarot, and ultimately, helped me trust my intuition and release much of the fear that had been guiding my life up to that point.

I still, of course, have dark days, days where I'm avoiding those troubling corners of my mind. But my ongoing relationship with tarot, my body, and my intuition, helps me illuminate those corners.


A Tarot Spread for Releasing Fear and Connecting with Intuition

I invite you to use the tarot spread below to explore your own relationship to fear and intuition.

1) What role does fear have in my life right now?

2) What lessons can I learn from this fear?

3) How can I release this fear?

4) What can I do to better connect with my intuition right now?

5) What might I need to release to better connect with my intuition?

6) What will I gain or learn as a result of connecting with my intuition?

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