I’ve been thinking so much about trust lately in my own life, and I hear it come up so often in weight loss, especially concerning trusting ourselves.
Trusting ourselves with food, trusting ourselves to keep our commitments, stick to our plan, or show up for our goal.
Mostly I hear that people don’t trust themselves or can’t trust themselves around certain foods, at certain times of day, or in certain situations.
So, I took a deep dive asking myself some questions like:
- What is trust?
- Where does it come from?
- Where is it hard, and why?
I did some digging, reading, and studying, and I wanted to break it down with you.
What is trust?
We often use the terms “earn my trust,” “break my trust,” “rebuild trust,” “lose trust.” We talk about it almost as if it’s a commodity, something that we can hold in our hands—a valuable, tangible asset.
But it’s not tangible.
If you trust me, for example, you can’t produce it and show it to me if I want to see the evidence. I think it has value and should be handled with care like some commodities or assets, but not in the way that a rare painting or a gold bar is.
So that kind of language doesn’t capture it for me.
We also use language like, “I can’t trust,” “I don’t trust,” or “I trust implicitly,” which infers that it’s an action that we take or a thing we do. We either trust, or we don’t trust.
But me acting out trust won’t necessarily look like the way you do it, and it may not be easy for me to see your trust in action or for you to see mine.
We sometimes use it as an adjective. For example, “I’m too trusting” or “She’s a trusting person,” as if it’s a character trait or flaw that we don’t have control over – like we are born trusting or not.
But if that were the case, it would negate the idea that trust can be gained or earned because it wouldn’t be possible to change. It would be innate. It would be fixed.
Trust is a belief
So I thought about situations in my life where trust is involved, and the common thread for me is believing that I am safe, that I will be taken care of, that I will be protected or free from physical or emotional pain.
It’s a belief. A sentence in my mind. Confidence that something is real or true.
When I believe the sentence, “I trust that ____,” I feel confident, peaceful, content, unburdened, free from doubt, happy, or loved. There is a whole spectrum of positive feelings depending on how that sentence is finished.
So trust, to me, is a belief that creates a feeling state.
That means it isn’t innate to my personality or not. That means it isn’t just an action I take, or someone else takes. That means it isn’t a precious commodity.
It’s a choice. It’s a choice I get to make that will create a feeling I want to feel for myself. Then, I will use it as fuel to show up in my life the way I want to.
Trust and evidence
Think about all the ways that we believe that we can trust each other as human beings every single day—the implicit trust we put in our systems, agencies, and fellow humans.
I’ve thought about how every day I get in my car, and I drive down the road, and I believe I can trust that everyone else is going to stay in their lanes and follow the rules.
I go to the store, and I believe I can trust the food I buy will be safe.
I go to sleep in my bed, and I believe I can trust that I will wake up in the morning. That nothing will explode or catch on fire.
I go to public places with other humans, and I believe I can trust that people will obey the laws and take care of themselves and wait in line and do what’s right.
The reality is people break the law and harm other people with their cars every day. Food makes people sick all the time. Fires and explosions, and natural disasters happen during the day and at night all the time. Humans don’t do what’s right constantly. They hurt others on purpose and without thinking. They break the rules every minute.
There are endless amounts of evidence that this is true, and yet I believe I can trust 99.9% of the time. Of course, I worry about things. I’m a human being. But the large majority of my life is spent believing I can trust that I’m going to be okay.
I choose to believe it.
Choosing to believe
Once upon a time, before my 23-year marriage to my husband, we had been dating for about eight months. We were dating pretty seriously, and we were planning to get married at some point. Suddenly, he decided he wanted a break.
So we took a break. I was in misery. I didn’t want a break. I thought taking a break was a terrible, stupid idea.
He loved it. I talked to him three days in, and he was on cloud nine. He was like, “This was just what I needed.” And he proceeded to say the most devastating sentence he has ever said to me to date, by like a million times, which was, “I love you, but I don’t know if I’m in love with you.”
Even now, my heart beats fast, and a pit starts to develop in my stomach. Those words destroyed me. I cried in the fetal position for an entire day, I think. I realize my words are dramatic, but it is a very accurate description of how I felt at the time.
We were broken up for several months. We didn’t talk. We didn’t see each other, and I realized I had some work to do on me so that a single sentence that someone else said didn’t completely wreck me again. And so I did. I spent that time getting healthy.
And obviously, the story ends with us getting back together when we were both ready and eventually marrying, having kids, living life together for a quarter of a century so far.
Well, a year or so into our marriage, I was still having nightmares, like literal bad nighttime dreams about him leaving me without explanation. I still carried around a lot of fear about that, having been blindsided with that scenario before.
I didn’t totally believe I could trust that I would not be left heartbroken. And I clearly remember a conversation driving in the car that really shook up my attitude about trust and caused me to think about it differently.
At the time, I believed he was responsible for proving somehow that I could trust that he wouldn’t do that again, that his feelings wouldn’t change, and that he wouldn’t leave me.
I put the burden on him. He had broken trust, and therefore somehow, he had to rebuild it. And I remember him saying there’s nothing I can say or do that will make you believe that I won’t leave you. I married you. We have a baby. We have a home. We have a life together.
I tell you, and I show you that I love you, but there are no guarantees. I can’t actually guarantee that. But, he said, it goes both ways. You can’t guarantee that you won’t leave me either. We have to choose to believe each other or not.
Trust is empowering
And it was really the first time I’d thought about trust as a choice. He was totally right. We had done many of the things that could be considered guarantees. We were legally married. We had a child, a mortgage, a life, and a home together. But every day, we still had to choose to believe we could trust each other and were going to stay.
It’s actually the framework on which we have built a really beautiful and strong relationship. We choose every day to stay, believe we can trust, and love. There are no guarantees or obligations, just a choice by two individuals to be together and to believe that we can trust that we will stay together.
It’s so much more empowering to choose trust than to put the burden on someone else.
I don’t think this is how you or everyone should do your relationship or that mine is perfect by any means. I share this, really, just to illustrate that trust, believing you can trust in a relationship, is a choice, especially when we are talking about the relationship with yourself.
When we choose not to believe we can trust ourselves, we create an environment of fear, negativity, lack of intimacy, and loneliness.
Remember when I said the sentence “I believe I can trust _____”? Let’s fill in the blank with the word myself here.
I believe I can trust myself to take care of my body. I believe I can trust myself around food.
That creates a feeling of confidence, love, and peace for me. Fear, negativity, and loneliness come in when I believe the opposite.
And the lack of belief that we can trust ourselves leads to that out of control, chaotic relationship with food that we so often experience and then use as evidence that we can’t trust ourselves, thus powering the spin cycle of shame and overeating, and shame and overeating.
Belief over evidence
The reality is that we don’t have to have evidence that we can trust in order to trust.
Think about my car example. There is plenty of evidence to prove that I am not totally safe on the road, but I choose to focus on the evidence that I am. And believing that changes my own experience of being on the road. It doesn’t change the other drivers on the road, but it does change my personal experience.
Believing you can trust yourself around food doesn’t change your taste or patterns. It doesn’t make a piece of chocolate cake less delicious. It doesn’t decrease the “danger” of being around your favorite foods, meaning it doesn’t make them less appealing, and it doesn’t make your desire go away.
But if you believe you can trust yourself to take care of yourself, to put your best, highest, ultimate desires first, then the chocolate cake can sit there, and it can look as delicious as it wants to.
You will feel confident that you can make the choice that’s best for you.
Ways to increase trust in yourself
Look for the rest of the evidence
If you do not believe you can trust yourself, you’re likely seeing only the negative evidence.
“I can’t trust myself around food” is not the truth 100% of the time. I’m sure you can look at your day or your week and see examples of when you can believe that you can trust yourself around food.
Make sure you’re looking at the whole picture, and you’re choosing to include the positive evidence as well, even if in the beginning it’s a small amount of evidence.
Something is not nothing.
Strive to make and keep commitments
When we believe we can’t trust ourselves, we often avoid making commitments because we don’t want any more evidence that we can’t be trusted. But as Ernest Hemingway said, the best way to find out if you can trust someone is to trust them.
Choose to trust that you will keep your commitments to yourself. Make them doable and desirable. Be realistic. Start small but start.
Make a tiny commitment today. Believe you can trust yourself to keep it. Keep it and then add that to the positive evidence pile.
Take responsibility for your mistakes and missteps
If and when you fall short of keeping your commitment, which will happen, especially when we are learning to believe we can trust, be willing to be transparent with yourself about it.
Accept the choices you have made without judgment. You don’t have to feel awesome about it, but disappointment about falling short is different than self-loathing about falling short.
Recognize when you choose not to keep a commitment to yourself. Acknowledge it. Own that it is a choice, whether conscious or unconscious. Ride the wave of disappointment you feel and then decide how you want to move forward. Use the mistake as a learning opportunity.
Find the lesson to be learned, the skill that needs to be built, the obstacle, and the way through it. And then make a new commitment and keep going.
If trust is a choice, the choice is always yours.
When you’re ready to get started, download my free PDF guide, Freedom From Food Rules. You’ll learn how to get back to your own inner wisdom about taking care of your body and how to take back your power when it comes to fueling your body. Download now.