One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said, “My son, the battle is between two “wolves” inside us all.

One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee Grandfather simply replied, “The one you feed.”

This Cherokee folk tale captures the inner battle between the selves. It’s a battle between dark and light, between our inner ‘devil’ and inner ‘angel.’ This tale serves as a reminder of the power we have over our thoughts and emotions.

When I was a teenager I went through a brief phase of shoplifting with some girlfriends. We stole silly things of inconsequential value but the excitement about doing something so wrong was worth it. Eventually, this behavior stopped but not without a serious heart to heart with those parts of myself that needed to be reconciled.

 Each one of will have these conversations with ourselves along the journey. And, it’s an inside job. No one else can do it for us. We must welcome each of these wolves with open arms to befriend all aspects of our humanity. Only then do we get to decide which wolf to feed. Over and over again.

We all can identify with having an Ego. The ego’s job is to protect us; it keeps us in line socially as well. But, sometimes the Ego gets too big for its britches. It can crowd out our compassionate wise forgiving self. And this is problematic because when the Ego runs the show with regard to food and weight concerns, we get out of balance quickly. This leads to loads of unnecessary suffering.

Which Wolf are You Feeding?

If you’re uncertain which wolf is leading the pack, try this experiment. For one day, take an inventory of the quality of your thoughts. What are you telling yourself? What’s the story? And, how do the words you use to talk to yourself make you feel? How are you feeling when it comes to your body? How are you feeling about your relationship to food? Just be curious about your thoughts, your story and your feelings.

If you are feeding the ‘bad’ wolf too much kibble, then chances are you might be feeling predominantly more negative than positive emotions.

Are your thoughts aligned with fear? For example, “I can’t eat that because it will make me fat?’

Are you caught in comparing yourself to others?

Do you look outside of yourself when eating with others; maybe you tell yourself, “She didn’t eat as much as I did….”

Are you feeling guilty about eating certain foods?

An example of this: “I can’t believe I ate the whole slice of pie; that was too much, why did I do that, I’m out of control…’

If most of your thoughts are fear based, full of guilt and ego driven, then chances are you are feeding the wrong wolf. You are starving the wolf that really needs your attention and nourishment.

Let’s have an unfair reality check on the situation. In our diet-obsessed culture, it’s unfortunately cultural sanctioned to feed the bad wolf a lot more than the good wolf.  We could even argue that our culture tends to only feed the bad wolf when it comes to food and weight issues. The bad wolf is fed well with fear mongering, fat phobia, weight stigma, fear of pleasurable eating, and a fear of empowered strong women. The bad wolf tells you your body is not good enough, and that you must shrink down to feel loved and accepted within the wolf pack.

Fear and Lies.

It’s important to look at all your fears along the intuitive eating journey. Some of these fears keep you safe and protect you from harm. Some of these fears are unfounded and based on faulty belief systems, aka lies, illusions and self- betrayal. How might your ‘bad wolf’ be reinforcing this belief system? Are there ways in which you might even be deceiving yourself from the truth of who you are? Ouch. I know. This is not an easy path to be on. It’s painfully messy. If you can feel into how the bad wolf makes you FEEL, this is a good place to start.

Just notice without judgment how these thoughts and belief systems make you feel. Generally, most people will say that it sucks the life force out of them. It strips them of their power. They feel small and shrink away from taking risks in life.

Each of us must meet the two wolves inside of ourselves. Even if you don’t have eating issues, you have human issues. There is a shared sense of our humanity as we are all in this together. That each of us is suffering or will suffer at some point in their lives. When we meet these parts of ourselves- the two wolves, we get to choose how to show up. We decide which wolf we want to feed. We take full responsibility and own up to the fact that we have the choice in deciding which wolf to feed.

Freedom of Choice.

When I was in my disordered eating phase in college, I was addicted to the scale. My therapist called it the ‘crying machine.’ In spite of the agony of my weight watching days, it was a difficult decision for me to let go of the external judgment of the scale. The scale had a strange power over me and I could not imagine not weighing just to see ‘how I was doing.’ I had to stand up to the wolf inside and say a hard NO. For me, this wasn’t negotiable because I knew deep down I needed to begin to feed the good wolf. In doing so, I was granted access to go deeper inside myself in a way that the scale prevented me from doing so. Letting go of the numbers game and the crying machine helped ground me into my body like no other. This is next level stuff indeed. Instead of listening to the scale, I could now connect with and had access to my body’s wisdom. It told me the exact right amount to eat and when to eat. My body became the ultimate portion controller instead of relying on the scale to determine portions and what I “should” eat or not eat. The scale only highjacks and undermines the ability to fully surrender and trust the body. It’s a bold act of rebellion to resign from the ‘weight watcher club.’ But the freedom that results from this is unquantifiable.

Here is the bottom line: it comes down to a choice. And a practice. A daily practice. When you are aware of your negative thoughts and don’t stand up to them, they kind of have their way with you. What you resist persists, right? In fact, the thoughts only grow stronger and louder over time.

Have you ever been snow sledding? Imagine you are at the top of a snowy mountain. You have your sled and there are two tracks down the hill. There is one track on the left and one on the right. The track to the left side is the track you’ve been going down for years. It’s familiar, easy and super fast. Just like some of your fear based thoughts. On the other hand, the right side of the track, you’ve only been down it once or twice. It’s not nearly as fast as the other track. It’s possible to get all the way down the mountain but it will take a bit of effort and a lot of repetition before it’s as fast and easy as the other side.  When you are at the top of the mountain deciding which way to go, you will always want to pick the fast and easy side. It’s our nature to do so; the path of least resistance. In those moments, you must stand up to yourself and say, NO! to the other track and say, YES! to the unknown and unchartered track. At some point in time, with repetition and determination, the other track will become even faster than the first track but only because you decided to keep going. And, at the end of the new track is a snow cone party waiting to happen.

We know it’s easier to feed the bad wolf compared to the good wolf. It’s a limitation within our minds that we tend to focus on the negative instead of the positives. It takes a great deal of discipline to ‘act opposite’ and to stand up to the hard wiring of our deeply ingrained neural network, aka tracks in the snow.

How do You Feed the Good Wolf?

Start by thanking the bad wolf = your Ego = your critic= your Ed self. Know that this part of you is there to protect and keep you safe. Acknowledge and thank that part of you. You can say to yourself, “Thank you for keeping me safe. And, now, I am going to re-write the story and begin to dialogue with myself in a new and different way. I am going to go down that other track that isn’t as fast. I am going to feed the other wolf. I am going to do this one step at a time. I am going to do the next right thing.”

What is Your Wolf Hungry for?

Your inner good wolf is hungry for the Truth. When you can keep track of your thoughts that make you feel small and disempowered, you can begin to re-write the story. You must stand up to the bullshit. You must find your own truth buried and hidden within the lies and illusions. You get to choose to stand up to the BS, or to accept it and let it run the show making you get into behaviors and feel crappy. The more you stand up to the BS, the better you will start to feel. Not initially however, but with repetition over time, things will begin to shift, and you will start to feel more positive, lighter, freer. You want to begin to cultivate a compassionate voice that fights for your Truth; one that stands up to the BS. When you start to feed the other wolf, you will start to feel more love and trust towards yourself and less fear and doubt.

Now, I want to hear from you. How do you feed your good wolf? What nourishes her?

Please share your ideas and comment below. Thanks!

“Behind our damaged perceptions there is usually a fear that pertains to a core belief. This core belief is a key line in the code of our personal misery: if we expose, address and alter it, we can be free.”

― Russell Brand, Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions

P.S. How do you eat an elephant?

Answer: One bite at a time.

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Karen Louise Scheuner, MA, RDN

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