Today let’s talk about the third principle of Intuitive Eating…
Making peace with food
To do this, all you need to do is give yourself unconditional permission to eat anything that your body wants.
But I’ve got some tips for you and an exercise to help you begin moving towards this mindset of freedom. Giving yourself unconditional permission will allow you to retrain your brain to think about food in a morally neutral manner and to truly trust your body.
Diets, or any kind of restrictive eating, often portray certain foods as “off limits” or label things as “good” or “bad”. When you aren’t allowed to have something, it becomes that much more tempting. Feelings of deprivation lead to uncontrollable cravings, often followed by a binge and intense guilt. And the cycle repeats.
No matter what, we should not feel guilt or shame for eating.
Let me say that one more time for the people in the back…
WE SHOULD NOT FEEL GUILT OR SHAME FOR EATING.
Instead of having forbidden foods, when you allow yourself to eat ALL foods, it’s amazing how you seem to crave those “off-limits” items much less often. If you have food rules of any sort, and be honest with yourself, think about these questions:
Where is this rule coming from? Somewhere internally or from an external source? A place of control or compassion?
Is this rule absolutely necessary? (Unless you have a medical condition, the answer is probably no.)
What would letting go of this rule make possible?
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking... If I give myself permission to eat ALL the foods ALL the time, I’ll never stop eating!! People often couple the idea of complete food freedom with overeating or overindulgence, but I assure you, it doesn’t work like that. Once your mind and your body know that you can have whatever you want, whenever you want, your cravings WILL diminish. When you begin to eat consistently and appropriately, your body is able to trust you and tell you when you’re hungry, what you’re hungry for, how much you need to eat, and how to feel satisfied. It’s what our bodies are biologically made to do.
According to Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, making peace with food means that a choice to eat chocolate is emotionally equal to a choice for a peach. It also means that your food choices do not reflect your character or morality. Period.
Consider these ideas if you’d like to start making peace with food. (Adapted from the Intuitive Eating book, which I highly recommend!)
Throw out the preconceived notion that any foods are “good” or “bad”.
No one food has the power to make you fat or slim.
Eat what you want. And i mean What you really want.
Don’t judge or question your cravings. At first, you might want dessert more often than you want vegetables. That’s okay! After your body works through the long-term deprivation and realizes that it can truly trust you, your body will seriously crave a well-balanced diet. (Which does still include dessert… FYI)
Eat without obligatory penance.
Do not compensate for something you ate or force yourself to earn your food. You need to eat no matter what, and making deals with yourself will not move you towards a peaceful food and body relationship.
Here’s an exercise as well to help you begin to overcome your “forbidden” foods. (Also from the Intuitive Eating book.)
1. Pay attention to the foods that are appealing to you and make a list of them.
2. Put a check mark by the foods you actually do eat, and then circle the remaining foods that you’ve been restricting.
3. Give yourself permission to eat one of the forbidden foods from your list, and then go buy this food or order it at a restaurant.
4. While you eat it, check in with yourself to see if the food tastes as good as you imagined. If you really like it, continue to give yourself permission to buy or order it.
5. Assure that you keep enough of this food in your kitchen so that you know it will be available if you want it. Or, go to a restaurant and order the particular food as often as you’d like.
Once you’ve conquered making peace with one food from your list, continue onto the next until all of the foods are tried, evaluated, and freed. If you list is really long, which is very possible, you may get to a point where you don’t have to experience the “proof” by eating. As long as you continue the process until you truly know you can eat whatever you want, it’s done its job.
Call a truce today.
Food does not have to control you. It shouldn’t control you. We cannot give it power in our lives that it was never meant to have. The most effective way to prove to yourself that you’re allowed to eat whatever you want, even the foods you’ve deemed “bad”, is to experience eating those very foods. They have no magic hold on you or your willpower. It’s time to end the food fight, and I would love to assist you on your Intuitive Eating journey. Send me a message today, and stay tuned for principle #4!