Hi friends! It’s been a minute and I’m a little delayed on this post, but it’s finally here. This principle is all about learning how to make peace with food. I think this is one of the hardest principles for people, because it’s when you really have to let go of the food rules and give yourself unconditional permission to eat. This scares people. I get it, trust me. I used to think, “Um yeah right, if I do that, I’ll eat everything & anything in sight.” You might to start, but trust me, it won’t last and soon you’ll have a peaceful relationship with food and you won’t feel guilt towards food anymore. Sounds crazy, right? Let me explain!
Think about this, everytime you restrict or tell yourself you can’t have a particular food, it actually INCREASES your desire for that food. You think about it way more often, crave it probably more than normal, and you start feeling deprived. “When you rigidly limit the amount of food you are allowed to eat, it usually sets you up to crave larger quantities of that very food.” (pg. 75) So now, not only are you craving that food more, but you’re also setting yourself up to want to consume more of it when you actually allow yourself to have it. This usually means you eat way more than you wanted of that food, leaving you uncomfortable, as well as leaving you feeling guilty for eating that food. Feeling like you can’t control yourself around that particular food, because you always “binge” on it. Well good news, it’s not just you. It’s actually proven that this happens, so it’s normal when you restrict, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
There is also something called “Last Supper Eating”. I used to be the queen of this! Basically what it is is when you’re planning to go on a diet in the near future. You know you’re about to restrict/ diet so you start to panic, feeling like you need to eat every food you won’t be able to eat while you’re dieting. You have this belief that you’ll never be able to eat these certain foods again, so you try to eat as much of them as you can before you start your diet. Most people typically do this before they start a diet. It’s actually super common. It typically leads to overeating, loss of self-control, and feelings of guilt/ shame.
What most chronic dieters engage in is called “restrained eating”. Basically what it is is when dieters decided to, “Forget honoring their hunger; instead they calculate what to eat, choosing foods with their mental brakes on, and second-guessing the needs of their bodies.” (pg. 80) So basically they are completely out of tune with their body and do what they think they should do rather than listen to what their body needs. They hold on for a good bit of time, but eventually it backlashes and leads to overeating. As soon as they eat a forbidden food, or eat more calories than planned, or break a food rule they had planned, overeating tends to take place. Which then in turn continues to make you feel crazy around these particular foods. Is this making sense? It’s basically just a cycle that just keeps repeating itself, making you feel crazy around food.
Next up, we have the “seesaw syndrome”. The longer a food is restricted, the more intense the cravings for it become. Think about it this way, when you’re dieting/ restricting it leads to feelings of deprivation, but your feelings of guilt are lower, because you’re technically being “good”. As soon as you eat a food that is “forbidden” or “bad” it leads to feelings of guilt. So you’re on a seesaw and you’re either feeling deprived or guilty. There’s no balance, but just one way or the other. The only way to get off this extreme seesaw is to let go of the deprivation. When you don’t feel deprived, you don’t feel so crazy about food, so you don’t typically binge which leads to guilt. So you can let go of the guilt and not feel so bad about your food choices.
Okay, so we covered a lot of background, but still haven’t gotten into HOW to actually make peace with food yet. If you’re relating to all of this, then this post is for you, friend. Keep reading, because it gets better I promise. What you have to do to let go of ALL OF THIS, is to give yourself unconditional permission to eat. What that means it that you have to let go of thinking about foods as “good & bad”. You have to eat what you really want. You have to eat without promising yourself of restricting that food in the future or promising to workout to work it off. When you can make peace with food and stop having a hidden agenda behind what you consume, you can actually enjoy that food in the moment and free your food choices to actually eat what you want.
Once you actually let yourself eat what you want, your desire for that food will greatly diminish. I promise. I used to be “obsessed” with pizza. To the point that I’d never eat it unless I binged on it or honestly when I had too much to drink. Now, pizza is a common food in my life and I can actually eat it when I want and say no other times. I thought I’d NEVER arrive here you guys! I was the girl that would order a large pizza, hide in her room, and binge on the whole thing as well as other things. I’m not kidding. I felt horrible. Once I finally allowed the pizza in my life, which took time, I was able to actually enjoy it and move on. Also, once I really truly let myself eat whatever I wanted, I discovered that certain foods I would obsess about and dream about, I didn’t even really like them. CRAZY. They didn’t taste as good as I thought. Or I just didn’t prefer them. I’ve found other flavors and things that I love that I had no idea. It’s like a whole new set of taste buds!
Also, you typically have to go through a food-freeing phase. Basically, if you love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, you might have to eat one every single day or every time you’re hungry and want one. I promise you, it won’t take too long before you’re desiring a different food and over a pb&j, at least for now.
Food freedom and peace with food sounds great, right? You’re probably still thinking, okay cool, but this won’t work for me. You don’t get it. Well actually I do, and so do plenty of studies out there that have studied these behaviors. Common things people think are: i won’t stop eating, i
I’ve tried it before, i won’t eat healthfully, and lack of self-trust. Let’s cover these a little deeper before I go into the 5 steps that can help you make peace with food.
The first fear that holds people back is: “I won’t stop eating”. You have to remember and remind yourself that you are allowed to eat this food as often as you want and whenever you want. Once something is truly allowed, your urgency to eat this actual food in large amounts should disappear. “Habituation studies have shown that the more a person is exposed to a particular food the less appealing it becomes.” (pg. 86) The only way to get here is to practice allowing yourself to eat. And to truly eat what your heart desires.
The second fear is “I’ve tried it before”. I hear you. Most people feel that they’ve let themselves eat anything before and it didn’t work. They still overate and ate out of control. The problem is this is typically they aren’t realllllllly allowing themselves to eat anything. Instead they’ve given themselves “pseudo-permission”. That means they’re letting themselves eat, but only temporarily break the food rules. So they may be allowing themselves to eat it, but they’re still promising deprivation in the future. Basically their mind is still on a diet. You have to TRULY give yourself permission to let go, it’s the only way.
The third fear is “I won’t eat healthfully”. I didn’t for awhile. I had to heal my relationship WITH food, before I could think to heal my body with food. You have to go through this peace and freeing process, and then you typically start to truly crave the foods that nourish you and make you feel good. You usually will eventually find a place that allows nourishing foods and play foods with no guilt, shame, or fear.
The last fear is “lack of self-trust. Most people believe that this works for other people, but not them. They don’t trust themselves. This actually makes me sad, because I felt this way 10000%. I didn’t trust myself around food and fought against myself forever. “The process of giving yourself permission to eat is actually the stepping-stone to rebuilding your trust with food and with yourself.” (pg. 88) Healing your relationship with food can actually help you to heal your relationship with yourself.
All that being said, I promise you this is possible. I promise you don’t have to fight yourself, your body, and food your whole life. Freedom is possible. Remember that it can take time. Take as much time as you need. Have patience and grace with yourself. Instead of starting with every single food you’ve been restricting, maybe start with just one. Go at your pace! Here are five steps to help you make peace with food that come from the book, Intuitive Eating:
Make a list of the foods that are appealing to you.
Put checks by the foods you already eat and then circle the ones that you’ve restricted.
Allow yourself to eat one of the restricted foods and then go to the grocery and buy that food or order it at a restaurant.
While you’re eating it, make sure to be present, and to check in with yourself. Also don’t eat it when you’re starving, make sure you’re comfortably hungry. See if you really actually like this food. Explore the flavor, texture, taste, smell, look, etc. If you like this food, allow yourself to eat it again.
Make sure you keep this food around as an option. Or if that’s too scary at first, then go to a restaurant and truly allow yourself to order that food as often as you want.
Keep making peace with these foods on your list. One at a time. If your list is super long, don’t worry about getting through every single item. Soon enough, you won’t feel so deprived of these foods in general so you’ll be able to be more open with your options. You won’t have to go through the process every time. One thing to note, make sure to give yourself the freedom to eat whatever you like, but also remember that food tastes better when you’re hungry for it and it doesn’t lead to physical discomfort. Listen to hunger and fullness cues, because those are important! Also, if all of this sounds too overwhelming right now, that’s okay too! More help and information will come with the next principles that should help you feel at ease. Until next time with principle #4: challenge the food police. Have a great week!