Client’s often ask me, “how do I fix my relationship with food”? Allowing yourself unconditional permission to eat is the answer. Contrary to popular belief, unconditional permission to eat does not just mean, “eat whatever you want, whenever you want!” It’s more nuanced than that.
How to fix my relationship with food
It’s 11 am and you’re hungry. But it’s not “lunchtime”.
You’re starting to feel a subtle hollowing of your stomach. You feel pulled to eat.
Do you allow yourself to eat or do you ignore your hunger?
Maybe you’re confused? Should you eat 1,200 calories a day, or only a certain number of points, or only during certain hours?
The good news is, your body knows exactly what she wants and needs, you just have to learn how to listen.
According to Intuitive Eating Principle 3:
Intuitive Eating is a framework made up of ten guiding principles, however, from a research and clinical perspective, we can breakdown these principles into four underlying constructs; you can think of the principles as the actions we take to become intuitive eaters, and the constructs are the characteristics intuitive eaters are made of.
I’ll go through the four constructs one by one – the first of these is unconditional permission to eat (UPE).
“Call a truce, stop the food fight! Give yourself unconditional permission to eat”.
There are three main components within the UPE construct:
1) No labeling of foods as forbidden or good/bad.
2) Willingness to eat when hungry (i.e. not deliberately staving off hunger)
3) Making food choices for health and satisfaction.
If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing.
When you finally “give-in” to your forbidden food, eating will be experienced with such intensity, it usually results in Last Supper overeating, and overwhelming guilt.”
According to one of the founders of the Intuitive Eating movement, Evelyn Tribole, “One of the biggest misconceptions is that, without a structured diet, people will start to be unhealthy.
But if you look at the research, it’s clear that intuitive eaters have higher self-esteem, higher well-being, and they also tend to have lower body mass indexes.
They eat a variety of foods, they have more trust in their bodies—it’s really rather lovely all of the good that comes out of this.”
Can you trust yourself around certain food?
Many women worry that if they stop restricting what they eat, they’ll eat all day and won’t stop. This is understandable given they don’t trust themselves around food, but simply not true.
Take for example people who work in chocolate factories. They might eat a lot of chocolate, to begin with, but get sick of it very quickly. Habituation research explains why food becomes less enticing with exposure.
Sure, there’s an initial “honeymoon phase” where you may want to eat your previously forbidden foods quite a lot. But that will subside with time.
But when you know food will be there and allowed day after day, it doesn’t become so important to have large quantities of it and it eventually loses its power over you.
This is why it’s important to understand that deprivation leads to unwanted backlash eating.
The reason we crave foods that we label as ‘bad’ is because we put them off-limits or tell ourselves that we’re not allowed to eat them. This then leads to deprivation and inevitably a binge!
*Dieting* actually heightens the novelty and desirability for forbidden foods. When people go off a diet, they often eat those forbidden foods in excess, in part because of the lack of habituation.
Another reason not to diet
When you combine low habituation with the fear of never eating your favourite foods ever again (or that’s what you tell yourself), it becomes a powerful recipe for overeating. It’s called the “last supper mentality”.
Better eat it all now, because I start my diet again tomorrow.
Giving yourself unconditional permission to eat what you like, is an important mindset and skill that will put you back in charge of your own food choices without micromanaging every bite.
You’re finally trusting your body to guide you, without external conditions on why, how, where, when or what to eat.
Start with one food or food group that you want to challenge. Add it to one meal or snack a day and once you feel more comfortable, move on to the next.
You’ll find that some of those scarier foods feel less intimidating as you start to see that food is available to nourish, not punish you.
Eat foods that you find both nourishing and pleasurable for full metabolic power. Some days that will be brownies and other days that will be a salad. It’s called balance and unconditional permission to eat. It’s called peace with food.
How to fix my relationship with food. Need help with that? Don’t hesitate to reach out to me here>>