Your body deserves unconditional permission to eat. If you experience guilt or shame for eating certain foods, it's likely dieting culture is to blame for your food restriction which has led you to feeling this way. It's time to stop the battle and make peace with food! This post is all about how to call a truce with food and address any fears you may have when it comes to this.
“When I was on a low-carb diet, all I did was dream about pasta.”
“When I was following the whole 30 diet, all I craved was a spoonful of peanut butter."
"When I was following the Keto diet, my desire for sweets was uncontrollable."
This is a NATURAL reaction that is triggered by restriction and deprivation most diets promote. When you limit the amount of food you are allowed to eat (# of calories, grams of carbs, eliminating food groups), you usually will find yourself craving larger quantities of whatever is being limited from your diet. It's the limitation and restriction that leads to heightened cravings and sets you up for the increased likelihood of a binge on whatever food(s) this may be.
Repeat this to yourself as many times as it takes for you to remember: Diets and food restriction lead to uncontrolled thoughts and feelings about food. Diets and food restriction lead to increased cravings and food binges. It's not you who is out of control, it's your diet.
Diet starts tomorrow... binge on all the foods I won't be able to have today.
Ever know that you are starting a diet in the next few days so you stuff yourself uncomfortably full and go out to eat as many times as you can and really go all out before you begin the diet? This can be called the "last supper" mentality. When you know restriction is about to take place, you want to get in all of your favorite foods one last time. Just the threat of deprivation becomes so powerful and leads to all reasoning behind what you are doing and eating to become lost. Eat when you're not hungry? Sure, because in a few days your'e going to start to feel those hunger pains and have to ignore them while on your diet. Stuff yourself uncomfortably full with sweets? Sure, because you wont be allowed to eat those foods once your diet starts. This is not a healthy way to approach nourishing your body.
It's inevitable that the fear of restriction can cause us to do some pretty crazy things. Such as going and buying unfathomable amounts of toilet paper and hand sanitizer when we think that we are going to be trapped inside (aka COVID-19 2020).
What goes up must come down...
The longer foods are prohibited, the more inciting they become. Because of this, eating the "prohibited" foods brings about a sense of guilt for most dieters (or results in giving up on the diet altogether). "When it comes to dieting, feelings of deprivation and guilt work in opposing manner; like two kids on a seesaw- what goes up must come down." By giving yourself permission to eat, you can stop playing this back and forth game and stop feeling that you've been "bad" for eating a cookie.
Making peace with food means that ALL foods are allowed. No foods are "good" or "bad", no one food has the power to make you the healthiest person on the planet just as no food will make you fat. For anyone who has become accustomed to living a lifestyle of food restriction, the fear of making peace with food can be holding you back from building a healthy relationship with food.
Fear of eating everything in sight
You might be reluctant to practicing intuitive eating and learning how to make peace with foods because you believe diets are the best answer. You believe that if you do not have limitation and restriction on what you are eating, you will eat everything in sight and be out of control. If this is you, please know that you are not the one that is out of control, it is your diet that is telling you to eat 1,200 calories, your diet that only allows a list of 20 foods to eat from, or your diet that eliminated gluten and dairy (for no medical reason) that is causing these uncontrolled feelings around food.
If you are fueling your body adequately and honoring your cravings vs. trying to ignore them, you will learn to trust yourself around food and not feel the need to binge because no foods are off limits. Initially yes, this may include eating more than you normally would on a diet and feeling out of control with so many food options, but once food becomes nothing but a label of "food" (rather than "good" or "bad") you will find that your drive to eat out of control diminishes and you will eat normal amounts that satisfy your body.
Fear you won't choose to eat "healthy foods"
Another fear may be that you will choose to eat pizza rolls and cookies all the time. Again, initially when you start to make peace with food, you may find yourself eating the foods you haven't allowed yourself to have in higher amounts. Again, these feelings will diminish over time! Our bodies are pretty smart about telling us what they need when it comes to food. You will still choose to eat the nutritious foods that you enjoy. Have you ever had a weekend of traveling where you have no choice but to eat out and you ate more fried foods and less veggies than usual? Did you notice that after a few days of eating like this, you start to crave fresh fruits and vegetables and less of the "heavy" foods? This is your bodies way of telling you what it needs and like I said, our bodies know what fuel we need to be functioning best. The more you allow yourself to have the forbidden foods, your body will trust that you can have them at any time and you will start to crave and normally want the foods that fuel your body and make you feel your best.
Fear you will gain weight if you eat what you want
"I can't eat what I want because I will gain weight" is something I hear and see wayyyyyy too often. First things first, it's important to know that making peace with food and learning how to intuitively eat does not focus on body weight. That being said, have you noticed that your body comfortably fluctuates between any given 5-10lb range (whether dieting or not)? When you are at peace with food, you can start to listen and honor your hunger properly (as I talk about in my first blog post about intuitive eating- click link here to read). I mention in this post that when you are honoring your hunger and fullness, exercising as appropriate, getting enough sleep, and managing life's stress the best you can, your body will end up at a comfortable weight for you, individually and uniquely. As you start to focus on how you are feeling with eating, working out, and appreciating your body for all it does for you, the focus on your bodyweight as value in your life will become less important and you can learn to grow in your self-confidence. Working on improving your body image and mindset when it comes to your weight is important when finding peace with food.
Steps to make peace with food
I can't stress enough that you must remember... once you are at peace with food and give yourself unconditional permission to eat foods that once were forbidden, the urge to eat these foods will decrease. It will take time and. it will take practice to build trust around these forbidden foods. The end result is well worth the effort when you are able to have a dozen cookies in your house and not be called to eat them all in one day and then feel guilt and shame for what you did.
The steps necessary to make peace with food include challenging yourself with the foods that make you feel guilt and shame, one at a time, until you've made peace with all of them and can feel at ease with having an abundance of them in your house. Challenge the foods that make you feel out of control and start making peace with food by:
Make sure you know which foods instill this uncontrolled, guilt, or shame feelings for you. Create a list of these foods. Notice anything similar about them? Do you label them "bad" or restrict yourself as to when you can have them?
Circle the foods that you restrict. Circle the foods you feel guilty for eating. Circle the foods you think are "bad".
Pick one food off the list, give yourself permission to eat this food, and go to the store and buy it (unless you already have it on hand).
Eat the food, slowly. Check in with yourself while eating by asking yourself if the food tastes as good as you imagined and if it is satisfying. How is eating it making you feel? If it is satisfying and you are enjoying it, continue to eat the food. Check in with yourself after you've eaten it as well. Assess how you are feeling and take the time to journal about it. The more you learn about yourself and your experience with these foods, the more likely you will be able to conquer them and make peace.
Keep enough of your first chosen food in your house so that you are able to have it again the next time you want. Check in with yourself each time you eat this food until you feel comfortable to move on to another food. Continue down your list you created until you try each of them, evaluate your feelings, and eventually feel freed by being able to eat these foods whenever you want.
These steps are adapted from the book: Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole, M.S., R.D & Elyse Resch M.S., R.D., F.A.D.A., C.E.D.R.D)
When you stop putting unnecessary rules on what, when, and how much you are eating, you will stop putting up a fight with food and give yourself unconditional permission to eat. You will make peace with food. You will not overeat until you are uncomfortably full every single time you eat. You will not binge every single day because you are giving yourself unconditional permission to eat. Like I said, initially you may find that these foods are consumed in greater quantities...but the significance of these foods will become less and less as you start to realize that you CAN have these foods at any time and you are not limited to eating them on only the weekend, or only once you've finished your diet. Start by taking the steps above and challenging your foods one by one. You can do this!