Intuitive Eating Principle #3: Make peace with food
Our culture has done a really great job of making us believe some foods are “bad” and others are “good.” When we hear this kind of verbiage, it leads us to believe there are foods we should and should not eat. So we make a list of rules for ourselves….I’ll eat this one, I won’t eat this one, etc.
When you forbid a food, you will be able to avoid it initially. You’ll probably feel really proud of your willpower. But as time goes on, your feelings of deprivation increase and the food becomes more attractive. Sooner or later, you reach a tipping point. You eat the food. But since you restricted for so long, you will end up eating way more than you normally would, leading to intense guilt and shame.
Pause. I want to highlight something:
Food should not make you feel guilt and shame.
We allow food to make us feel these things because we are giving it a power it was never meant to have in our lives.
What you eat does not define who you are as a person. You are not “good” for eating broccoli or “bad” for eating brownies. You are made in the image of God, and that makes you intrinsically valuable.
I remember it being such a relief to finally let go of the belief that my value was based on the food I ate. I realized how much of my true identity I could pursue once I released this obsession and made peace with food.
So how do you do it? It’s simple — give yourself unconditional permission to eat. Yes, I am a nutrition professional…and yes, I just said you can give yourself permission to eat whatever, whenever. This step is one of the most important steps in becoming an intuitive eater because it retrains your brain to begin thinking about food in a morally neutral manner and to truly trust your body.
This looks like…
- Throwing away your ideas of certain foods being “bad” and “good.” Food is food! Nutritional value may differ between foods, but at this stage, we’re not worried about that. Your mental health and relationship with food is priority.
- Eating what you really want. Don’t judge your cravings. Your body will crave what it needs. Initially you will have to work through cravings that came from long-term deprivation, but eventually those will go away. Cravings are your friend!
- Eating without making penance for it. Resist the temptation to exercise more, restrict more, or somehow compensate for something you ate. You don’t need to earn the right to eat — you deserve to eat simply because you are alive!
So at this point, I know what you’re thinking….this is scary! What if I don’t stop eating? What if I only eat ice cream for the rest of my life? What if I can’t trust myself?
But here’s the comforting truth — once you know you can truly have whatever you want, the intense desires to eat will diminish. And the more you expose yourself to those foods you’re so afraid of, the less you will crave them.(Studies prove this concept — it’s called habituation and it’s pretty cool). And as far as nutrition goes, we’ll get to that later — for now, suffice it to say that nutritionally, your body is on your side.
It’s time for the food fight to end.
To see my next post on principle #4: “challenge the food police,” click here!