Do you lack self-control with food?
Intuitive Eating Series Principle #3 - Make Peace with Food
Do you have "forbidden foods" or foods that are off limits because you either have no self-control when you start eating them or you've labeled them as something you just can't have because they're "bad"? Today's post is all about making peace with food - you know, the foods you're afraid of.
This is one of my favorite things about intuitive eating because it's probably one of the most important steps toward healing your relationship with food for life.
I'm willing to bet you have a list (be it loooong or short) of foods that you're either nervous around, feel like you can't stop eating once you start, or have labeled off limits because they are "bad" for you.
I totally get it. The food industry and media bombard us daily with claims of low fat, low calorie, "don't eat this food", "eat more of this food", and so much more. How do you even know what to believe?! m&ms are bad, broccoli is good, right?
WRONG. Let me say that again. FALSE. WRONG. And let me tell you why.
There are some truths about food we need to understand before we move on to making peace with it.
First, food is neutral. No one food has the power to make you fat or slim. Labeling a food as "bad" or "good" does not make you a "bad" or "good" person by eating it. In fact, repeat after me, "there are no such things as good or bad foods". Food is food. Ok, I know that may take a while to sink in, but it's true. Food can (and should) be a neutral part of your life. It should be enjoyable and not stressful (unless you have a toddler like me who decides he likes something one day and doesn't the next after I buy a bunch more of it at the store... in fact, kids are some of the best intuitive eaters, but more on that another day).
Intuitive eating is about being "allowed" or having full permission to eat whatever you want.
Yeah. It's true. In fact, you don't even have to make food deals with yourself like, "well, I ate a cookie today so tomorrow I can't have any sweets", or "I'm planning on eating a big Thanksgiving meal so I'm not eating anything for the entire day to prepare".
This principle will take some time to truly understand and adopt, but I want you to know right now that you can indeed give yourself permission to eat anything you want anytime you want.
Are you scared yet? It actually might be a little (or a lot) scary at first. You're in uncharted territory, but let me assure you this principle has been tested and used by thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of people who have had the same fears as you. In fact, let me tell you a story about a past client of mine. It might help calm your nerves a bit (because I have a bit of homework for you at the end of this video).
REAL LIFE EXAMPLE
My client, we'll call her Jan, had several off-limits foods, but one of her biggest culprits was ice cream. She couldn't be around ice cream or else she'd go crazy. She'd eat it all and was certain she had no self-control. She truly believed ice cream was an off-limits food for her. If it was in her house, it didn't last long, but she was always full of guilt because she just couldn't stop eating it. She typically had a bowl of ice cream every night and it left her feeling guilty and frustrated.
(Now, before I move on, I'm not saying that ice cream is a "bad" food, but for Jan, it became something that left her feeling guilty, powerless, and frustrated in her relationship with food - and that's the very thing I don't want food to be for you).
So, In order to make peace with food, Jan had to face her fear. And do you know what I had her do? Give herself permission to eat as much ice cream as she wanted, whenever she wanted. That was it! I had her throw out the labels and just allow it. And guess what happened? She ate a LOT of ice cream. At first. And she started getting frustrated because she wasn't sure this was the best idea.
But then something happened. After a little bit of time, ice cream wasn't as appealing to her as it once had been. In fact, she found herself not needing it as often and was even able to keep some in her freezer without thinking about it all the time. Ice cream was no longer a stress in her life. Ice cream went from being an off-limits food to a completely neutral part of her life. She enjoyed it when she wanted some and skipped it when she didn't. She didn't overeat it, she ate what she wanted and put the rest back.
Jan was in absolute shock, but she'd FINALLY made peace with ice cream. So, what did we do? We went to work on the next forbidden item on her list. And now, Jan happily eats the foods she wants without guilt and without fear of overdoing it every time.
"When you allow yourself to eat what you want, the intensity to eat greatly diminishes." Let me say that again. "When you allow yourself to eat what you want, the intensity to eat greatly diminishes."
5 STEPS TO MAKING PEACE WITH FOOD
Now it's time to allow yourself to legalize food in your own life and make peace with it once and for all. So, here's your homework in 5 simple steps.
Step 1. Write down a list of your off-limits or forbidden foods. Or, any food you've labeled as "bad" or are nervous being around.
Step 2. Pick one food on that list that you've been avoiding.
Step 3. Give yourself unconditional permission to eat it. Go get it at the grocery store, the restaurant, or have it in your house.
Step 4. As you eat the food, pay attention. What emotions are coming up. Is it as good as you remember it being? Do you enjoy it? Are you nervous? That's all you need to do, just pay attention to what happens when you eat this food.
Step 5. Keep the food around. Yeah, let it be available to you anytime you want it. Give yourself permission to access it whenever you want (this could be at home, at the store, or at a restaurant). Then, be patient and see what happens over time. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
And remember, everyone makes peace with food at a different pace. Don't compare yourself to others, don't try to rush the process, just trust that over time, it will work. That's all. And when you feel comfortable with that specific food, move on to the next one!
And don't forget to grab your intuitive eating guide below for even more practice!