5 Steps to Make Peace with Food and Heal Your Relationship with Eating

What’s the best way to increase your desire for something? Tell yourself you can’t have it. When you find yourself on a low-carb diet, what do most of your thoughts swarm around? Probably a big bowl of pasta if you’re anything like me.

This is just how things work for us. This is your body’s natural reaction that is triggered by the limitation and deprivation that comes with most restrictive dieting attempts. When you place a limit on the amount of food you are allowed to eat, it usually sets you up to crave larger quantities of that food.

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THE DIET TRAP

Intuitive Eating Principle #3 “Make Peace With Food” calls upon us to check the diet rules and food beliefs we have in place and if they are set up to create a disordered relationship with food. How would it feel to give yourself unconditional permission to eat the foods you want? Probably scary if you’re used to restrictively dieting and entrusting in the strict rules these diets tell you to follow. This principle helps with that.

Depriving yourself of something you want can actually heighten your desire for that very item, states psychologist Fritz Heider. Deprivation drives powerful psychological forces that diminish your peace of mind, triggering cravings, obsessive thoughts and even compulsive behaviors. So, when a diet labels a food off-limits, your body’s natural instinct is to desire that food even more.

Unrealistic food rules can increase overeating or “out of control” eating. For example, the way you’d eat chocolate knowing you would be able to have it again looks very different than if you were eating chocolate before starting a diet or “cheating” on your diet. Imagine it. This goes to show that even the perception of food being banned can trigger overeating.

The longer a food is prohibited, the more you want to eat them. Eating these “forbidden” foods brings with it a strong sense of guilt from the dieter. And as you diet and restrict the foods you truly enjoy eating, deprivation steadily increases. As guilt increases, so does the quantity of food intake. “Cheating” on our diet causes guilt which triggers us to feel “bad”, which leads to eating more food. I call this this pressing the “f*ck-it button”.

UNCONDITIONAL ALLOWANCE OF FOOD

The key to ending this pattern of restriction and overeating is to give yourself unconditional permission to eat. This means:

  • Unlearning the notion that certain foods are “good” and others are “bad”. No one food has the power to make you gain or lose weight.

  • Losing the sense of morality associated to food choices. “I’ll be good and choose the salad instead of the burger I really want.”

  • Allowing yourself to eat what you truly want.

  • Eating without creating person food “deals”. “I’ll have a bite of this cake now, but the diet starts tomorrow!”.

Once you give yourself permission to eat and know you can eat what you want, the intensity to overeat greatly diminishes. Additionally, many people find that once they’ve allowed themselves to eat the foods they used to forbid, the foods lost their magical powers. Studies show that the more a person is exposed to a particular food, the less appealing it becomes. This is why it’s important to expose yourself to all of your previously forbidden foods and eat them.

This may seem overwhelming and truly scary, but it is a crucial step at healing your relationship with food. It connects you with your inner signals, allowing you to listen for them and trust you body and yourself, instead of listening to the food rules that keep you in a state of dissatisfaction and guilt.

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Intuitive Eating authors Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resche spell out “Make Peace with Food” as a call to action:

“Call a truce, stop the food fight! Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. 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.”


ACTION ITEM

Write down a list of foods that are appealing to you. Circle the ones that you restrict or “forbid”. Give yourself permission to eat one forbidden food from your list. Check in with yourself during the experience: is it as good as you imagined? How do you feel?

Remember to eat as much as you need to satisfy your body and its wants and needs. Listening to your satiety cues is a very important part of the process in making peace with food and trusting your body.


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