Principle three, Make Peace With Food, can be very challenging for those who have spent years feeling like food is dangerous. Many people feel at odds with food and so enact rigid rules to instead feel in control. Making peace with food means removing all judgments of whether it’s good or bad, healthy or unhealthy. It also means refusing to feel retroactively shameful or guilty after indulging in the meal of your choice. Taking away all the emotional intensity around food is imperative. Truly giving yourself permission to eat allows you to experience how the food tastes in your mouth, feels in your body, and affects your general sense of health and wellbeing.
“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 that it usually results in Last Supper overeating and overwhelming guilt.”
Intuitive Eating Workbook, Elyse Resch and Eveleyn Tribole
This principle is focused on exploring the role that fear plays in your life and how it’s holding you back from having a peaceful relationship with food. If a food or macronutrient (carbohydrates, fats) are restricted or avoided, it’s usually because there’s fear around how the food will act in your body and influence your health or appearance. Certain foods are deemed off-limits because you haven’t experienced its innocence or ordinariness. Without knowing that it can be enjoyed without harm, it makes sense that it might be feed insecurity. Since we know that chronic dieting can lead to bingeing [link to dieting blog], fear of food is usually rooted in the very common thought, “If I start eating, I won’t stop”.
To begin exploring how you might be acting out fear, ask yourself the following questions:
Which foods do I avoid, and why?
Do I have preferences on where I eat? Do I avoid certain situations? Which situations make me feel comfortable?
Do I prefer to eat alone? Why?
If I was in a kitchen full of my forbidden foods, what would happen?
“It’s understandable that if you have not experienced the ordinariness of a favorite food, you will be reluctant to eat it. When you know that a food is no longer off-limits, you will discover that when you eat past satisfaction, the pleasurable taste of food diminishes, and the physical discomfort from eating too much will become apparent. You’ll come to recognize that overeating your favorite foods is no longer worth it.”
Try out this exercise from the Intuitive Eating Workbook on exploring if you’re ready to make peace with food by way of new food experiences and challenges. This is not a pass or fail assignment, and only serves to help you get a sense of your own readiness to venture out of your comfort zone. Check Yes or No to whether you identify with the following statements.
YES/NO - I have an environment in which I am able to eat unrushed and without distraction.
YES/NO - I am able to identify key vulnerability points, such as being too hungry, too stressed out, too tired, and so forth.
YES/NO - I am able to clearly identify my biological cues of hunger, ranging from ravenously empty to pleasant and gentle hunger.
YES/NO - I can clearly identify my biological cues of fullness, ranging from gentle fullness to painfully stuffed.
YES/NO - I can distinguish between the uncomfortable sensations of guilt versus the uncomfortable sensation of feeling too full.
YES/NO - I am able to cope with my feelings without turning to food.
YES/NO - I can distinguish between being hungry enough for a meal or just needing a snack.
YES/NO - I am able to experience pleasurable satisfaction from eating a meal.
YES/NO - I am able to tolerate the uncomfortable feeling of being too full from eating, without compensating by skipping a meal or exercising more.
YES/NO - My food choices are not affected by the opinions of others.
Our next blog post will focus on the fourth principle of Intuitive Eating, Challenge The Food Police. Our Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Kiara, uses an approach called Intuitive Nutrition to help our clients learn how to use food to their individual advantage without the restriction of diets.