Without moral judgment…
I’ve been grappling with the headline for this particular blog post because part of what I also want to touch on is this; “To give yourself full permission to eat (all) foods is not the same as eating with abandonment.”
There are some challenging concepts when it comes to Intuitive Eating and Mindful Eating that I feel are both radical as well as counter cultural. And they can be very challenging to put into practice, yet I believe they are vital if we want to reach a place of peace with food and eating.
Many people seem to think that their main problem with “staying on the diet band wagon” is their lack of willpower, and if they just tried harder they could do it. Or if they weren’t such emotional eaters they wouldn’t have such an issue with food and (over) eating.
Here’s thing though.
When you are restricting you are fighting biology.
If your body is not getting what it needs, it will make sure that your brain become preoccupied with thoughts of food, your senses heighten so that you will ultimately feed yourself. Because this is fundamental for our survival.
Someone recently shared this famous study with me which was done back in the late 1940s called The Great Starvation Experiment. And when you think of it, it very much mimics the conventional dieting of today…
So the first focus of mindful eating is always to get to a place of tuning in, become aware of our hunger cues, as well as our fullness cues, so we can honour the need to eat.
This is where the permission to eat starts. When you notice you are hungry – EAT.
This is a kind act of self care. It sounds so simple, and it is. But not if we are used to eat according to plans, set by someone who does not live in your body, it may be a little challenging to start. Each time you honour your hunger, you are re enforcing your inherent self worth. Luckily most of us have access to food, so there is truly no need to fight hunger.
With this permission to eat, you open the door to explore how different foods affect your hunger and fullness, you may notice that it is useful to bring snacks in certain circumstances when you know that getting access to food can be tricky, and when you don’t want to end up in a ravenous state with limited choices. I can’t tell you how often I end up like this myself, even though I am so well aware of how it makes me feel, both to eat sugary foods to lift my blood sugar (though they may taste great for the first few bites), and how miserable I feel when I’m venturing into “ravenous” territory.
However, if I was supposed to be adhering to someone else’s plan with set amount of foods I most likely would have to be using precious energy and willpower to NOT eat, even though my body is telling me “feed me!” And truly, what message is this sending to myself? That I am not worthy of being fed?
Deprivation and restriction feed the binge cycle, so no 1. is to give yourself full permission to eat when you are hungry.
Great, now here’s the next permission slip; “Give yourself permission to eat ALL foods”.
Peace and freedom with foods comes from neutralising foods. Yep, you heard that right, that means letting go of the moral compass, and the labels of “good” and”bad”. Does it mean we throw nutrition out the window too? No.
It simply means we drop the moral judgment of ourselves (and others), according to what we eat.
It means I’m no different as a person, whether I eat a doughnut for breakfast, or have a green kale smoothie.
It means we can drop guilt from our diets, and any shame we hold about ourselves that stems from our food choices.
It means we have the freedom to choose, whatever will bring us most pleasure and satisfaction in that moment.
It means we are free to be with our direct experience of eating.
It means we can begin to embrace OUR OWN specific needs with kindness.
It mean we can eat with pleasure and satisfaction, for nourishment and self care.
And however and with whatever foods that brings us pleasure, satisfaction and nourishment, we have the flexibility to change this up as needed, because we are no longer tied to rigid dietary rules.
“But if I let myself have whatever I want I will never stop eating”.
“If I let myself eat whatever I want I will end up living on coffee and chocolate.”
Maybe…? Or maybe not.
This is what I mean with my statement above, that giving ourselves full permission to eat all foods, is not the same as eating with abandonment. Which all too often happens after dieting. This way of eating is actually a natural response to deprivation.
When you’ve given yourself full permission to eat all foods, and you bring kindness and curiosity to your eating experience, you are free to explore how different foods affect your body, as well as perhaps even your mind and spirit.
You have opened the door for choice. You don’t have to eat everything today, as there will always be another day to have that food again.
Most of all you have given yourself permission to eat and nourish yourself in a way that makes YOU and your body FEEL good.
And to re-enforce the message to yourself and your body, that you are worthy and worth it.
That may just be the taste of freedom that you are looking for.