Sunday, October 13, 2013

Unconditional Permission

As I start a private practice I've been getting more questions about Intuitive Eating and what it really means.  I've had these conversations with both dietitians and lay people and no matter who it is, one of the things that always seems to come up is idea of giving yourself permission to eat what you crave.

Before I get there though, let me take a step back and give you some insight into Intuitive Eating. It's based on 10 Principles that when all working together help you learn to "eat when hungry and stop when full." Obviously that is much easier said than done, especially if you've had a long history of chronic dieting, but it can be done and the 10 Principles give you a framework to get there. The principles start from 1 and go to 10 and on some level, you start at 1 and go through them one at time.

The third principle of Intuitive Eating is "Make Peace With Food."  Here is where the idea of permission comes in to play.  For many of us we restrict foods that we really crave.  Why would we do this?  For many reasons, obviously, but in most cases it has to do with the idea that these foods are unhealthy, they will cause us to gain weight and should be avoided at all costs...especially if we want to be healthy.  The foods we avoid could be many or few depending on the person, but some examples that I've seen with my clients are things like ice-cream, chocolate, croissants, donuts, and candy.  I'm sure you have your own thing that you might add to this list but either way, if you're becoming an Intuitive Eater, at some point, you are going to have to trust the process and give yourself permission to eat...anything you crave.

This unconditional permission is a core fundamental to Intuitive Eating.  If you don't give yourself permission to eat what you crave, you won't be able to really make peace with food.  But again, some of us have been dieting so long that having permission to eat is a challenge. The fear is that if I start eating that food, I'll never stop. If I never stop, I'll gain weight and if I gain weight, my health will suffer.  

In my conversations about permission people have trouble getting past the concept that some food is so inherently bad for your health that there is no way that they can allow themselves to eat it.  I'm not going to argue that some foods (and food-like substances) are not healthy and probably should not be consumed in great abundance, but if these are the foods you crave, you should eat them!  Why, you ask?  Because if deny your craving eventually you'll give in and eat more of that food when you do eat it.  And after you are done, you're going to feel guilty for doing it.  

What's the goal of giving yourself permission and why am I making such a big deal about it?  Because if you know you can have anything you want, at any time, you can really listen to your body.  You might realize that eating foods that you've been craving make you feel horrible.  For example, if you sat down at ate three donuts, physically how would you feel?  Would feel sluggish, tired or lethargic?  But you can't get to this unless you embrace the idea of having unconditional permission to eat. And once you have unconditional permission to eat anything you like, you make different food choices.  Instead of fighting the rules you might have, you begin to listen to your body and learn what "eat when hungry and stop when full" really means.

Giving yourself permission is scary.  It's like taking away the safety net and the fear of falling is real. That is why for some of you, it might be nice to have a partner in the journey and that's what I'm here for.  Adopting the third principle of Making Peace with Food takes time and I'm here to help.  Make an appointment today and let me help you through the process of becoming an Intuitive Eater.