Folks flock to intuitive eating because they’re fed up. They’re also:
Mainly, they’re tired of avoiding what they love because it’s supposedly fattening or bad or causes inflammation.
I know what this feels like deep in my bones, because I lived it, day in and day out, for over a decade. It is not fun. As emotional eaters, we love food and we love to eat. There’s no denying the fact that we enjoy the pleasure of food; it’s our drug of choice. So why do we invite this self-inflicted neurosis by avoiding our beloved foods?
When I tell people the first step in their intuitive eating journey, to finally heal their relationship with food, is to actually legalize and allow everything they’ve been avoiding, they freak. They think they’ll eat until they can’t eat anymore, that they’ll eat themselves into a legitimate chocolate or bread coma, that somehow they’ll gain one thousand pounds in a week.
So. Much. Fear.
Are you scared that if you legalize all foods you’ll eat the world? That you won’t know where to begin, or worse, when to stop?
That’s a normal part of the process.
Because with this first step comes mindfulness, intention, reflection, and curiosity. Allowing all foods (and also relaxing around food) does not mean we should eat mindlessly because everything is allowed. Because where would that leave us? Still kind of crazy around food, right?
It’s quite the contrary. When you choose to legalize, you must keep your intention at top of mind. Remember that what you want is a way to break free from the ties that food has on you, which means that you desire to feel good in your body.
Your body knows the way. Your body knows when it likes something and when it doesn’t. Your body knows when it’s had enough. Your body knows when you should stop feeding it.
Listen to your body. Legalization of foods and listening to your body are not independent.
If you legalize, you must make a commitment to yourself that you will constantly check back in to see what’s going on. Feelings. Bodily sensations. Hunger. Fullness.
Pay attention. You can’t have one (full legalization) without the other (full presence in your body).
If you actually allow yourself to eat what you’re scared of, frantically eating everything in sight won’t happen. But mentally allow it. This is a mental shift. Allow yourself full and relaxed unabashed permission to eat the thing.
What we don’t realize is that much of the crazy behavior that happens around food is due to the fact that we don’t allow ourselves to have what we want.
We binge today because tomorrow the diet starts, and I won’t be able to have what I really want then, so I have to eat all of it right now because there won’t be any left for me later.
We tell ourselves we can’t have it so our inner child goes “eff that” and then binges on it, only because it’s charged with the energy of can’t have it, which turns into a frenzied must have it RIGHT NOW, but just because we’ve told ourselves we can’t have it.
When we say we can’t have something, we want it infinite times more.
Often times, the stuff we binge on or eat in secret we don’t even like or want. We just eat it because we can’t have it and it’s there.
When I was first realizing that gluten and dairy did not work for my body, I told myself I “couldn’t have them” because they mess up my body and subsequently my brain too much. Not surprisingly, can’t have it turned into must have it all RIGHT NOW, so one bite of eating cheese and cookies turned into three days of eating each and feeling like crap because tomorrow would come and then it wouldn’t be allowed anymore.
If only I had known that allowing would have changed everything. That legalizing literally every single food is the first key to calming down.
You see, when we allow everything, even foods that don’t work for us, they lose their charge. They lose that crazy energy. They lose the commotion, the shininess, the lure.
Chocolate caramels that seemed so high and mighty and amazing and life-changing and NECESSARY TO LIVING when we couldn’t have them suddenly turn into what they are, just another freaking chocolate caramel.
When we allow and legalize all foods, we can come from a place of choosing foods that we like and want that work for our bodies. Our intention turns into wanting to feel good instead of unconsciously wanting to feel bad.
So, where I do begin?
Once you begin to allow, and you have a food in front of you, ask yourself, “do I really want this food?”
If you choose to eat it, do nothing but pay close attention to the food. Don’t eat it in front of the TV, because then you won’t be paying attention, and you’ll be missing the whole experience. Take a couple bites and pay attention.
“Do I actually like and want this?”
“Does this work for my body?” (If it doesn’t, really ask yourself why you want it. If you still do, accept the consequences the food will have with zero judgement)
“Is this good?”
“Is one bite enough, or do I want more?”
If you want more, ask yourself why you want it, especially if you’re feeling physically uncomfortable. Remember that wanting to eat when we aren’t hungry is simply an indication that something else is going on. Get curious about that.
Some people say, “but shouldn’t I be able to eat A LOT of something I love so much because it’s legalized now? Shouldn’t I be able to eat this whole bag of chocolate covered walnuts because they’re allowed, because I love them so much and now since I’m allowed I can have my way with them?”
To this, I say, you don’t really want the whole bag. (Your mind might, but your body doesn’t.)
Because when you love something, you give it the full attention it deserves, you take your time, and you honor it.
When you allow and eat with intention, with practice, you’ll see that you naturally gravitate towards things that do work for you. To things that actually make you feel amazing, that give you aliveness, that make you thrive. Because that’s what food was meant to do.
Food shouldn’t make you feel like crap all the time.
Operating from a place of goodness for yourself can only happen when all foods are allowed.
For example, I mentioned before how I do not eat gluten or dairy, and after years of practice, I am never tempted to eat them. Like, ever. Even when I make cheese plates or chocolate cakes or pies or tarts that smell amazing. I can appreciate them, for sure, but they have zero pull on me.
You might think I’m nuts for allowing them when I don’t eat them. But what you don’t realize is the reason I feel comfortable avoiding them is because I allow them. Because I can have them if I really want to, but when it comes down to it, I don’t really want them. Ever.
Just because you allow it does not mean you need to eat it. That’s the whole point of this work.
That’s what it should come down to, for you, too, eventually, and with practice.
You slowly begin to realize you don’t want so many of the things you thought you wanted. There is a huge difference between can’t have it and don’t want to have it.
Food is meant to make your body thrive and as a foundation for the rest of your life. And the reality is that food does have an impact on our bodies and subsequently, how we feel.
As you go on your journey, remember to always identify your intention. As you eat, are you coming from a place of compassion, of love, of advocating for yourself? From a place of desiring the best for yourself, to feel at peace with food?
I urge you to allow it all, but remember that you can only allow if you pay vigilant attention to how you act around the food and how your body feels.
Allowing means and comes with being in touch with yourself, being your body’s best friend, and most importantly, staying with yourself when things get hard and you want to eat.
Remember the process of healing your relationship with food is not linear, and any deviation is simply data. Do not judge yourself for these deviations.
I’ll be sharing much more on the details of intuitive eating, because this journey is multi-faceted, and I’m here to help you with every step of it all.
We cannot make sustainable change with food, our bodies, or our surrounding habits until we honestly explore and get curious about our relationship with each of them. Mindset change is not easy, but so, so worth it.
Being healthy starts with learning to cook simple foods in easy, delicious ways with approachable and practical recipes and techniques.
Our health begins with properly nourishing our bodies with nutrient-dense foods. I believe in bio-individuality: each person requires different types and amounts of food to feel their best. Learn how to eat intuitively for the rest of your life!