intuitive eating

The Subtle Ways You Don’t Give Yourself Permission to Eat

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Do you allow yourself to eat?

It’s 10:00 AM and I’m starving.

Do you ever have those days when you rest your eyes after turning off your alarm?
Yeah, I played that risky game today. After I managed to pry my eyes open, realizing I was severely late, I rushed around like a headless chicken then drove 100mph to work (don’t worry, I’m exaggerating). AND I missed breakfast.

Sitting in front of me on my desk is my lunch bag containing a glass Tupperware filled with last night’s dinner leftovers. Dinner was an awesome salad with avocado, feta cheese, radishes, shallots, grilled chicken and buttermilk citrus dressing tossed with gem lettuce greens (Yum). My stomach is grumbling and a little bit queasy from having that coffee on an empty stomach. As I fantasize about eating my lunch, my mouth is watering.

Alas, it’s 10AM—not time for lunch yet. I have two hours until it’s socially acceptable to eat salad. If I pop open this Tupperware and someone walks by and sees me gobbling up lunch two hours early, what will they think?!

I considered going through my two scheduled therapy sessions with a grumbling belly all because I didn’t want to give myself permission to eat.

As an eating disorder specialist—someone who talks about our relationship with food on a daily basis—I know that society’s ol’ diet mentality was getting the best of me in that moment. And this is not a value system I believe in nor one I want to be a part of anymore.

After years (if not decades) of dieting, I now strive to be an Intuitive Eater. Intuitive Eating, a nutrition philosophy created by well respected dietitians Evelyn Tribole & Elyse Resch means a lot of things. I’d argue the most important principle being, giving oneself unconditional permission to eat.

What’s Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive Eating is based on the premise that our body instinctively knows how to nourish itself and maintain a healthy weight. That becoming more connected to our biological hunger and fullness cues is a far more effective way to attain health, rather than following a strict diet. The authors of the best selling book break down the Intuitive Eating philosophy with 10 principles. Click to see them here.

So here I am sitting at my desk, an expert on this eating stuff and I’m experiencing the subtle pull to deny myself food even though my body is screaming, “FEED ME!”

If anyone asked me if I give myself unconditional permission to eat, one of the I.E. principles, I’d respond ‘yes’ and with confidence. I’m sure a lot of other people would too.

But the truth is, many of us don’t have a perfect relationship with food (what’s perfect anyways?). To not check in with the subtle ways diet culture invades our judgement of when it’s okay and not okay to eat could be harmful. Over eating (and binge eating) is often the body’s natural response to deprivation just to mention one of those harmful consequences.

Think about the seemingly innocent ways you deny yourself food. Below are some examples that I’ve heard from my clients and ones that I’ve noticed in myself too.

Do you deny yourself food?

  1. In two hours you have a big, fancy holiday meal but you’re hungry now because you purposely selected a lighter lunch. You could have a small, healthy snack to hold you over but you deny yourself because you might over-indulge later.
  2. No snacks/protein bars are kept in your bag/at your desk/in your car because you “should” have the will-power to wait until your next meal.
  3. You get invited to attend the grand opening at a cool new restaurant that you’ve been dying to try but decline the invitation because you “ate too much” at lunch earlier.
  4. At dinner, you weren’t all that hungry so you opted for a smaller portion. Just before bed, your hunger comes roaring in but it’s “too late to eat.”
  5. You’re really, really, really craving chocolate. But 30 minutes ago you were also really, really, really craving Mexican food. Even though you only ate half of that chimichanga and still have some room in your belly, you don’t let yourself have a chocolate dessert because the chimichanga is high calorie.

Keep in mind that Intuitive Eating isn’t about stuffing yourself with any and everything that looks tasty. It’s about honoring your body. Trusting your hunger cues. Listening to your satiety. Treating your body with respect with gentle nutrition. Intuitive eaters give themselves permission to eat a wide variety of food—some packed with nutrients others packed with flavor.

It’s okay if sometimes we have to remind ourselves to pay closer attention to the body so that we can honor it better. And it doesn’t mean we have an eating disorder if we do. In fact, I think everyone should make attunment with our body a regular habit.

I challenge you to check in to see if you can be more connected, more aware and more gentle with yourself. Happy eating! I’m gonna go eat my salad leftovers now.

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