22 May 2011

Intuitive Eating: Making Peace with Food

I thought it was about time for another Inuitive Eating post. The my last post on the subject was about honouring your biological hunger. This one is about the next (and in my view, more challenging) stage: making peace with food.

'Stop the food fight! Give yourself unconditional permission to eat. If you tell yourself you can't or shouldn't have a particular food, it can lead to instense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings & often binging [...] and overwhelming guilt.'

ET & ER emphasise the psychological effects of hunger:
  • 'hungry orphans adopted from poor countrues often cannot control their compulsion to smuggle and hide food, even long after actual deprivation is over'
  • In an experiment in which WWII GIs were put on a restricted diet, the GIs developed a primal obsession with food, as a result of the diet.
Psychologically, depriving yourself of something you want actually heightens your desire for that very thing. So when you forbid yourself certain foods, you 'wreak havoc with your peace your mind, triggering cravings, obsessive thoughts and even compulsive behaviours'.And 'the longer foods are prohibited the more seductive they become.'

Anyone else recognise this? I know I do!

The only way to escape this hell, is to give yourself unconditional permission to eat by:
  1. Rejecting the idea that some foods are good and others are bad.
  2. Eating what you really want.
  3. Eating without doing penance (e.g. over-exercising or forgoing something else later.
Making peace with food is about allowing all food into your diet and letting yourself eat them in an emotionally neutral and nonjudgemental way.

ER & ET acknowledge that there are many fears that prevent people from taking this huge step, but these fears need to be faced. They include:
  •  The fear that you'll never stop eating. Actually, the opposite will be true once you've truly made peace with food. Habituation studies have shown that the more a person is exposed to a food, the less appealing it will become. But to get to this 'noncraving' point, you have to go through the scary process of actually eating the things you want as much as you want.
  • The fear that you won't eat healthily. ET and ER acknowledge that nutrition should become a factor evetually. But before you can take a psychologically healthy approach to nutrition, you need to make peace with food by eating whatever you want, without judgement or guilt.
ET and ER give some practical tips on how to start making peace with food.
  1. Pay attention to the foods that appeal to you and make a list.
  2. Put a tick by the foods you actually eat, and circle the remaining foods.
  3. Give yourself permission to eat one forbidden food, then go and eat it.
  4. While eating, check in with yourself: does the food taste as good as you imagined?
  5. If you find you do like it, then continue to eat it when you wish. (You may need to keep the food in the house, so you know you can have it whenever you want.)
  6. Continue with the list until all foods have been tried.
So, here are a few of the foods I'll be putting on my list (some of which I do eat, but very rarely and generally when compensating for the extra-calories in some other way):

  1.  Krispy Creams (can you believe I've never tried one!)
  2. Cakes (especially cheese cake), brownies etc
  3. Granola cereal
  4. Real ice cream
  5. Any kind of cream!
  6. Full-fat salad dressings
  7. Creamy pasta dishes (generally only something I crave in restuarants)
  8. Meaty pasta dishes (see above)
  9. Mashed potatoes
  10. Cookies (non-diet ones)
  11. Avocado
  12. crisps
  13. Curries (or anything involving coconut milk) 
  14. Shop-bought sandwishes with a calorie value of over approx. 300cals (absurd, I know!)
  15. Chips
  16. Pizza
  17. Pastires
I'll be challenging myself to eat some of these over the next few weeks.

Question: what foods would be on your list? Have you started reintroducing them? How have you found it?


  1. My challenging food would be:

    1) Brownies (I am baking one right now and I'll help myself to some!)

    2) Tater Tots casserole. It does scare me, but my fiance loves this dish. He has been urging me to try it. The idea of consuming so many carbs from this dish is a bit scary but I'll try though.

    I think that's it for right now. I am actually eating more and more of my "unsafe" food and realizing that they're not that scary (with a help from my therapist). I plan on getting a dietitan this summer to stretch even further out of my comfort zone. ;)

    Great post today!

  2. I love this list and I completely agree with all of these concepts. They have worked really well for me (though cheesecake is still difficult for me to eat.) I would really encourage you to tackle two at once and have a delicious vegetarian sandwich from a cool deli--one with avocado, hummus, cheese, and veggies. That's over 300 calories, but not too much that it's terrifying and would likely be incredibly delicious (those types of sammies are always my fav sandwiches!)