everything discussed in this blog series is derived from Intuitive Eating and the Intuitive Eating Workbook. As you read these posts, I strongly encourage you to purchase and read both as this series will not be as thorough and informative as the books. Each month we will focus on one principle at a time. Allow yourself the space to simply look at that one principle. My desire for you, dear reader, is that these posts will 1) allow you to dig deep into understanding your relationship with food, 2) that kindness and compassion for yourself will grow, and 3) that you will experience real flourishing as you develop trust with your body.
I was living out my worst nightmare; my list of binge foods was increasing exponentially and the number of days between binges was shrinking. I couldn’t quite explain this phenomena. I used to restrain so much around food, eating 1,300 calories or less daily.
If I could eat so perfectly for years, why was this happening to me?!
I used to ask this question of myself regularly as the wave of shame crashed into my body after each binge episode. My shame was powerful, thick, and isolating. The first couple of days after a binge the shame would motivate me to restrict my food intake as much as possible. However, it wouldn’t be long before I ended up where I started: bingeing alone, achingly full, and drowning in dark thoughts.
In that season of my life I assumed I was the only human being to have ever lived this dreadful experience. Back then, it would have been validating to hear that bingeing was a common result of food depravation and there were actually countless others like me.
The third principle in Intuitive Eating, making peace with food, stands in stark contrast to this war regularly fought by those who have food related issues. The idea behind this principle is to allow food to loosen its power over you so that you can experience true freedom in eating. This is done by giving yourself unconditional permission to eat whatever you want. In doing this, “off limits” foods will lose their novelty and emotional charge.
For many reading this post, this may sound unreachable and even absurd. Perhaps you, like me, have felt as though you are dangerous around food and, if given permission to eat anything you want, chaos will ensue.
I felt that fear in the beginning, too. There was skepticism of the process but decided to charge on and see what happened. I was at rock bottom and had nothing to lose.
As I began to let myself eat what I truly wanted I went through a phase of eating homemade brownies for lunch daily. Not just any brownies: perfectly underbaked, gooey, Nutella-laced brownies. I ate plenty of other previous binge-only foods too, but brownies were a daily occurrence.
Before Intuitive Eating, the act of baking itself would have caused me to binge. And brownie batter? I couldn’t bake brownies without consuming large quantities of the batter. I felt as though I couldn’t be trusted around the stuff. So for me, eating brownies, and eating brownies daily, was a an important step on my road to true health. By allowing myself to eat brownies when I wanted, brownies lost their power. I didn’t have to binge this forbidden food because it could be available to me when I desired.
In Eating intuitively, we can learn to trust our bodies again. When food loses its emotional charge and all food becomes emotionally equal, we aren’t “bad” for eating brownies or “good” for eating a banana. We can instead enjoy food and our bodies by honoring our food preferences and accepting ourselves each and every time we sit down to eat.
Making peace with food will not come overnight. No matter where you are, you are enough. If you find yourself struggling to break free from rigid food rules and feel at peace with food is impossible, you aren’t alone. Take notice the negative thoughts that run through your mind about who you are and how you eat. Note how this impacts you day to day. Notice your desires and how you long for something different. Shame gains strength in silence; talk to a trusted friend or counselor about your experience. And remember, you don’t have to be anywhere other than where you are right now. There’s no such thing as failing at Intuitive Eating.