I'm Eating Everything and Feel Like Crap
At first, you’re skeptical:
“I could never eat whatever I want or I would just blow up like a balloon!”
Then you sort of start to get it…
“OK, by giving myself permission to eat whatever I want, I can prevent the crazy feelings around food and be kind of normal for once.”
And then you start to really enjoy it!
“This is amazing! I can go grocery shopping and buy anything my little heart desires and eat it with no guilt at all!”
And then you get stuck.
“OK, I’m finally eating without guilt, but I’m gaining weight and feel like crap!”
Giving yourself permission to eat and creating security around food can be a huge challenge if you've been fully entrenched in diet culture. It’s a long road, with more than a few bumps. So there’s a tendency to think that once you finally get to the point of feeling relaxed around food, you’re done.
The truth is that the permission/no guilt step is just a part of the process, and it’s actually the beginning part. It’s the first, exciting, joyous chapter of your Intuitive Eating journey. But, if you stop there, you’re probably going to be pretty miserable.
Create Permission, Get Rid of the Guilt, and Keep Going!
Creating permission and legalizing foods naturally entails a little bit of reckless abandon. It’s an adventure to explore all the different foods you’ve been denying yourself and figure out what you really like. Eventually, if you trust the process and keep moving forward, this excitement fades and the next stage of honoring your body naturally comes to the forefront.
However, it’s tempting to resist moving to that next stage and just stick with the no-holds-barred eating extravaganza of “permission.” The next stage feels unclear, and maybe difficult.
In fact, I think this is one of the main reasons that people give up on Intuitive Eating and return to dieting. Being stuck in the permission stage doesn’t always feel great. Physically, you may feel kind of gross if you’re eating a lot of “forbidden” foods. And mentally, you may feel an uncomfortable level of chaos.
The Diet Temptress
When you’re used to black and white thinking, gently doing anything is hard. Our brains go, “I don’t feel well and need to start eating better,” and we automatically switch back into diet mode. We don’t yet understand that mottled grey area of marrying health, personal desires, and flexibility. It can feel complicated and confusing, while dieting is so crystal clear.
The crisp, controlled, instant redemption of a diet sounds very appealing when you’re eating a little wildly and feeling unsure of the next step.
I asked Evelyn Tribole about how to support people who are nervous about being triggered back into dieting when considering nutrition again. Her answer was concise: maintain flexibility, and be aware of overall eating patterns.
It’s not a natural instinct for most of us, yet. Am I still relaxed around food? Am I respecting my desires AND considering my health? Am I still consistently honoring my hunger, with absolutely no guilt? These are the kinds of questions you need to ask...and keep asking...yourself to stay squarely on the Intuitive Eating path.
The key is a slow, steady, thoughtful return to the desire to feel good physically as well as mentally. I love the way the authors of Intuitive Eating describe it as gently folding nutrition back into your life.
There’s No Finish Line
I’ve always thought of Intuitive Eating as the way we really eat, without all the diet/body shame bullshit. So, when someone says they can’t do Intuitive Eating, it always strikes me as kind of humorous--like saying you can’t “do” breathing or sleeping.
Intuitive Eating is the process of returning to our natural relationship with food and our bodies: trusting ourselves, listening to our bodies, regaining control over our own well-being, and respecting ourselves. When you’re truly tuned in to your body’s signals, you won’t want to eat in a way that makes you feel like crap. When you really want the best for yourself, you will want to move your body and eat well and feel good.
So, if you don’t feel good physically, maybe it’s time to consider the next phase of this process. Slowly, gently, and lovingly.
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