Hi, friends! My husband and I are currently overseas on a two-week long adventure in Ireland, Scotland and London. Follow our adventures over on Instagram! While we’re away, I’ve invited a few of my blogger friends to share recipes and intuitive eating posts! Today’s post is by my friend Ashley.
Two major tenants of intuitive eating (an approach that I use in my life and nutrition practice every day) are honoring your hunger and making peace with food. Before we can truly honor our fullness and incorporate gentle nutrition, we have to create a foundation of having a neutral relationship with food. You WILL feel an incredible emotional attachment and compulsion towards foods you view as bad or as off-limits—it’s just a natural result.
One way to start making peace with food is identifying food rules and tackling them in increasing order. This can be very helpful in being able to eventually eat freely without any fear or guilt. Doing food challenges is not easy or always fun (that’s why it’s called a challenge), but they can be extremely helpful. As you continually expose yourself to more and more challenging foods, they begin to seem like less of a big deal and more “normal”. Those challenges begin to build trust with your body that you will feed it regularly and what it wants/needs.
It’s very common for my clients to have food rules around desserts or “junk” foods. Sugar seems to be the villain of most diets or health articles and junk food is associated with some sort of moral flaw (FYI: what you eat says nothing about your moral character). Often, my clients have rules like no sweets until after dinner, no sweets/junk food during the week, only desserts made with “natural” sweeteners or grain-free flours, etc., etc. The problem with this is that we know when we create food rules, we automatically desire to break them. It’s the forbidden fruit concept—you want what you can’t have. Remember when you turned down that guy in high school that you really weren’t interested in, and then when he started dating someone else you suddenly wanted to date him? Yeah, it’s that phenomenon. When we tell ourselves that we can’t have dessert until Friday, it increases the desirability of it. We think about dessert all week, look up every dessert recipes online to pick out the best one for the weekend, and then we try to figure out how we can get something sweet in during the week without actually making a “dessert” and breaking our rule (banana ice cream, you’re not really dessert, you’re fruit).
When we get to Friday, we have built up anticipation from an entire week of wanting dessert but not allowing ourselves to eat it. We want dessert REALLY bad. What often ends up happening is that we eat whatever dessert is around because it’s finally the time we are allowed to eat it. You don’t like chocolate chip cookies but still feel the compulsion to eat the entire plate at that party. Or you bake a pan of brownies and end up eating half the pan in one night. Even though our stomach is telling us to stop, our brain is telling us to keep on going because it’s not going to get dessert come Monday. We’ve got to get it in when we can. We end up super full, sluggish, and feeling sick (which then reinforces the belief that desserts/junk food/fill-in-the-blank need to be limited or else we won’t stop eating them).
Instead of forcing ourselves to delay satisfaction until our “allowed” time, honoring our hunger and listening to our cravings in real time allows for us to build confidence around those foods as well as to move on from the craving. You may find that as you start to give your body what it wants when it wants it that your thoughts about food and cravings for “off-limits” foods decrease. You can eat foods that you really enjoy and say no to foods that you don’t.
So, do you find yourself limiting particular foods to certain times of the day or weekend? If so, I would encourage you to challenge those food rules and explore what happens when you do. You just may find that the newfound freedom is “sweet” in more ways than one.
Ashley Smith is a registered dietitian in Tulsa, Oklahoma providing one-on-one nutritional counseling to help clients make food choices that are rooted in freedom and flexibility to promote physical and emotional wellbeing. She loves being active outdoors, spending time with friends, eating good food, and drinking vanilla lattes. You can find Ashley over on her blog, Donut Eating Dietitian and on Instagram!