Hello! Still alive here! Last week I decided to take a week off blogging, as I just needed to slow down before a couple hectic weeks of client work, classes, travel, and having a dietetics intern complete a rotation with me. Plus, I just wasn’t feeling that whole writing thing last week.
And frankly, I’m still not feeling up to writing write now, but I wanted to put out some fresh content for you. So, I’m sharing a topic I wrote about on my newsletter last week - apologies if you’re getting a double dose on permission! And if not, go and sign up for my newsletter already! Just enter your email into the box on the right hand column, and you’ll also get access to an intuitive eating video series I created.
A few weeks ago, I shared a few instagram posts on gentle nutrition. I got a lot of comments and questions from people who were trying to experiment with gentle nutrition, but feeling frustrated with never making the “healthy” choice when faced with a decision like eat the cookies or don’t eat the cookies, or order the burger or the salad.
This is one of those cases where the answer is in the question. If you’re going into a choice with the mindset that one decision is better than the other, then you’re not giving yourself full permission.
I often like to distinguish physical restriction of food from emotional restriction of food. Physical restriction is what happens when one is physically restricting the amount or specific types of food, for example, by calorie counting or cutting out food groups. Most people are pretty familiar with how that can lead to an overeat/restrict pattern of eating. But there’s another kind of restriction called emotional restriction, which can have the same effect. Emotional restriction occurs when you’re physically allowing yourself to have a food, but think of it as bad, fattening, or unhealthy. So even if you’re eating the food, it may lead to a sense of shame that interferes with your ability to have a peaceful relationship with the food. For example, let’s say you’ve bought a pint of ice cream in an attempt to give yourself permission with it. But you are keeping it in your freezer thinking “I MUST MAKE THIS ICE CREAM LAST AT LEAST A WEEK BECAUSE BECAUSE ICE CREAM IS FULL OF SUGAR AND IS FATTENING AND I BETTER NOT EAT TOO MUCH OF IT AT ONCE.” I’m gonna guess that ice cream will be gone in 24 hours.
While I applaud you (and you should applaud yourself!) for doing something scary like giving yourself even partial permission to eat a food that used to be off-limits, you should know that it will be hard to make a that decision without diet mentality influencing the outcome if the choices are not viewed as morally equivalent.
Of course, that’s easier said that done. You don’t make peace with food overnight, so that means that probably for a time you’re going to be making decisions about food that are at least partially influenced by diet mentality. That might mean eating a few more cookies and pizza slices and bowls of ice cream than usual. It’s okay. You’ve got the rest of your life to eat more vegetables. Gentle nutrition can wait. Keep giving yourself that partial permission, and notice how each time you’re faced with a similar decision, it gets a little less scary.
In the meantime, you can slowly work on moving towards giving yourself full permission with food. To do that, it’s helpful to work on unlearning some of the not so accurate/overblown nutrition advice you get from diet culture - that’s one place where working with an intuitive eating dietitian is helpful. I also love asking the question, “what would I do if I felt OK with my body.” This helps you practice making a decision outside of diet mentality.
With time, you’ll eventually get to a place where either choice is valid and OK, and you’ll feel confident with your choice whether it’s ordering the burger or the salad. Remember, intuitive eating isn’t always making the most nutritionally sound choice, it’s making the choice that honors what feels physically and mentally best for you in the moment, and giving yourself the grace to know that sometimes you’ll miss the mark.
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