We are heading into the holiday season. This time of year can be the best because of friends, family, and traditions that bring us joy. However, during this time, many also women struggle feeling comfortable around all the food and their personal relationship with it. This year, let’s change that. Let’s talk about five steps to making peace with food.
Before we dive into the five steps, I wanted to explain that these are five steps you can start working on today. You don’t have to wait for the holidays or the treats to start rolling in, because once they do, you’ll wonder if you’ll ever get enough and stop. You might even overeat a time or two and then swear things will be different next time, only to overdo it the next time. So, make time today to start in on the five steps and soon you’ll be making peace with food in ways you didn’t think were possible.
Grab a piece of paper and a pen, or your phone, and make a list of foods that are appealing to you. What foods look good, sound good, taste good? List them all. Write down the foods you eat or wish you could eat. Anything that is appealing to you including treats, candy, etc.! It doesn’t matter how long or short the list might seem to you, just write down what it is that appeals to you!
Now that you have listed all the foods that appeal to you, put a checkmark by all the foods you actually eat, and circle the remaining foods you haven’t allowed yourself to eat. Some of the foods circled could be chocolate, candy, bread, ice cream, cookies, chips, etc., something that you have felt is ‘forbidden’ or is ‘bad’. These foods are not bad. Food has no morality. The purpose of this list is to help you see what you restrict and then work on healing your relationship with that food item one bite at a time. Once you have reviewed your list, it’s time to pick ONE food that you want to have a normal relationship with. Then, proceed to step three.
For me, it was chocolate. All kinds. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. After a binge, I’d put chocolate back on the restricted listed and go a few days or a few weeks without having any. Only to eat a little bit one day and overdo it yet again. So, it was one of the first food items I picked to work on.
Unconditional permission means that there are no conditions or stipulations attached to your permission. There is no “I can eat this now, but then I have to run an extra mile tomorrow.” Or there is no “I can eat this now, but then I can only have a salad for dinner.” Unconditional permission means you can have your food with no ‘buts’ attached to it. You can have some now, you can even have two. Maybe you decide to have one now and another later if you still want more. No strings. No conditions. Just permission.
Now you’re probably excited and nervous at the thought of eating something with no strings attached yet scared you won’t be able to stop. That is normal! Give yourself grace and trust yourself. We are doing this third step in the five steps to making peace with food because these foods might actually taste good … or not as good as we imagined they would. Unconditional permission will help feel more free to explore.
I gave myself permission to eat chocolate whenever I wanted to eat it with no strings attached. No extra workout time. No extra treadmill time. No extra salad or less dinner. Just permission to eat it and enjoy it! And guess what? There were times I felt like I couldn’t stop. But I still continued to give myself unconditional permission to eat the chocolate. I trusted the process. As I did, something amazing started to happen.
Sometimes we eat things just because we always have, or we’re eating it because we think it might eventually taste good. Occasionally, we aren’t really noticing how it tastes at all. This is where savoring comes into play. Take a bite and use your five senses to really experience your food. Your senses will help you key into whether you actually like what it is that you’re eating or not.
Do you remember that list we made in step 1 and all the foods that we circled? This is the step that is going to help you either move those appealing foods you circled to the check marked category, or they’ll be crossed off, and you’ll never have to wonder if they taste good again!
Back to my chocolate story. As I continued to trust the unconditional permission process and checked in with my senses as I ate chocolate, I realized something. I don’t like milk chocolate! It’s too sweet for me. It didn’t matter if it was plain or a three Musketeer, KitKat, Snickers, Milky Way, etc… it was just too sweet. So I listened and started trying darker chocolates. Eventually I found a few I really enjoyed.
These five steps to making peace with food are not easy. Reading them may even seem overwhelming. So let me take a minute and congratulate you on reading this far and give you a virtual HIGH FIVE! You are showing real commitment! This last step is an easy one, so keep reading. You’re almost done.
Once you determine whether or not you like the one food you chose to work on, you either stop eating it (there is no reason to keep eating something you don’t actually like), or you buy more of it. Continue to give yourself unconditional permission and use your senses to savor it each time you eat it. Make sure you keep enough of that food item in your house, so you know it will always be there whenever you want some.
That might seem scary, intimidating even. There is a reason why you should do it. When you restrict or don’t have something available when you want it, all of your thoughts will be consumed by that item until you have it. You may even feel desperate enough to try substituting other foods, hoping you’ll feel satisfied by the substitution you chose. However, with unconditional permission and stock on hand, you can eat the food when you want it and give yourself permission to have another one now, or later, if you want it.
I always keep a stock of Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups in my pantry. That is the only chocolate I have learned really satisfies my chocolate craving needs. It’s the one I can savor, and all five of my sense feel pretty dang happy when I’m done eating it. I may have just made a quick trip to a store and only bought those peanut butter cups to restock.
Having stock is permission. I don’t feel deprived, restricted, or guilty. I feel free, at peace, and comforted knowing that when the desire comes, I have permission to eat chocolate if I want it.
These five steps to making peace with food will take time. Once you finish going through all five steps, head back to step number two and pick out another circled food item. Continue to step three where you give yourself unconditional permission. Keep going through the steps until you feel confident in your new-found relationship with that food. Then, head back to step two again and keep going. Repeat these five steps for however many food items were circled on your list. One day, you won’t have any more items left. You will find that you have a real healthy relationship with food again!
Megan is a wife and mother of two. She developed a love for health and wellness seven years ago and has never looked back. She is a Nationally Board-Certified Health & Wellness Coach with a non-diet focus and teaches Intuitive Eating. When she isn’t coaching and studying, she loves to bake, run, practice yoga and barre, and make lists of all of the things. If you want to learn more about intuitive eating, follow her on Instagram.
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