When Unconditional Permission To Eat Goes Wrong
To eat or not to eat one more slice?
Why can’t you go from “give me one more piece” to “no thanks, maybe later”
With the popularization of intuitive eating, we are increasingly hearing about the famous unconditional permission to eat. Quite simply, it means that you are free to eat what you really want, without the need for authorization, compensation, punishment, fear, or judgment of any kind.
It is a kind of sane freedom, a way of relating to food that values your mental and emotional health, and makes your eating much more enjoyable and possibly healthy.
But it’s not all flowers when we talk about unconditional permission to eat, and it’s about this “dark side” we’re going to talk about today.
The unconditional permission to eat pitfall.
What I see in many people trying to practice intuitive eating is that they hear the sentence “unconditional permission to eat” and interpret it as:
Ice cream? Yes!
Fresh bread? Yes!
Old and hard bread? Yes!
Cardboard taste cookie? Yes!
Tasteless pudding? Yeeees!
Yes for everything! — especially the foods that they have been depriving themselves of for so long.
There is a very big pitfall in this kind of thinking, which we may call permissiveness.
Instead of not listening to your body through restriction or deprivation (saying no to things you want to eat), a new way of ignoring your body, by eating EVERYTHING without criteria, is established.
See, unconditional permission with food doesn’t just mean saying yes to all the foods you’ve said no. It also means saying no thanks, maybe later, and oops, I changed my mind.
You can say YES to the cake.
But you can also decide, after two bites, that you changed your mind. Perhaps it did not live up to your expectations, or you were simply satisfied before eating it all.
Don’t get me wrong. You may need a phase to re-learn what you really enjoy eating, allowing yourself to taste a little of everything, understanding the flavors and how each food talks physically and emotionally with your body.
But it doesn’t have to be a new way of being all or nothing with your food. You don’t have to go from one extreme to the other, always choosing the foods you restricted. These foods will not run away! — and you will no longer have to abstain from eating them, never again.
Reformulating unconditional permission to eat.
Unconditional and total permission with the food is not only about saying yes.
It is also about saying: “maybe later”, “not today”, “just a little bit”, “let me prove it to know if I want some”.
Just saying yes is getting into another kind of autopilot, but this time in rebel mode. Don’t get on autopilot mode, pay attention to what your body has to say.
Sometimes you will say, “YES, give me this cake. Give me two pieces!”
Sometimes you will say “Yes, give me half of that piece of cake.”
And sometimes you will say, “Thank you, this cake looks great, but that’s not what I want to eat now.”
For this to happen, it is critical that you stop eating with your head and start eating with your body.
Unconditional permission with food eliminates judgment and food-related shame. It means you do not have to “earn the right to eat” or “compensate” for what you have eaten. Your body does not need to be monitored or managed.
Making peace with food can be a challenge, but each time you choose to challenge old thinking patterns brings you a little closer to food freedom.
I am a Brazilian girl (living in Sao Paulo with my fiancé — and other 20 million people). I love coffee, books, and good food. I also really enjoy studying and learning new things that allow me to further develop myself both professionally and personally. I have a degree in Food Science and hold a Ph.D. in Agri-food Marketing. In addition, I am a Certified Nutrition Coach and an enthusiastic Nutrition student.
After 15 years of living in war with my body and with food, I found freedom through mindfulness and intuitive eating, practices that allowed me to overcome yo-yo dieting and binge eating.
I’m passionate about helping women rewrite their food and body histories so they feel free and confident to live their lives to the fullest.
There is a power that comes alive when women free themselves from the food prison in which they have learned to live, when they realize that they are capable and deserving of feeling fantastic in their own bodies, and that confidence is a state of mind — not a body lotion which you get the right to use when you reach a weight-loss goal.
My work is dedicated to nurturing, celebrating and sharing this message.