You’ve heard about moderation and balance, and maybe you’ve even tried to have no “off-limits” foods, but only ended up eating too much and feeling out of control.
Turns out, we need balance in the way we approach food to keep food itself in the right context.
Keep reading to learn the key to making “all foods fit” and have it work for you.
All Foods Fit: No Off-Limits Foods – How it Can Work For You
Many people, when they hear me say “all foods fit,” their first thought is, “That’s impossible, you wouldn’t be healthy.”
And based on what our culture tells us, it’s really hard to reconcile the idea of all foods being acceptable and the concept of good health. But it is possible, with this secret:
You need unconditional permission to eat all foods with attunement.
This sounds super simple, and actually, it’s really complex, pretty big, and kind of hard to do, especially given the environment we live in.
So I’m going to unpack and introduce these things here. (Obviously, there’s a lot more than what I can cover in a post of any comfortable size, so if you’re interested in more, feel free to reach out.)
What does this statement even mean?
Let’s take a look at the two parts:
- unconditional permission to eat
- with attunement
“Unconditional permission to eat” means…
Eating enough food, based on the internal cues of your body.
Enough to make you satisfyingly full, not just “not hungry” (there’s a difference).
It’s based on internal hunger and fullness signals, not on how many calories something has, or what else you’ve eaten (or not eaten). It’s not about what someone else says is the “right amount” but what’s right based on your body.
There are times when things (like stress, lack of sleep, illness, etc) affect our internal signals or our ability to sense them, but for the most part, eating enough means eating however much is needed in that moment to make your body satisfied.
Understanding that you can eat any food you want.
There are no good or bad foods.
One food won’t instantly make you healthy or unhealthy.
You, as a person, aren’t worth any more or any less based on your food choices, or the way you choose to eat.
You don’t have to “make up for” foods you eat.
Food is a basic human right.
When we deny ourselves (or others) food, we’re putting restrictions on our body, ourselves, and our minds, and that affects the way we interact with and approach our food.
We’re really good at giving ourselves “halfway permission.”
“Oh yes,” people tell me (and themselves), “I have unconditional permission to eat. I can eat whatever I want…”
…on my cheat days
…on the weekends
…on vacation, because calories don’t count on vacation
…because I’ve been good all day
…because my diet gives me 100 calories to eat anything I want
…because I’m about to work out (or just worked out)
…between 4 and 6pm on every other Friday
We come up with all kinds of reasons, some more obvious than others. But if we have any condition on when (or whether) we can eat something, that’s not unconditional.
And it doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person, that you failed at intuitive eating, or that it’s all your fault. It means that the diet mentality so prevalent in our culture is extra tricky. It makes us think that if we’re giving ourselves a temporary half-way break, it must be okay to police our food and remain on our diets the rest of the time.
Food is a basic right. You don’t need to earn your food.
Many of our conditions are about “earning” our calories or our food. Anything that gives us only temporary permission to indulge, or even gives that feeling that we’re indulging, is a potential red flag.
Because it’s not an indulgence, it’s just food.
The goal is to get to a place where all foods are emotionally equivalent.
Even if we say, “I’m choosing to eat this food and be fine about it,” if there’s a feeling that we “have to do better next time,” or guilt that creeps in around the edges as we’re enjoying the food, that may be a warning sign that the diet mentality is still hanging around, telling us we have to earn it.
In the book Intuitive Eating, Tribole and Resch have a great quote about what happens when people only give themselves partial permission to eat (they call it pseudo-permission):
“Although physically eating the food, they were emotionally depriving themselves in the future. And so the cycle perpetuates. Pseudo-permission does not work–it’s only an illusion. Your mouth may be chewing, but your mind is saying, ‘I shouldn’t.’ Your mind is still on a diet.”
This is a long process that takes time, but the goal is that eventually we might all be able to give ourselves (and each other) unconditional permission to eat.
“With attunement” means…
Remembering that the tongue isn’t the only important part of the body
I realize it sounds like I’m saying, “You can eat whatever you want, whenever you want, however much you want!”
To be clear, you can do that, because it’s your personal choice, but it’s not what I’m talking about, because there’s a difference.
I’m actually talking about the fact that you have unconditional permission to eat anything you want, but part of attunement is keeping in mind that “the tongue isn’t the only important part of your body” (another great quote from Tribole and Resch). Your tongue, your stomach, your body, your mind, your preferences and desires… all of that is in alignment with each other.
I want to pay attention to these things before, during, and after eating, to see how my food affects me. For example, how do I feel, do I have more energy, does it give me a stomachache, do I feel tired, do I enjoy the taste, etc.
How can we tell if a choice is in alignment?
One of the questions that’s helped me the most in my own journey to becoming more of an intuitive eater is:
“What’s the most nourishing thing I can do for me, right now?”
It might be meeting a physical need with food. Maybe I’m really hungry and I know I could choose ice cream, but instead I choose to eat something bigger because I’m “meal hungry,” and eating enough ice cream to make me feel full would also make me feel sick.
Or maybe I choose to eat the ice cream, and it’s exactly what I wanted, and then I stop when I’m satisfied, because I know I can always get more.
(That’s one benefit of unconditional permission to eat: I don’t need to eat beyond what will satisfy now, because I can get more at any time. The more we restrict, the more we’re likely to binge and to get that uncontrolled feeling around specific foods)
It might be meeting an emotional need that I don’t want to meet with food. Maybe I choose to do something else to care for myself, like read a book, go for a walk, listen to music, or talk with a friend.
How this all fits with health
Research shows there are certain patterns of eating that are more helpful for managing certain diseases, and for feeling the best in our bodies, etc, but that doesn’t mean we all have to jump into that right now. These are averages and guidelines. We don’t need to do them perfectly every day, because things will balance out.
In fact, intuitive eaters, people who have this unconditional permission to eat with attunement, naturally meet more of the nutrition guidelines than those who don’t have this approach to food.
But balance in the food we eat isn’t the only important thing. Balance in our approach to our food is equally, if not more, important. When our relationship with food is solid and healthy, food and nutrition guidelines can be in the right context.
Context is everything.
If we’re not at a place in our relationship with food where we can take health guidelines and hold them as relaxed, gentle guidelines, we may not be ready for “healthy eating.”
And that’s okay. If we start too early, healthy eating becomes just another diet holding us captive.
For many of us, it’s more important to focus first on our relationship with food–the way we interact with it, the reasons we eat certain food–more than exactly what we eat.
A healthy relationship with food means food isn’t The Most Important Thing.
(Yes, I’m a dietitian telling you there may be more important things than what we eat. Gasp!)
For example, there’s research suggesting our stress about what we eat may be more detrimental than what eating “unhealthy” foods. And other research suggests having healthy connections with other people may be more important to long life than eating well.
Also, from a quality of life perspective… I don’t want to be so controlled by what my next meal is going to be, or planning out exactly what and when I’ll eat.
I want a life that’s bigger than food.
I want that freedom for you too. I hope you dare to dream bigger than your food. I hope you imagine a life and future for yourself where you can be fully present in the things you’re choosing to do.
A life where all foods fit, where you’re enjoying unconditional permission to eat with attunement, and where you feel more in control of your eating.
It can be tricky. Build strong walls.
Keeping the guidelines in the right context, eating with unconditional permission and attunement, all of that is really tricky when we have a world that shouts lies at us (like we need to be on a diet, we need to be skinny, we need to eat a certain way).
If you’re going to go in this direction, you’ll need strong boundary walls. The world’s messages are going to push and push and push, and you need to be able to push back.
As you build those walls around you, get support and resources.
There are resources like professionals who can help you build up those walls and equip you with the tools you’ll need to do this yourself. For example, I’m a dietitian and certified intuitive eating counselor. You could look up a list of certified intuitive eating counselors, or a Health at Every Size (HAES, sounds like “haze”) practitioner who will help you with a non-diet, weight-neutral approach as you stand firm against all these things coming in.
And there’s support groups, other people exploring on this journey with you, who can help you hold these walls up while you build them yourself, to give you encouragement when you feel your walls crushing in and need support to hold them up.
You’re going against the flow. The world says we’re not enough the way we are. Intuitive eating and HAES say you can learn to trust your body, and you can train it to give you those signals if you lost them. You’ll figure this out. It may be a tough process, but you’re not alone. 💕
If you want to see if it’d be a good fit to work with me, I have a Christmas special right now and it’s only good until the end of December. This is the best deal that I have right now, with one full year of support including the bonuses.
Imagine this: in 2019, you could have an entire year full of support around making all foods fit work for you, around holding a body positive approach where we support your here-and-now body and whatever body you naturally end up in.
I’m so excited that you’re reading this right now, and want to support you in intuitive eating and living fully and freely!
If you’re interested in seeing what this might be like, take the next step and check out the information on the Christmas 2018 Holiday Package, then connect with me for a free conversation about whether this is going to be a good fit for you and your needs right now.
Let’s see if we can work together to bring that bigger dream to reality in 2019 and beyond!
Check out the Christmas 2018 Holiday Special, available for a limited-time only!
Leave a comment! Is there anything in your life that’s unconditional? What does that feel like?