As many of you already know, ending the diet-binge cycle generally starts with not dieting, or what I call allowance around food.
Just the simple act of allowing yourself to eat chocolate cake after years of trying to control yourself around it, may have massively positive consequences on your relationship with food — and most certainly prevents classic binge-eating. After all, you can’t fall off a wagon, if you’re not on one to begin with.
That being said, many women end up continuing to think like dieters, even when trying to legalize specific foods or behaviors, which kinda negates the whole “allowance” thing, and leaves them feeling crazy around food, and probably binge-eating.
I call it emotional deprivation—
…when you physically put previously restricted food into your mouth,
but inside, you’re thinking: “this is wrong! What if I get/stay fat?! I can’t live like this!”
when you “eat what you want”
but feel underlying pangs of guilt, shame or self-judgement,
obsessively worry about weight gain,
or generally feel like you’re doing something wrong with food,
allowance, as a concept, clearly isn’t happening
…regardless of how many double-stuff Oreos you may or may not be putting in your mouth.
You may be eating the food, but that doesn’t mean you’re allowing the food — because you’re not emotionally at peace with your decision.
In other words, there’s a difference between:
Physical allowance (i.e. the physical act of eating Oreos)
Emotional allowance (i.e. the belief that eating Oreos is fundamentally okay, whether I choose to eat them or not).
Physical allowance does little to nothing. Emotional allowance does EVERYTHING.
On the flip side, I know women who physically restrict certain foods, for health reasons, or because those foods don’t feel good in their bodies, and they don’t fall into any “diet-brain” traps because they’re emotionally allowing the food. If you’re curious, what I mean by this check out this post about Intuitive Eating with Medical Restrictions — yet another example of why emotional allowance is really the name of the game in making peace with food.
Lastly, I want to bring up one other tricky pitfall I’ve noticed a few of my clients falling prey to on the topic of allowance…
I occasionally see women physically allowing certain foods (i.e. eating certain foods) in the hopes that they will not want to eat those foods in the future. For example, when women misguidedly attempt intuitive eating for weight loss, they often go through a phase where they eat a ton of previously restricted foods, in the hopes that they’ll one day get sick of that food or won’t want it later on down the line.
I call this “eating to not eat later” — and guess what? It doesn’t usually work.
While it is common to lose interest in foods we once obsessed over when we truly allow ourselves to eat them, we’re probably not emotionally allowing those foods if we’re secretly trying to control some future outcome or hoping to “not want” that food in the future.
In other words, if you’re trying to control or force your behaviors to be different than they are through some manipulation of “allowance”…you’ve missed the point…and joke’s on you.
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