• Renee Little, R.D.

Making Peace With Food

It's been a while since I have created a blog post so I thought I would use sometime this week to put together a blog post and answer a few questions I've received. Lately the questions have focused on Principle 3 of Intuitive Eating: Making Peace with Food. I'm going to share who it's for, what it is and how I approach it in my practice.

What is making peace with food & who is it for?

Making peace with food is the process of allowing all foods into your diet. It is a method of healing from dieting and food restriction. You would benefit from this process if you are currently restricting foods or if you are allowing previously restricted foods but are finding you're eating them in really large quantities and feeling quite uncomfortable.

What is Food Restriction?

Food restriction is not allowing yourself to eat foods because you label them as "bad foods" or "junk food." Many diets and will demonize or restrict certain types of foods such as processed carbohydrates, all carbohydrates, fruit, any kind of chips or candy or chocolate. These foods can become very feared or put in a "not allowed" category in our minds.

Restriction may result in having some fear around these foods or feeling a lack of control around them.

A lack of control with these foods could look like trying to avoid ice cream, then buying ice cream and eating the entire pint of ice cream at one sitting in the evening after dinner meal (and not wanting to). As a result a high level of fullness and feeling unwell may follow. Restriction can be both mental and physical. Mental restriction includes allowing a food and then having thoughts of guilt or shame such as "I shouldn't eat this."

Turning Restriction into Ease

Making peace with food is the process of neutralizing the restricted foods. This involves discussion and action to remove the "good" and "bad" food dichotomy. In the end the restricted foods are ultimately treated just like any other foods in our diet.

My process of making peace with food

I walk clients through the process of making peace with food as part of our work together because it can be challenging to navigate on their own. I have a four-part process which is not formally structured. This is simply a few things I have in mind when I'm working with clients and we're starting this process.

1. Eating enough & often enough

One of the fist things I do with client's is to make sure that food intake is adequate. This includes eating enough food and eating often enough to meet basic nutrition needs. The reason that I start with this is because hunger can interfere with making peace with food and interrupt building trust with forbidden foods.

2. Create a list of forbidden/ restricted Foods

Usually at the same time I'm providing guidance on eating adequate amounts of food I am also starting to create a list of foods that are restricted or forbidden. This might include foods which are avoided when shopping or are purchased very rarely because of the fear of loss of control. It can also include foods which may be in the house often but are actively avoided because of fear of weight gain.

3. Challenging restricted foods

The third step is challenging those foods. Some foods may feel more feared and some less. As an example some individuals are restricting chips, ice cream , Jujubes , chocolate , pizza and pasta. They may fear ice cream the most and be pretty ok with having chocolate. We may then start to challenge chocolate if there is a lot of hesitation or uncertainty. The individual will pick one forbidden food and starting to introduce that foods into the regular meals and snacks in a way which is transparent to others in the home/ family. As trust increases, food which are more feared can be incorporated.

4. Support for emotions and thoughts

The 4th step is talking about the emotions and thoughts which arose as a result of adding forbidden these foods into the regular diet. Most of the time when adding these foods, emotions of excitement and fear may arise. In my appointments, I allow space and time to talk about those emotions and thoughts and will make a plan as to how the individual can feel supported throughout the process.

I want my client's to feel very supported throughout this process and to go at a pace which feels comfortable for them. This process is also about feeling bit of discomfort. The discomfort will come from challenging past food beliefs and healing from restriction.

The Goals of Making Peace with Food

The end game with making peace with food is to help my client's feel more ease and ultimately feel a sense of freedom around those foods which they previously restricted. It's really interesting what happens when control is released around these foods. These foods become less important and have a decrease in emotion attached to them. These foods can then be enjoyed without guilt or shame.