Posts tagged Forbidden Foods
Will Intuitive Eating Stop My Sugar Cravings?

I’ll be honest: most of the clients who come to me want to lose weight (or at least are looking to maintain or “manage” their weight without a restrictive meal plan or eating style.) Weight loss goals must be shelved when pursuing intuitive eating, for even the perception of restriction can compromise your ability to tune in to your internal wisdom and embrace an intuitive approach. This is really intuitive eating pre-work, a mindset shift that must occur for intuitive eating to truly be effective (you know, to experience food freedom.)

But let’s say you’ve done the pre-work to shelve the weight loss goals. Ready, set, go. 

Not so fast.

Even if you’ve shelved the hope of weight loss, it can come up again in the desire to limit “forbidden foods” like cookies, cake, and ice cream by becoming an intuitive eater — which is just another layer of restriction. 

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If restricting sugar doesn’t work, maybe giving myself unconditional permission will, right? 

While intuitive eating is a wonderful tool for reducing the charge associated with some of your favourite (off-limits) foods, it doesn’t mean you’ll eat fewer of them or enjoy them any less. 

If you’re embarking on or are currently working your way through intuitive eating in the hopes that one day, when you are cured of your dieting ways, you will be completely satisfied eating carrots and hummus, never dare dreaming of those to-die-for chocolate chip cookies at the coffee house down the street, I have three words for you: hold up, homeslice.

What do you hope you will gain by limiting your sugar intake? 

For some people, this desire to stop “eating so much sugar” arrives in the guise of health. We've been conditioned to believe the every bite of chocolate, every nibble of donut, and every spoonful of ice cream is slowly leading to disease and killing us. 

While all nutritional information or recommendations necessitate context to be of any real value, even the World Health Organization — who lean more conservative when it comes to sugar consumption — deem deriving up to 10% of your daily energy needs from added sugar to be safe. Translation: you can enjoy dessert every day, allowing your cravings and food interests to guide the way.

The notion that every food choice is healing or harming oversimplifies a terrifically complicated interaction. 

Keep in mind the root word of disease literally stems from desaise (Old French), meaning discomfort, distress. This unease isn’t limited to the physical realm, but applies equally to the psychological. If you spend more time stressing over the chocolate cake than eating it, talking about how you’re going to compensate for the chocolate bar you ate too quickly to enjoy, or overthinking the potato chips you ate at last night’s party, it’s time to consider your mental state in the maintenance of good health.

For other people, the desire to limit sugary foods while intuitive eating is more covert. Diet culture can be super sneaky, and you may find the desire for weight loss pops up wearing different clothes (such as in concerns over sugar consumption.) 

I say this with a lot of compassion.

It’s tough work to give up the trappings of diet culture and embrace the wild world of intuitive eating when diets have provided so much safety and comfort for so long. But it’s also important to unpack what diet culture has (or hasn’t) provided you with, and how you can get your needs met in a deeper way. 

Ultimately, though, intuitive eating may or may not lead to a diminished desire for sugar. What’s possible is that by developing a healthier relationship with sugar you will feel less out of control around the office cookie jar, actually enjoy the chocolate you do eat, and have that coffee shop pastry on Saturday morning without post-experience guilt and shame. 

While you may sometimes want more “nutritious” foods over fun foods, this can’t be the goal of intuitive eating. In the same way that work must be balanced with play (or time off) to prevent burnout and promote self-care, it’s completely natural to want to balance intake of nutritious foods with a steady supply of pleasurable foods. Prioritizing extrinsic values — like needing or expecting your eating to look a certain way to feel okay — will interfere with your ability to connect with your internal wisdom and ultimately come to a place of self-acceptance regarding yourself and your body.




Three Questions to Ask to Stop Feeling Guilt and Shame Over “Bad” Foods

Whether you’re new to intuitive eating, deeper into learning about the non-diet approach, or at a different stage of your eating disorder recovery, it’s very possible you still feel guilt or shame about — or judge — the foods you’re eating. This can feel especially irritating if you’ve embraced body positivity and intellectually know restriction — or holding on to the diet mentality — isn’t serving you. 

Guilt and shame around “forbidden” foods is one of the most common conflicts I address in my nutrition practice. And you know what? It has nothing to do with the food. 

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An apple and potato chips would be morally neutral if it weren’t for diet culture’s interventions. Moving away from restrictive tendencies and toward a more liberated approach to food requires vigilant questioning and criticism of the diet industry and its trappings. Who decides what’s “healthy”? How have I come to my beliefs about food? Why do I feel like eating multiple servings of a “forbidden” food is too much? What’s wrong with enjoying a chocolate bar? 

Dissolving judgment, guilt, and shame around food takes ample time, and isn’t easy or straightforward, here’s 3 questions to start asking yourself to make peace with food. 

1. How do I believe my feelings are benefitting me? 

When we speak about judgment, guilt, and shame about food, chances are good we’re talking about judgment, guilt, and shame about body. If you’re unsure if this is true, ask yourself this: If I totally loved my body and how it gets received in the world, would I care about the double cheese pizza I’m eating right now

I want you to get really curious: are you holding on to your thoughts and beliefs about food because you feel they’re benefitting you in some way? Maybe you feel a distinct charge around “carbs” because you believe they will lead to weight gain (false), or around sugar because you’re inherently “addicted” (no such thing.) 

If you are still trying to manipulate your body size or shape in some form or another — even in subtle ways — they can lead to feelings of guilt and shame around food. While food exposure therapy can be helpful at normalizing “forbidden” foods, deeper body image work and fat acceptance are necessary for completely neutralizing the charge. Fully recovering from diet culture and disordered eating requires complete acceptance of your natural body. 


2. What’s consistent about the foods I carry negative feelings for? 

We can get so caught up in the diet mentality bubble that we often miss its trappings. It’s important to question — and keep questioning — your beliefs and reactions about food. What’s similar about the foods you’re reacting to? Are you always eating these “forbidden foods” at the same time? In the same way?

It’s helpful to look at your food and eating patterns. Are there certain food groups that provoke a deeper reaction from you than others? Do you feel safe around fat, but not around sugar? What sorts of messages are you exposed to on a regular basis? Which foods are demonized at your office? In the room? Within your friend groups? 

Food exposure therapy doesn’t just happen at the table. It happens out in the world.

3. What do I think about when I’m eating these foods?

Do donuts remind you of anyone or anything? What about French fries? In the same way that certain foods carry positive connotations — enjoying fresh-picked raspberries with your grandmother, for example, or savouring an ice cream cone with your best friend on a hot summer’s day — we also carry more negative food experiences with us (I’m looking at you, negativity bias). Are those negative moments making it tough to neutralize certain foods? 

It’s important to look at the framework around the foods you feel guilt or shame toward. In my professional experience, the medium can be as important as the message. 

Now, I want to know: which of the three questions above do you find the most helpful? Does one resonate more than the others?

Are you "addicted" to food or just deprived?

“I’m addicted to chocolate.”

“Cheese is my weakness.”

“I can’t stop eating almond butter.”

“Candy is irresistible.” 

“Can’t eat just one.”

When we talk about the foods we love, do you ever notice how Puritanical we get? These are all phrases that suggest we can’t control ourselves around the foods we love (and we need to be controlled.

While we can “feel” addicted to foods, clinical food addiction just isn’t a thing at this time. Even MSG-laden Chinese take-out, loaded ketchup chips, or Haribo tangfastics (my personal favourite…please send). Of course we love these foods, but it is very natural to eat and enjoy delicious foods — not pathological. 

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In contrast, diet culture and its symptoms, like weight suppression, food restriction, over-exercise, and so on, are pathological and have well-studied psychological and physiological consequences. 

Adhering to diet culture feels good because being thin or performing thinness upholds the status quo. Because thinness is idealized, being thin or doing “thin things” — like hitting the gym, drinking green smoothies, or "working on our gut health” — helps us to feel superior. Except dieting requires restriction by its very definition — either physiological or psychological — and scarcity leads us to feel “addicted” to food.

Allowing ourselves to fully enjoy and savour food feels foreign and wrong because we’re rebelling against the very system trying to keep us in our place

But by denying diet culture and working toward food freedom, you offer yourself the opportunity to move away from food and body preoccupation.

To reject diet culture’s trappings and dissolve feelings of “addiction”, I’ve isolated 2 types of food deprivation (restriction) that must be worked through:

#1. ABSENCE OF “OVERT” PERMISSION.

Overt permission is superficial and involves three main points: a) eating what you want, b) when you want, c) in the quantity you want. 

You may feel that if you “allow” yourself to eat cookies whenever you want that you will never choose another snack, or if you let yourself just have the lasagna or macaroni and cheese you’ll never choose anything other than pasta. But habituation theory suggests otherwise: eventually, you’ll tire of these foods (yes, even of your favourite foods!) and opt for something else. Humans are hard-wired for variety, so even if it seems this way, it’s because you’ve been living within a restrictive framework — not because these foods are inherently addictive. Remember that bingeing, overeating, and other “problematic” behaviours are reactions to restriction, not to permission. 

In short: connect with your internal wisdom and let yourself eat what it is you desire, eat to satisfaction (don’t go hungry or intentionally under-eat), and allow yourself to eat when you want (whether you’re hungry again two hours after breakfast, want a snack at 9pm, or just feel like having popcorn with the movie you’re watching.) 

#2. ABSENCE OF “AUTHENTIC” PERMISSION. 

Authentic (and unconditional) permission goes deeper. In my experience, it also takes more practice and time to grasp and implement. 

Let’s say you’re eating what you want, when you want, and in the amount you desire. Yet you’re still bingeing or generally feel out of control around and obsessed with food. 

Let’s talk about how you’re eating and what you’re thinking. 

Many people who believe they are practicing unconditional permission are actually self-sabotaging. Eating in secret — hiding food, only eating certain foods when you’re alone, hiding wrappers or containers — is a subtle form of restriction. 

And even though intellectually you may know you are allowed to eat what you want, it takes time for our emotions to catch up. This may explain why you still feel guilt and/or shame when eating certain foods, for you believe you should not be eating them. With time and practice (and help from me, if you like!) you can begin to integrate the lessons and eat without shame or guilt.

Let me know in the comments: do you engage in overt or subtle forms of restriction?