How can we possibly make peace with food in a world where nutrition advice is constantly changing? How can we see food as just food when new nutritional studies come out that state exactly the opposite of another nutritional study? The answer is to make peace with food. Don't assign moral value to food. Food is just food. Yes food is different but it is all just food.
If you are ready to leave dieting behind forever, then making peace with food is critical. Until you make peace with food you will always be pulled and influenced by what you hear from the dieting world. What you read on the internet about food or what you hear from your friend will dictate what you choose to eat – unless you make peace with food.
So let’s get into it. First off, you may be afraid to make peace with food because the idea that you can eat what you want terrifies you. If you allow yourself to eat ice cream, you’ll eat it all the time and won’t stop, right? Actually, that might happen. And that’s okay! In fact, that is totally normal. But that phase won’t last. I can promise you that if you are paying attention to how your body feels, you won’t eat ice cream all day every day for the rest of your life. After a while it will lose its appeal and you will want to eat something else. Then your eating will even out and you will be able to eat ice cream when you want it, while also enjoying all other foods too. In Intuitive Eating it says, “Habituation studies have shown that the more a person is exposed to a particular food the less appealing it becomes.” (pg. 86). So if you want to make peace with a particular food, the answer is to EAT it.
Or here's another scenario. Maybe you allow yourself you eat ice cream and you discover that you actually don't like it (not sure if that is possible because ice cream is the best thing on earth). Maybe you prefer cake instead. But you won't know that information until you try!
Another great way to make peace with food is to create new experiences with it. When you are ready, try eating one of your “forbidden” foods in a happy place. Go out to eat with a friend, enjoy the food with your daughter, or learn how to make it at home. Create happy experiences around those foods and make connections.
Here are five steps to make peace with food from Intuitive Eating (pg. 90):
1. Pay attention to the foods that are appealing to you and make a list of them.
2. Put a check by the foods you actually do eat, then circle remaining foods that you’ve been restricting.
3. Give yourself permission to eat one forbidden food from your list, then go to the market and buy this food, or order it at a restaurant.
4. Check in with yourself to see if the food tastes as good as you imagined. If you find that you really like it, continue to give yourself permission to buy or order it.
5. Make sure that you keep enough of the food in your kitchen so that you know that it will be there if you want it. Or if that seems too scary, go to a restaurant and order the particular food as often as you like.
Repeat this process until you have evaluated every food on your list.
Making peace with food is ultimately about learning to trust food and your body again. It will take time, but as you expose yourself to all foods and create happy memories around them, you will learn to trust again. You are not the exception. Your body knows what to do when you eat. And then food just becomes food.