My Wish for You This Year: Permission to Eat

With each new year comes new diet trends and fitness fads. The collective focus shifts from holiday hustle to New Year’s resolutions, which too often point toward weight loss and other external aesthetics.

The problem is that diets and weight loss goals interfere with our permission to eat intuitively. The weight loss mindset triggers a fear response to food. The perception of what’s “too much” expands, leaving us in a state of deprivation.

My clients who struggle with eating disorders often hear me say, “Permission is the key.” But what does this mean, exactly? The puzzled looks say it all: “If I had full permission to eat, what would stop me from bingeing beyond limits?”

In this blog post, I’m exploring the concept of permission and how it can help you eat intuitively this year.

As a Certified Eating Disorder Dietitian, I see deprivation come in two forms: physiological and psychological.

Physiological Deprivation

There are two common scenarios when physiological deprivation occurs.

The first is when we don’t eat enough calories, creating an energy deficit. When our bodies go into deficit, a mental response is triggered to increase food thoughts. This often results in a loss of control around food, whether it be compulsive picking or full-on bingeing until the energy deficit is repaired. 

The second is when we limit specific macronutrients, such as carbohydrates—a popular target for restriction in recent years. When a specific macronutrient is restricted over time, bingeing on that food typically occurs down the road.

For example, clients who come to me after prolonged periods of CrossFit activity and Paleo dieting suddenly find themselves bingeing on huge amounts of carbohydrates at night. These clients come to me thinking they have a binge eating disorder when, in fact, it’s more often a response to physiological deprivation.

In both scenarios, our bodies react to restriction by overcompensating, whether it’s for general calorie restriction or specific macronutrient restriction.

Psychological Deprivation

Psychological deprivation happens based on our complex belief systems about food.

For example, our society labels foods as “good vs. bad” and “healthy vs. unhealthy.” We hear things like, “carbs are bad” and “don’t eat this” or “don’t eat that.”

The truth is, these belief systems aren’t always based on scientific research or facts. We’re constantly faced with conflicting information, new fads, and false advertising. This can cloud our clarity around what our bodies truly need vs. what we perceive our bodies need.  

My advice to clients is to listen to their bodies. If we listen to our bodies and give ourselves permission to eat, our bodies will free us.

Balance and permission are instrumental to sustainable physiological and psychological well-being.

Permission is the Key

So, what is permission, exactly?

Permission to eat is listening to your inner child and taking cues from what he or she wants to eat.

Permission to eat is respecting your body’s signals of fullness as well as its aversions

Permission to eat is taking a stand for your right to nourish your body as a human being.

Permission to eat is not rebelling against our maddening diet culture by eating only fun foods. It’s taking internal cues and saying “no” to the external ones.

Permission to eat is saying, “yes, I deserve to be alive and live fully, unconditionally, and freely.”

Permission to eat is nourishing yourself with love. Allowing all foods. Listening to every cue your body sends, no matter how subtle. 

Permission to eat is energizing, invigorating, freeing. It’s having ice cream simply because you love it and eating a balanced meal because you love yourself.

Permission to eat is accepting—no matter how hard it may be at times—your body in its natural state and size. Right now.

This year, my wish for you is to stand strong in the face of weight loss sales pitches. Tell them “no” and feel empowered when you say it. Look within yourself for permission to eat. It’s a key that will free you from food and body obsession.