Nine years ago I stood in our bathroom staring down at positive pregnancy test. Once I got over the shock of finding out I was unexpectedly pregnant [I’d been told by my Doctors I’d have difficulty getting pregnant due to my issues with amenorrhea], the reality of the situation settled: I was bulimic and I had a baby growing inside me.
In that moment I made a bargain with myself: no matter what I ate or how much I wouldn’t purge, not for nine months. And if after nine months I wanted to go back to being bulimic and restrictive to lose the baby weight then so be it.
I decided that I’d accept the weight gain.
I would leave behind that strict rules I constructed about what food I could and couldn’t eat [which often led to binging on “forbidden foods.”]
I would just have to SIT with everything that I ate, no matter how much.
Ultimately, I gave myself UNCONDITIONAL PERMISSION to eat.
I heard the phrase “unconditional permission” for the first time last week while listening to the Funk’tional Nutrition Podcast. That phrase gave a name to what I had done, that bargain I made with myself, wasn’t really a bargain it was permission.
Granting myself that permission was relief. It marked an end to over a decade of rigid food rules I’d forced myself to adhere to.
When I gave myself permission I didn’t have to always order salad. I didn’t have to scrape off the butter. I could have a bagel. I didn’t have to just eat lean chicken, I could eat steak and burgers. I could have cheese and whole milk yogurt. I didn’t have to order the dressing on the side.
As I slowly began to unpack the years of disordered eating I was able to find my way to intuitive and mindful eating. I stopped studying nutrition labels. I ate what I craved, when I craved it. I stopped trying to find lower calorie, lower sugar or lower fat substitutes for what I really wanted. I tried to choose nourishing foods, but if I didn’t feel like choosing the “nourishing” option I’d have what sounded most appealing.
The thing that had kept me locked-in to those food rules for all those years had been fear. Fear that if I gave myself unconditional permission that I’d balloon to an obscene weight. When I faced up to that fear and finally started to do what my mind and body wanted the opposite happened. Instead of gaining weight, my body found a happy medium. Honoring what I craved turnout to be the best decision I ever made.
Over the past nine years I’ve given myself unconditional permission to eat and drink whatever I want [their was a brief foray into Paleo, but that didn’t last too long]. Removing the rules and granting myself permission allowed me to tune into my bodies cues for hunger and satiety. Becoming in-tune with those feelings ultimately led to intuitive and mindful eating; I am aware and educated in regards to what will nourish and fuel my body, but I am also keenly aware of my bodies cravings, desires and wants even if those don’t provide “optimal nutritional benefit.” The short of it: if I want a cookie, I eat the damn cookie (or two, or three…and not some health-ified version of a cookie either) without guilt.
Unconditional Permission & Athletic Goals
I’ve grappled with this idea for a while: the compatibility of “unconditional permission to eat” and fine tuning your eating habits for a specific athletic goal. It is an INCREDIBLY fine line to walk and one that easily can put you in the land of disordered eating, which is why I believe that only after you have granted yourself unconditional permission and mastered intuitive eating can you begin to look at and tweak the way you eat.
I think the healthiest way to approach this idea of unconditional permission and athletic goals is in conjunction with training cycles and planned off seasons. I really believe that our eating and exercise needs to ebb and flow with the demands and stressors of life; there are seasons for everything and nothing should be sustained for a prolonged period of time. I shouldn’t sustain the rate of alcohol and cheese consumption I practice during the holidays and I also shouldn’t try to sustain the intense training and higher mileage that comes while preparing for a goal race.
But before we bring any change to our food choices, we first have to give ourself unconditional permission, remove the guilt and let go of the fear.
Do you give yourself unconditional permission?
Or do you drink the white wine because it has less calories than that porter you really would like to try?
When you order the soup and salad do you swap out the baguette for an apple, even though you really want the baguette?
Do you ignore entire sections of a menu because you feel like you have to order the salad instead of the pasta?
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Email: RunFarGirl [at] gmail [dot] com