geneen roth

Legalize it

The 3rd principle in "10 Principles of Intuitive Eating" is Make Peace with Food. 

As someone who has explored the field of nutrition for the past six years, I know that food is a loaded topic. I know vegans who adhere strictly to their diet for animal rights and ecological reasons. I know people on ketogenic (aka little to no carbohydrates) diets that have quite possibly saved their lives. The Paleo diet sometimes seems as controversial as the latest immigration legislation between Republicans and Democrats. 

Food is absolutely political and charged. So, it's no surprise when I have clients coming to me with years and years of food beliefs deeply ingrained.  "Pizza is bad." "Salads are good." "French fries are bad for you but whole baked potatoes are good." "You shouldn't really eat cookies but you should have smoothies." 

So what do you do? 

 It's not that different from what I told you last week:

EAT.  Legalize it. Make all foods legal. Make all foods neutral. 

Eat the foods that you've forbidden yourself to eat in all your years of dieting. 

For those of you freaking out right now, KEEP READING!

Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch describe this in detail in the their book, Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works

 "Psychologist Fritz Heider stated that depriving yourself of something you want can actually heighten your desire for that very item. The moment you banish a food, it paradoxically builds up a 'craving life' of its own that gets stronger with each diet, and builds more momentum as the deprivation deepens. Deprivation is a powerful experience both biologically and psychologically," (Tribole & Resch, 75).  

In other words, your low-carb diet is like Eve in the Garden of Eden. As long as you can't eat that piece of bread on the Tree of Forbidden Carbohydrates, you will increase your feeling of deprivation and desire for that piece of bread. This will impact you on a biochemical and psychological level.  

The book also describes the "see-saw syndrome" of deprivation and guilt. At a certain point, our willpower runs out and we end up overeating the very thing we've been trying to avoid.  

To banish any guilt or deprivation you might be feeling, here's my story: 

I went on a pretty serious "28 day challenge" where I was eating a vegan, whole foods, no oil, low salt, low sugar diet. And I did it for 27 of those 28 days (one day I indulged with some oil in my vegetable soup), including a small bout of stomach flu. I lost about 5 pounds.

However, I also had a building obsession with macaroni and cheese. Like, it was all I could think about. I tried eating the "28 day challenge" version of it, which tasted good but didn't satisfy me like the genuine, ooey-gooey article. So, at the end of what I later called "Vegan Ramadan," I ate  an inordinate amount of macaroni and cheese,even though my stomach was curdling in response to it. 

I ate SO much macaroni and cheese that I actually gained back a lovely 10 pounds.  (See my other blog post for more information about why diets don't work).

But the truth is, I got over the macaroni and cheese because of a lovely thing Tribole and Resch call, HABITUATION. In laymen's terms, habituation is the process of you eating something so many times that you eventually get sick of it - kind of like the latest Taylor Swift single.

To explain habituation, I love to tell the story I heard from Geneen Roth during my training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN). 

In her lecture, she describes a transformative experience when she went from battling a very serious eating disorder to drawing a line in the sand and choosing never to diet again. She notes that for two weeks she ate nothing but cookie dough.

That's right, folks, she allowed herself to have all the cookie dough she wanted. And you know what she discovered? After those two weeks, she didn't want cookie dough anymore. Her body started to crave salad, fresh fruits and vegetables. 

And that's just it: when you stop treating a vanilla milkshake like Olivia Pope treats the President, you'll actually probably feel less inclined to secretly binge on it. 


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