When I tell people that I don’t eat chocolate, their expression goes from shock to sympathy within seconds. When I explain why, the shock transforms into understanding, but the sympathy remains. Chocolate is the classic comfort food, but my body does not seem to like it much. Because I am choosing to not consume this food, does that mean I’m restricting and back to my old dieting ways?
I bring this up because dieting comes with countless rules and many Intuitive Eating newcomers think that IE’s “rule” is to allow yourself to eat anything. Every food is fair game. When this “rule” is implemented, newcomers sometimes feel a sense of restriction when they avoid a food because their body is saying “no”. I want to take some time to examine the connection (or lack of connection) between restriction and food that your body does not appreciate.
Let’s start this off with a little background! My relationship with chocolate changed when I was around 8 years old. I was getting stomach pains in the evening on a regular basis, so my mother took me to the doctor to figure out what was going on. I got poked and prodded, but the doctor couldn’t find anything glaringly wrong, so he suggested I begin eliminating certain foods from my diet to see what could be the cause of my distress. Over the next several appointments, we tried dairy-free and then staying away from acidic foods like orange juice. That didn’t seem to help, so laying off of caffeine was the next suggestion. Although I was a bit disappointed, that seemed to help. Apparently, over the course of the day the cumulative effect of my caffeine intake caused stomach upset. So from that point forward, I had to limit all things caffeinated including chocolate, Coke, and coffee.1
Things were going pretty smoothly until one day I overdid it. While visiting my aunt and uncle, I lost track of what I was eating because I was having so much fun. I remember enjoying some Coke and chocolate covered macadamia nut candy, but the quantities must have been more than I thought because I paid for it that evening. And I don’t just mean an upset tummy. Nope! The toilet bowl and I were best friends for a while there. The experience was so intense that I began to associate all foods with caffeine2 with nausea and vomit. Needless to say, my foray into playing with my caffeine sensitivity came to an end really quickly. I have not knowingly consumed caffeine since then.
So, am I still on a diet if I decide to not consume caffeinated foods like chocolate? Let’s talk about restriction for a moment. The purpose of restricting while on a diet is to limit your food as a way to change the way your body looks. You want a flatter stomach, smaller hips, and leaner thighs. The purpose of restriction does not have anything to do with how your body tolerates food. If that’s the case, then is it restriction if you choose to stay away from a certain food that your body disagrees with? I say no. Here’s why:
- Your body is speaking to you, so listen. If your body is screaming “NOOO!” every time you consume a certain food, then that’s your body’s way of saying that it’s being harmed in some way. It’s like if my knee hurts from running, I stop because the pain is my body’s signal to me that something is wrong. Your body is telling you to stop eating a certain food by giving you a stomachache, heartburn, gas, etc. I actually feel it’s quite intuitive to listen to these signals!
- You are performing an act of self-care when you choose to not eat a food that disagrees with you. Honor your body by being gentle and kind to it.
- Would you fault someone for staying away from dairy if that person was lactose intolerant? Probably not, so give yourself the same consideration. You may be sensitive to certain foods and that’s okay.
But what if you keep thinking “It tastes so good though!” One of the hard lessons for me was that some food may taste good immediately, but it doesn’t make me feel good in the long run. When starting IE, I wanted to legalize greasy foods like french fries, so, like the IE book recommended, I gave myself permission to eat them. Oh, they were so good in the moment…but I felt awful within a few hours! After several rounds of this, I realized that I needed to decide if the experience of eating french fries was worth the discomfort. I looked at the big picture and realized that maybe staying away from french fries was best for me. Sure, I still pick a few off of my husband’s plate every now and then, but, for the most part, I stay away from french fries in large quantities.
I don’t see a food as “bad” or “good” but as whether or not my body appreciates it or not.3 I allow myself to eat any food I want, but I can also allow myself to say “no” to any food that doesn’t work for my body. I look at the cost of consuming a food and that helps me decide whether or not to eat it. And ya know what? Sometimes I eat it anyway because I want to. I just know that I may be uncomfortable for a bit afterwards and I accept that. Choosing what I consume is not restriction. It is me honoring my body and being an intuitive eater.
What food does your body appreciate or not appreciate? Please share in the comment section below.
2Including my beloved chocolate!
Thank you so much for reading my blog! I am honored that you chose to read about my experience.
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