Ever had a food that you just COULD NOT trust yourself around? Just smelling that food would leave you obsessing about it, craving it? And then, what if you actually let yourself have some of that food? Oh, boy – Hold me back, I’d go crazy and definitely eat it until I felt uncomfortable afterwards. Ugh… It sounded like fun in the beginning… indulging in the “taboo” food. But, it never turned out that way in the end.
Now, first of all… This is NOT a post about food being good or bad. I just want to lay that out there.
But, this IS a post about how allowing yourself unconditional permission to eat results in an emotionally NEUTRAL response for that food. Stick with me and I’ll explain all about it.
Habituation… a decrease in response to a stimulus after repeated presentations.
What does that have to do with food, you might ask? Excellent question!
When you are stuck in the restrict, crave and overeat cycle, your exposure to the restricted food is surrounded by heightened energy. Just imagine that after weeks of restricting sugar and you finally allow yourself to have a cookie or some baked good that you love and crave. Once you have that cookie, the emotional response is much higher and there is a lot of excitement.
But what happens if you continue to allow yourself to have that food, even allowing yourself unconditional permission to eat it whenever you want?
The excitement lessens with each experience with the food. When you eat it over and over again, it simply loses its appeal. There is a great deal of scientific research on this concept and it is described as a form of neurobiological learning as eating the same food actually decreases your behavioral and physiological responses. This is the reason that leftovers are less appealing than the first time that you ate the meal.
Habituation happens in many situations, not just with food. The first time your spouse tells you that they love you it is wonderful, almost magical. Over time, even though it is still great, it does not have the same emotional response as it once did.
Now, the purpose of allowing yourself unconditional permission to eat is not to burn yourself out on a food that you love. But, rather, its just to allow your body to get to a neutral emotional response to that food. This process results in allowing you to enjoy the food, but not binge or overindulge in the food as a result of restricting and craving it.
For example, when I have done this process with foods that I restricted in the past (diet soda, chocolate, etc) I still enjoy those foods on a somewhat regular basis. I’m not burned out with those foods. But I am able to consume them in a much more mindful manner. I don’t crave them anymore. I’ve also noticed that a much smaller amount will satisfy me. And… to be honest, the taste is better in the moment.
This is a process that I work clients through. It is work, but it is worth it! Join me and set up a free mini-session to start this process for yourself!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I’m a certified Intuitive Eating Counselor and NASM Certified Personal Trainer, and the owner and creator of Spendlove Coaching.
My own wellness journey led me to getting my Master’s Degree in Health and Wellness Coaching from Creighton University – Go Blujays!
I help my clients discover that they are the experts of themselves. Using the tools learned inside my program and during coaching sessions, clients learn how to shift their mindset, taking back the power they have lost to dieting and diet culture