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The first step in intuitive eating is to believe that you’re entitled to any food that will not harm you physically—those to which you aren’t allergic or sensitive and which don’t give you indigestion or heartburn. Entitlement is key to because believing you aren’t entitled makes it impossible to follow the rules of “normal” eating.
If you don’t accept that you can eat whatever you want, you won’t be able to follow Rule #1, eating when you’re hungry. You might be starving and crave a tuna melt, but deny your desire and refuse to “give in.” You might eat mostly salads because any other food is taboo. Alternately, believing that certain foods are off limits, you might yearn for them so desperately that you end up eating them when you’re not hungry in pure rebellion. Again, remember, “normal” eaters believe that they can have any food they want whenever they want in any quantity they want.
You certainly can’t follow Rule #2, making a satisfying food selection, if you don’t believe that anything goes. If you’re calculating calories or fat grams in your head, you’re not connecting to your true appetite. Or you may select something that’s high-fat/high-calorie just because it is. Remember, you can only say “no” to a food when you know that you can say “yes.” Believing that you can’t eat particular foods makes you focus on and be anxious about them. Believing that you can eat anything when you’re hungry helps you relax and make the right choice.
Forget following Rule #3, eating with awareness and enjoyment, if you don’t feel entitled to all foods. Instead of pleasure, you’re bound to feel guilt and shame or nothing at all by tuning out body signals and eating fast and mindlessly. You can only savor food when you believe you have a right to eat it. The goal is to feel no judgment about food. If you have judgments, you’ll end up with negative emotions (guilt and shame) as eating companions which may lead to binge-eating or eating in secret.
Last, you can’t stop eating when you’re full or satisfied, Rule #4, unless all food is fair game. As Geneen Roth says, you can’t get enough of what you didn’t want to begin with; that is, if you’re eating a food for the wrong reasons (believing it’s good or bad for you), you’re not eating for pleasure and satisfaction and probably won’t know when to stop. When you believe without a shadow of a doubt that you can say “yes” to a food and that it’s there for the taking, it’s far easier to stop when you’re full or satisfied. Remember, you’re entitled to feel entitled.
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