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Building a Healthier Relationship with Food by Having Unconditional Permission to Eat

Monte Nido Newport Beach Registered Dietitian Courtney Toya, MS, RD discusses building a healthier relationship with food in this week’s blog post. Courtney dives into the idea of giving ourselves permission to eat. She shares the importance of listening to our bodies instead of applying external rules that dictate our behavior.

We live in a world of conditions:

You are beautiful if you look like ____________.

You are doing enough as long as you _______________.

You are healthy if you: eat cleanly, exercised, restricted your cravings.

You are “good” if you’ve practiced self-restraint with food.

You are “bad” if you like desserts or fast food.

You are accepted in society if you ____________________.

…and the list goes on and on. In the diet and body-focused world we live in today, society attaches our worth and value to our food consumption and physical appearance. While every human being requires food for fuel, life, and sustenance, oddly enough our value and worth is judged by our food choices. Individuals are perceived as healthier, more attractive, and overall better if they follow the latest diet rules. And yet, it isn’t that simple- these rules change with each fad diet, newest exercise program, latest superfood, and ideal body shape. In a world where people are never satisfied with their appearance, the conditions will continue to torment us.

In my work within the diverse population of individuals battling an eating disorder, I’ve found that one of the most significant disturbances in one’s relationship with food is their permission to eat. I have yet to meet a client who gives themselves unconditional permission to eat- an Intuitive Eating concept initiated by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, authors of the book, “Intuitive Eating.” This concept stems from the idea that we as humans have the right to honor our cravings, enjoy our food, and eat to the point of satisfaction regardless of how we are feeling, our weight, our appearance, or whether we’ve exercised or not. While this unconditional permission can seem frivolous with a lack of accountability, it is not a “free for all” with food. Rather, it acknowledges that you can give yourself permission to eat that same food today, tomorrow, and the day after- if you want. That you can have a handful of chips instead of none at all or the whole bag because you can have more tomorrow. This isn’t the “last supper.” If you are craving a cookie during snack time, this approach encourages you to have the cookie despite not following the conditions or rules you may have around food.

To many with an eating disorder, having a cookie requires following many food rules. For example, doing a certain amount of physical activity to compensate, eating a lighter meal prior, having “healthy” and “clean” foods for the rest of the day, or self-inducing vomiting after to get rid of it, to name a few. Following these rules bring a false sense of security that encourages a life based on conditions, lacking freedom and flexibility around food.

Living a conditional life completely takes one out of the driver’s seat to their own life, where external rules and conditions overtake one’s preferences, cravings, and desires. The work done at Monte Nido cultivates a relationship with food where everyone can one day be in charge and conscious of their eating- to provide nourishment and sustenance with a variety of foods. It acknowledges that sometimes nourishing your body looks like having fruit with nut butter or a cookie with milk. There are no conditions to meet to honor those preferences and needs. To honor and nourish your needs is to be human and in charge instead of manipulating them.


To learn more about our newest eating disorder day treatment center opening in early 2018, Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of  Westchester, visit our website or call an Admissions Specialist at 888.228.1253.

For more information about Monte Nido please call 888.228.1253, visit our website and connect with us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter, and Instagram.