Learning to eat is like riding a bike

You must be willing to fall.

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash
Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

I tell my clients they have permission to eat what they want and that it’s okay if they overeat.

Their expression of relief is quickly followed by, “But if I allow myself to eat everything I want, I won’t stop! And I’ll gain 30 pounds!”

These women don’t trust themselves around food so they keep track of their calories, portion size or carb intake.

In rules, they see a way to tame their cravings, to feel in control.

But trying to control what they eat is — paradoxically — what leads them to overeat in the first place.

Study after study shows that obsessive thinking about food and overeating are psychological effects of deprivation.

The women I work with learn that what they need is to re-learn how to eat and build self-trust; not more control.

This means becoming attuned with their hunger and fullness cues, and aware of pleasure and satisfaction.


Re-learning to eat when you have spent decades dieting or trying to “eat clean” is like learning to ride a bike:

You must be willing to fall, scratch your knees and cry.

It’s also necessary to get on the bike and start pedaling, trusting that you’ll be okay if you fall.

First, give yourself permission to eat what you want.

But (and this is a huge BUT), this time the answer on when to start and stop eating is found in the body.

This time, the compass is not that book about ketosis or a detox juice list. Instead, you ask…

I’m hungry? What do I want to eat? Am I really choosing? How do I want to feel after I eat? When I eat, do I like how the food tastes? Am I enjoying it? Am I satiated? How do I feel after the meal? Do I like how I feel? Is there anything I can change?

Like the first time you rode a bike, the process of learning to eat begins very intentionally, with hyper-awareness of every step.

You must eat with the intention to check-in and stay aware. With practice, you re-learn to eat.

It doesn’t mean that you won’t ever fall again (aka overeat).

You will, but you will also have acquired the skills to know how to respond and get up.

How do you measure progress?

Easy: You won’t feel deprived when you choose not to eat something — even though you feel a desire for it.

Give it a try. Give yourself permission.

Written by Lina Salazar.

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