I used to not keep certain foods in my house because I didn’t trust myself around them. The fact that I binged on them when I did have them seemed like proof that it was better just to avoid them completely and never buy them.
Many of my clients have expressed similar fears about having “junk” food at home because they’re afraid to eat them or because they end up bingeing on them. So if you can relate, you’re definitely not alone! But I have some good news about how to solve this dilemma, although it might not be what you expect to hear…
You absolutely DO need to keep those foods in the house.
Here’s why: Restriction leads to overeating and bingeing. And that can be actual restriction (aka you literally avoiding eating certain things) or it can even just be mental restriction (aka you might eat those foods, but there’s a lot of judgment around it).
Mental restriction looks like telling yourself you shouldn’t have a certain food, even if you technically do eat it. It looks like telling yourself that food is bad for you and that you’re bad for eating it. If you judge yourself for eating it, you’re still restricting it in principle. The process of eating is wrought with shame, guilt and anxiety and those things are antithesis to giving yourself unconditional permission to eat.
I get that’s it hard because you’ve been conditioned to think you can’t be trusted around certain food. Diet culture told you that, so you limited those foods and then ended up bingeing on them, which seems like proof that diet culture is right and you need to avoid those foods. But remember, it’s the restriction that sets up that cycle—not your lack of control with that food. (Read more about the binge cycle here.) So, again, to regain a sense of control, it’s important to expose yourself to those binge foods and give yourself permission to eat them.
I know this is really tough advice! But unconditional permission to eat is an important step in food freedom. It’s not the entire solution—it is only 1 of the 10 intuitive eating principles after all, but it is key.
And yes, you might eat a lot of those foods for a while. You might feel even more out of control at first. As hard as that can be to push through, it’s a normal part of healing your feelings of deprivation. I was in college during my recovery and I called that time “The Oreo Semester” because I ate A LOT of Oreos. But eventually… I was shocked to find I wasn’t obsessed with them or other sweets anymore.
And I stopped bingeing on them.
Recently, a client going through this process said she thought “Cookie Gate of 2020” would never end, but she was actually feeling neutral around cookies for the first time in her life.
I encourage you to trust the process, even if you don’t trust yourself yet.
I’m Cherie Miller, MS, LPC-S, founder of Nourished Soul Center for Healing and @foodfreedomtherapist on Instagram. We offer therapy and nutrition counseling for chronic dieting as well eating disorders like Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder, Orthorexia, ARFID, and other food issues. As anti-diet professionals, we are passionate about intuitive eating and Health at Every Size philosophies. Contact us here to schedule a therapy or nutrition appointment.