Give Yourself Unconditional Permission To Eat What You Want!

25 August 2017 | Written by Xenia Ayiotis



Anything you want.

This is Principle 3 Make Peace with Food” in the book Intuitive Eating by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole. If you haven’t read the book and you want to change your relationship with food, I highly recommend it.

What does this principle actually mean?

It means:

  • No more forbidden foods.
  • No more restriction.
  • No more good foods / bad foods.
  • Take away the food rules.
  • Remove guilt and deprivation.
  • Eating what you really want. No more food deals with yourself – eg. ”I will eat cheesecake today and tomorrow I will just have veggies or salad”.

When we truly give ourselves freedom to eat what we want without the threat of restricting in the future, we eventually overcome the urge to overeat in the moment.

Giving yourself unconditional permission to eat what you want is a scary concept for most people, even more frightening than giving up dieting. Many of my clients and workshop participants find this principle totally scary.

They fear they can’t trust themselves to stop eating. They are terrified they will gain weight – this by the way, always gets in the way of making peace with food! They doubt their ability to choose foods wisely and they worry about their health. They also worry about what friends and family will think about them making certain food choices.

Giving yourself permission to eat what you want is one of those difficult concepts that’s almost essential to making peace with food.

I am not going to kid you, applying this principle is hard. It goes against everything we have ever been taught about eating. You can’t make peace with food if you are at constant war with sugar, wheat or dairy.

You can take this principle and dive in or you can take it slowly. I have seen people take it and find instant freedom. I have seen people not apply it and continue to binge. The most common is to take it and run with it, feel freedom with a bit of guilt and then make foods conditional again (mostly because of fear of weight gain or a desire to lose weight) and revert back to guilt and overeating. There is no right or wrong way to work with this. What I have seen is that my clients who apply it and take imperfect action, do get to peace with food. Those who resist it and restrict food continue to have the “restrict – binge – guilt – shame” cycle.

I worked with a client who ate cake for a month. On some days she ate 2 slices of cake a day – because she could. We would joke and say I gave her permission! After about a month she came to our session and said her body wasn’t feeling good and things started to shift, she continued to eat cake but was more conscious about eating foods that made her body feel good.

Another client discovered (after giving herself permission to eat lemon creams) that she actually didn’t like the taste and that she had been eating them for years out of rebellion because she wasn’t allowed to have them!

In the tumultuous history of my relationship with food, every time I have attempted some form of “righteous eating”, such as cutting out food groups, there has always been a backlash and then I have had to go back to the very beginning and start with principle 3…..give myself permission to eat what I want. There are different ways we give ourselves permission. Most of us give ourselves physical permission to eat foods, but it is often accompanied by mental or emotional restriction. We need to work on permission on all levels.

When we truly give ourselves permission to eat what we want, it allows us to really experience the food and how it tastes and feels in our body. When you are no longer depriving yourself, you have room to get curious and ask: Do I really like the taste? Do I like how it feels in my body?

So how do we do this?

  1. Assess your readiness. Be gentle and patient with yourself. You can’t force it!
  2. Make a list of foods that appeal to you that you have forbidden or that you regularly restrict.
  3. Choose one of these foods. Give yourself permission to buy it or eat it at a restaurant.
  4. When you eat, don’t be uncomfortably hungry – try to be gently hungry. This is very important. When we let ourselves get too hungry, we will eat anything and lots of it. So please make sure you are not starving when you try this practice!
  5. Put the food on a plate – whatever it is. Eat the food sitting down. Eat it with your FULL attention. No distractions.
  6. Check in with yourself as you are eating. Does the food taste good? Are you enjoying it?
  7. Remind yourself you can eat this food whenever you like again.
  8. If you like you can keep the food at home or if that’s too scary, you can make a deal with yourself that you will buy it whenever you feel like it and follow steps 4 – 7 above.

If this seems too hard right now, don’t worry. Take it as slow as you need to. Creating peace is not easy – any negotiator will tell you!

This year I was privileged to work with an amazing woman, Michelle (she gave me permission to share her name). She faced her fear of sugar and flour and embarked on this difficult journey, this is what she had to say…

“After way too much out of control eating during my holidays and probably the preceding 48 years of my life, I decided it was enough. I found Xen on Facebook and her approach resonated. I made an appointment and have not looked back. This is the answer for those of you that struggle with food and all that surrounds it. Xenia said that I could make peace with food and at the time, it seemed like an impossible dream. Turns out it isn’t. I recommend the mindful / intuitive eating approach unreservedly.”

I hope you find her words inspiring and that they give you a sense of what is possible. If you struggle with food, and you are not ready to give yourself permission to eat what you want, start simply by reading the book. And if you have any questions, email me.

May you let go of the struggle with food and your body
May you truly find peace and enjoyment with all foods!


PS. Check out my contribution on Mindful Eating in this month’s SARIE magazine!

Tired of overeating and feeling out of control around food? Dieting and restriction hasn’t worked for you? Ready to end the war with your body?

I can help you find peace and freedom around food, eating and your body:


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