Give Yourself Unconditional Permission To Eat What You Want!

Give Yourself Unconditional Permission To Eat What You Want!

Filed Under: Intuitive Eating

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!

“From our first meeting - two faces on Zoom across the world from each other, there was a sense of familiarity and comfort that was a healing balm for a lifetime of food struggles and dieting. Without realizing how much damage I had done to myself by adhering, for decades, to restrictive food plans and rigid diet programs, Xen had a way of redirecting the harsh and negative self-talk and sending me forth each week with compassion, mindfulness and a new way of seeing myself in the here and now. Gone are the maybe somedays, and if-only, and when-I’m-smaller thinking. Now I am committed to the imperfect and rocky path to listening to my body, accepting my perfect imperfections, and rejecting diet mentality. Those negative voices will revisit me from time to time, I know, but Xen has offered valuable tools for meeting each day as a fresh start - another choice, another chance. Her devotion to this work and her belief in her clients is a remarkable gift; I am so fortunate to have found her. It is never too late to let go of the drama and embrace joy, ease and self-acceptance.”

Karen L, Denver, USA

“I felt hopeless and helpless in my daily struggle with mindless eating for many years. Then I found Xen which is exactly what I needed! My decision to work with her helped me to finally repair my relationship with food. It's changing my life for the better, one day at a time. Now I have control over the food, instead of it having control over me, which is the way it should be. I highly recommend Xen to anyone who has a desire to overcome similar food struggles. Xen, thank you from the bottom of my heart!”

Karen J, Colorado, USA

“I reached out to Xenia because 2021 started on a tumultuous note for me. Between deaths, businesses suffering, hospitalizations, and job losses in our personal circle, I felt depleted and found myself being available for everyone but myself. Then I was hit with an unexpected health diagnosis, which was the last straw as it meant giving up “healthy foods” and workouts that I leaned on for my well-being and stability. Despite working in wellness (Yes, coaches and healers are vulnerable too!), I found myself reaching out to desserts for comfort. I like to live a life of permissions (not labels or deprivation leading to bingeing), so I wanted to work with someone who approached healing from a place of mindful compassion. I didn’t want to be my own client. Xenia was great in reminding me to be kind to myself. Working with her, brought me peace and helped shift my mindset. I love how desserts and I look at each other now.”

Sweta Vikram, New York, USA

“Working with Xenia was amazing. She armed me with a bunch of tools to help me through difficult times. Xenia is the kind of person who really cares for helping you in the long run. Her work will forever have an impact in my life.”

Daniela Velásquez, Ottawa, Canada

“Working with Xen was a game changer for me. After working together for a few months my relationship with food radically changed. I no longer felt like a failure. I now have the tools to nourish my body with foods that feel good in my body. I don’t feel guilty about eating cake or chocolate, I also don’t overeat cake and chocolate. I no longer feel the need to exercise to compensate for my eating. I feel much more free around eating and I am more accepting of my body. Xen has a nonjudgmental and compassionate approach to coaching and really supports you in the process.”

Rachel, Dublin, Ireland

“Working with Xen has been very empowering. Her approach is so refreshing from the usual. I have learned that I am in charge and that I get to choose what I put in my body and how to move my body in a way that I like! I get to make my own choices. It’s so liberating. Once you get a taste of freedom with food, there is no turning back to old ways! Thanks Xen for guiding me along the way to freedom.”

Heather B, Cork. Ireland

“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 it seemed at the time like an impossible dream. Turns out it isn’t. I recommend Xen and the mindful eating / intuitive eating approach unreservedly. If you have any questions about my experience, please get in touch. Thank you Xen. My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐”

Michelle, Johannesburg, South Africa

“Xenia was a walking, living, breathing example of what can be done. I laughed and cried my way through a short course in this fascinating and invigorating programme with her, and have gained a designer tote full of coping skills that go way beyond containing kilogrammes. I feel infinitely lighter. I am doing this for me and, yes, you can do this for you too! And believe me, I’m cynical!”

Diana, Vancouver, Canada

“I don’t obsess about food like I used to. I am thinking differently about food and feeling so much more relaxed around all types of food. It’s wonderful to have pleasure and satisfaction from eating.”

Sarah, Illinois, USA

“I learned a new way of thinking about food. I have learned that food is not the enemy and that it can actually be enjoyed with no guilt.”

Sandy, London, United Kingdom

Certified by The Life Coach School Certified and Trained by The Original Intuitive Eating Pro Professional Member of The Center for Mindful Eating