A key component to cultivating a healthier relationship with food, is the third Intuitive Eating Principle: Making Peace with Food. It is essential to master Intuitive Eating Principle #1 (Rejecting the Diet Mentality) and #2 Honoring Your Hunger before embarking on #3. These principles will help set the foundations you’ll need to succeed in making peace with food and help you understand the harms of dieting mentality and why it’s essential to move away from diet culture. Making peace with food helps us avoid the shame and guilt cycle that often comes from eating foods once deemed “off limits.”
Why Does Making Peace With Food Matter for Gestational Diabetes?
Getting comfortable asking yourself questions is important as you work to manage gestational diabetes while maintaining a healthy relationship with food.
Questions that you can ask if you have GD:
- How does this food feel in my body?
- How does this timing of food work for me?
- How do I feel about this combination of food, both mentally and physically?
We want unconditional permission to eat so we can avoid the deprivation cycle. Maybe you know you are going to be starting a gestational diabetes diet on x day, so you feel like you have to “go all out” before you start a strict diet, or you avoid taking your at home blood sugar tests, or you go “all out” before you go to the doctor to “get it out of your system”.
Studies have shown that people who try to avoid certain foods think about them more. Let me give you an example: I want you to not think about the color red. Think about any other color. But not red!
It’s likely that red is all you’re going to think about. This is because when something is “off limits,” it usually causes us to hyperfixate on it. The same goes for food. If you say “I love fries but I can’t have them ever,” they’re likely going to be the thing you crave most.
This can create a “rebound effect” later down the line. After a period of time (could be days, weeks, or even months after the baby is born) that you feel yourself go “crazy” around these off limit items.
This is why traditional GD advice that tells you to just cut out or limit carbs is harmful and can deeply impact your relationship with food long term.
Fear of Making Peace with Food
As we approach this subject I want you to start by making note of fears that arise when you think about giving yourself permission around ALL foods.
- Are you afraid of blood sugar spikes?
- Are you worried about gaining weight?
- Do you feel like you will be judged for what you eat?
- Are you worried about your baby’s health?
Notice these fears, know that they are valid, AND remember that these fears do not mean making peace with food isn’t possible. Once we acknowledge the fears we are able to move forward and replace them with the truth.
All Food Is Equal
One of the biggest components of making peace with food is learning to see all foods as emotionally and morally equivalent. We have to learn that there is no “good vs bad” or shame attached to any food.
This goes against what diet and wellness culture will tell you, and may even go against the advice from many providers when it comes to Gestational Diabetes. Carbs and sugar are not the enemy, and a slice of bread can be viewed as morally equivalent to broccoli.
Get Curious and Ask Questions!
Throughout this process remember to check in with yourself often. It is crucial that you start asking yourself what foods you actually like, how they make you feel, the emotions they evoke, etc.
Maybe for years you have convinced yourself that you like salad with no dressing, but once you start to remove the shame and judgment around food you start to realize that you actually really like dressing! Ask yourself how foods make you feel.
Pay attention to preferences and the physical elements. Get comfortable asking yourself: do I want to eat this food again? Do I like the flavor profiles and textures? Am I enjoying it?
Ready to get started? Here are 5 actionable steps.
Step One: Dig Deep
Make a list of all the foods you restrict or have rules around. (This may look like: “I only eat one sweet per week” or “I can only eat X grams of carbs per meal”). Make note of what foods you do eat, and what foods you restrict altogether. Get curious about each of these foods.
- What is your history with them?
- What is the first time you remember having negative feelings towards them?
- Are these foods that you have intentionally kept out of the house, or measured, or is it a food you feel out of control around?
- What emotions come up when you think about these foods?
- Are you able to connect with how these foods make you feel when you eat them?
- Are you able to drop into your body and enjoy them or are you overwhelmed by feelings of guilt or overwhelm?
- When you eat these foods does it change how you eat later in the day or how you feel in the day?
Step Two: Focus
Choose one item from the list that you want to work on making peace with. Practice permission around this food by adding it to the grocery list or ordering it at a restaurant.
Step Three: Observe
As you eat the food check in with yourself to notice how you feel about it. Do you really like it? Is it as good as you thought it would be? How does it affect your blood sugar?
Step Four: Permission
If you are enjoying your food, tell yourself that it is okay to continue to have it! Remind yourself that it will not be restricted and you can have it at any time. (Remember, if you set limits on it, it will increase how much you think about it).
This is not a “once in a lifetime chance”, which means you don’t have to eat as much as you can now. If you do eat past fullness, that’s okay. You can also experiment with pairing the foods with others to create a more balanced snack or meal to support blood sugars!
Step Five: Practice
Continue to practice habituation. Habituation is: the process of getting used to something by repeated exposure. Habituation in Intuitive Eating happens when you expose yourself to foods frequently and they become less charged or “exciting.” This may look like keeping the food in your house, having it x number of times per week, and really focusing on being present during this time.
After some time, notice how you are feeling about these foods. Have they lost some of their appeal? Do you still feel out of control? If so, resist the urge to “tighten up the reins” or backtrack into dieting. After weeks, months, or years of restriction, it will take time to unlearn what we have been taught to feel about these foods.
Feeling Out Of Control Around Food
It is normal to go through a “honeymoon” phase with these foods. It may feel like “I will never stop wanting this food 24/7”, and know that this is normal. After months, even years of restricting these foods it makes sense that it will take some time for the excitement to wear off.
It can be really helpful to have the support of a dietitian or therapist support you during this time. Click here to learn more about my services, or look for a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor who is local to your area here.
Making peace with food can be hard for any, but can be especially challenging to navigate if you have Gestational Diabetes or are at high risk. Know that this is not impossible and that you shouldn’t wait to work on your relationship with food. It is possible to support both a healthy relationship with food and a healthy baby, with the right support.
Consider working with a Dietitian or food therapist to continue making peace with food and learn how to manage your Gestational Diabetes well. I recognize that keeping “fear foods” in the house can be scary and may even trigger some negative feelings. It is more than okay- and even encouraged- to work through these feelings with the support of a professional.
If you’re ready to take a step towards making peace with food once and for all and navigate pregnancy nutrition with ease, I’m here to help. Click here to book a free discovery call where we will chat more about you, your journey, and how I can help.