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  • Alexandra Baugh, LPC, NCC

Permission with Food -Don't Let it be Spooky

Permission with food is often difficult to push into during stages of recovery from an eating disorder. It challenges rigidity, safeness, and familiarity. It is often a topic that is held at arms length due to fear; however, permission with food is a necessary aspect of recovery. It is true freedom and taking power back from fear foods. This is something I have been thinking about a lot with Halloween being right around the corner. Candy is readily available in stores, peoples' homes, and in businesses. It can be difficult to give oneself permission to engage with this food when there is fear or preconceived judgement around it.

So how do we engage in permission around food? To explore "permission," we must also explore areas in our life where choice has been taken from us. Areas where we felt out of control. Areas where we feel shame. Can we takes steps towards tolerance, or neutrality, around these areas of woundedness? It's very difficult to jump from self-criticism to self-compassion, so we must look at the steps of tolerance and acceptance, which are in-between these. You are allowed to meet yourself with where you are at.


I am a big backer of bringing in the treatment team when one wants to push into permission with food or challenge fear foods. They can help with things like creating a fear food hierarchy, which can help with knowing where to start with food challenges and exposures. Ask your therapist or dietitian if they would eat a meal or snack with you in session. Or perhaps meet up with a group of peers in recovery to challenge a meal or snack as a group. It can help to feel as though others are in the trenches with us and that we are not alone.



Food is about nourishment and connection with others. The more that we push into connectedness with others around food, the more we can push into permission with food. One example I always think about when it comes to the importance of permission with food is this:


"Lets say that you and a group of friends around all hanging out, and someone

suggests to grab ice cream. You have two options in that moment. Option 1 is to join

your friends and give self permission around the ice cream so you can connect with

them and be mindful in the moment. Option 2 is you back out by either going home or

you sit with them while they have ice cream, feeling isolated and disconnected."


This example portrays how big of a connecter food is in our lives, and how permission with food allows us to be more present with those we love and more present with nourishing our bodies and brains with foods that we enjoy.



Science is also a supporter of permission with food in relation to how our bodies and brains react. A compiled list of intuitive eating studies discusses how things like overcontrol around food and restriction of food actually leads towards people to binge or overeat on said foods. Research also shows us that when we give ourselves permission around food, it becomes easier to take steps towards trusting that our bodies know what to do with the food we give it. Our bodies are much less judgmental around food than our brains are. The body does not know if it is getting glucose from a cupcake or glucose from an apple.


So this Halloween, I challenge you to give yourself permission to have candy. Do not restrict it, but have it out freely. Even have a piece or so every day.

And be sure to check out community resources for increased support and accountability. Eating Disorders Anonymous (EDA) meets every Wednesday at 6:30pm (CST) at our building downstairs. This is a completely free resource to add to your support network to further help you push into permission with food. We have also opened up Elevate Community for additional space for connectedness, support, and therapy. Be sure to check us out!



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