When I first explain to people that my private practice is built off the back of giving my clients unconditional permission to eat, I usually hear, “omg I could never do that, all I would eat is pizza!”


This is an incredibly common assumption; I mean how would it not be after years of restricted eating & food rules!


I want to unpack the average response I see when a new client begins to give themselves unconditional permission to eat!  I purposefully am not including an average time frame for each stage because, there isn’t one!  For some people these stages lasts for months while for others it only lasts a few weeks.  


The key is to trust the process and your body when it comes to giving yourself unconditional permission to eat!


Please remember, everybody’s experience is different.  I’m simply outlining the average response that I see in my clients to give you an idea of what experiencing unconditional permission to eat can look like.  If this hasn’t been your experience, that is 100% ok!  


Stage 1 – Eat Everything


This is often the most exciting and the most fear-provoking stage of giving yourself unconditional permission to eat.


I often begin this stage with new clients by making a list with them of foods they tend to restrict or have a lot of fear around.  Then we begin to tick them off, one by one!  

healthy bread

When there is a particularly charged ‘fear food’ I love actually getting my client to bring this food to a session with me.  We then eat it together and get to process whatever comes up, together!


Can this stage create a feeling of being out of control around food?  100%.  


Think of it this way, if you tell a child they can eat as much cake as they can after years of being told they can’t touch it, what will happen?  THEY WILL EAT A LOT OF CAKE!


The key is to trust the process and not react to that out-of-control feeling by implementing food restriction.


Will you feel necessarily ‘good’ in your body during this time?  Maybe, maybe not.


Some women feed off the euphoria of this stage and actually feel incredible.  They are eating enough calories for the first time in years and their bodies are thriving off of all the energy they are receiving!  They are no longer obsessing around every morsal of food entering their mouth and they finally have the mind space to be PRESENT in each and every situation.  


That can be an absolutely incredible feeling!!


For others, this season doesn’t feel so amazing.  AND THAT IS OK!  Some people go from eating very nutritious diets to eating a lot of ‘fun’ foods that they had previously restricted.  That doesn’t always feel so amazing inside our bodies!  It can create a lack of energy and overall feeling of lethargy.  THAT’S OK!  You aren’t doing anything ‘wrong’ if this is your experience!


The key here is to trust the process.  


Stage 2 – Interoceptive Awareness


This stage is always fascinating, as it simply happens naturally!  There is no intention or ‘goal date’ that will create this stage. 

woman eating healthy breakfast

One day, suddenly, you will notice yourself becoming aware of your food.  Maybe it’s the fact that you’ve drooled for years in your mind over the thought of having Eggo waffles for breakfast.  Then when you do, you actually just don’t enjoy them.


It’s important to note that during this stage awareness can be completely separate from action.  You can be aware that you are not enjoying your Eggo waffles but still consume them.  THAT’S OK!  Often, we have to go through the motions of consuming those fears foods and living out that ‘food fantasy’ despite it not going the way we had imagined.  


Or maybe you become aware that when you eat fast food every day for lunch, you actually just hate the way you feel at work afterward.  Again, this doesn’t necessarily mean you stop, it simply means you become aware.  


During this stage it’s important to allow these awareness’s to arise and to free yourself from the judgement of not necessarily acting on them, yet!  Take this time to journal, observe, chat it out with your food freedom mentor.


This is a stage of interoceptive awareness!  


Stage 3 – Aligned Action


This final stage often includes tuning into your hunger & fullness cues, gentle nutrition & leaning into the satisfaction factor.


Food no longer feels as charged as it did in both Stage 1 and Stage 2.  Because of this it becomes so much easier to tune into your hunger & fullness cues and actually respect them.


All of that awareness you gathered in Stage 2?  This is often when you actually begin to take action on it!  You begin to understand how you uniquely feel satisfied with food and you have the mental capacity to respect it. 

You also likely will feel a pull to incorporate gentle nutrition into your life.  You have both the desire and the capacity to pursue feeling your best, both mentally and physically!


This stage can often feel like taking a deep breath, like all of the pieces of a puzzle are somewhat coming together.  


Like your trust in yourself, your body & the process of giving yourself unconditional permission to eat is truly paying off!


It’s a Journey…


Incorporating intuitive eating & unconditional permission to eat into your life is a journey.  It’s important to not idolize stage 3 while despising stage 1.  


It’s all so important.  There is no end destination when we no longer give ourselves unconditional permission to eat or where we no longer practice intuitive eating.  


The journey is the destination.  Embrace each stage as if it was the destination!  


And remember, if your journey isn’t perfectly going through these stages one at a time, THAT’S OK!  


Everybody’s journey is different & unique, honour that within yourself!  



Terri Lynn

Certified in Intuitive Eating 

Licensed Health & Nutrition Counsellor

Leave a Reply