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Unconditional permission to eat!

Updated: Jan 18, 2021

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a nutritional talk/seminar of one of the leading nutritionists in the practical application of health and performance nutrition, the Social media famous, Martin McDonald. #numnums

During the talk, one point in particular hit home, involving a message/approach I believe to be the most conducive to the health and psychological state of every individual struggling to cope with their weight and their relationship with food. Some refer to this approach as intuitive eating, flexible dieting or if it fits your macros (IIFYM), though each can be defined differently and lead to a slightly dissimilar dietary focus, the overall concept is the same. The universal concept being that you can include all and any types of food in your diet whenever you see fit, though keeping your total calorie consumption in line with your big-picture goal, as Martin elegantly relates to this as giving yourself ‘Unconditional permission to eat’. Many may argue that there is a difference, though the outcome is the same, unrestricted food choice.

This approach, in particular, prevents restriction and unhealthy behaviours and habits, not just of food, but on an individual’s lifestyle. Not allowing or denying yourself certain pleasures can build unhealthy stigmas around foods and social scenarios, more often than not leading to a binge- starve cycle and your removal from social environments, furthermore creating the likelihood of an eating disorder/behaviour. One of which all physique and natural bodybuilder competitors find themselves participating in during their journey onto the stage. Something that I and others share an experience in, the post-show/weekly binge, restricting yourself from a whole range of delicious, mouth-watering foods for a duration anywhere from 6-18 weeks if not more in some cases. All your thoughts and actions are centered around food, you can imagine you become a joy to be around. The result, excessive short term weight gain, an initial increase in the individual’s mood, before sinking into an unhappy, depressive state of mind, mostly caused by the loss of 3-4 months of hard work (no more abbs) in a space of a few days.

However, this being said, many can cope with selected food restriction and may find it easier for set periods of time. This, in my opinion, is partly to do with an individual's mindset and personality. For example, acknowledging the fact that you can enjoy some chocolate at the end of the week or in two weeks from now (generally small timescales) doesn’t restrict you from the food per se, as you know at the weekend (fixed period/1-2 weeks) you can have chocolate if you so please. Some, though very few individuals I’ve met seem to have an ‘all or nothing approach’, if this approach just revolving around what food they consumed I would question their relationship and emotional attachment to food and potentially an eating disorder, however, these select few seem to adopt this behaviour to all meanings of life, work, play, energy, education, career aspects, etc. This behavioural approach reiterates that everyone is individual, and though any diet construct works, you have to find a diet that works for you, your personality and lifestyle.


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