If you can’t give yourself permission to eat, you can’t fully recover.
This is because full recovery means that you are eating without restriction. You can’t be eating without restriction if you are unable to give yourself unconditional permission to eat. Note I said unconditional. That means your ability to give yourself permission to eat is not dependent on how much exercise you did, or how little you ate for breakfast, or how much you have restricted, or anything else. Unconditional permission to eat means you can eat without having to satisfy any conditions.
While having the support of other people can be beneficial in recovery, being dependent on other people to give you permission to eat isn’t long-term sustainable. Having your food intake managed by someone else (treatment provider, or if using FBT a parent/partner/etc) can be an important and necessary step in recovery for some people. If this is the case for you I’m not saying you should be in a rush to change that. I’m just clarifying that eventually, in order to fully recover, you have to be able to give yourself permission to eat. Doesn’t have to be right now, but it needs to be on your recovery “to-do” list because It is a requirement for full recovery.
Why is permission to eat so difficult?
Permission to eat is difficult because of your fear. Your brain is afraid of weight gain, so it is going to put obstacles in place of any sort of eating that might lead to weight gain. Unrestricted eating may lead to weight gain therefore, unrestricted eating is a problem. If you can’t give yourself permission to eat you’re not going to be able to eat as much as you would if you could give yourself permission to eat. Having to have permission from somebody else in order to eat is a way that the brain puts an obstacle in front of unrestricted eating. It’s a barrier. A block. It “protects” you from eating “too much” and makes you feel safer because of that. And that safety is one of the reasons you resist giving it up. (which is something that deep down you know you could do at any time.)
You can’t possibly eat without restriction if there has to be somebody else around to tell you that it’s okay to eat. So having to ask permission from another person is a tidy way of restricting.
Like I said for some people it’s a step in their recovery that they are going to rely on another person to help them eat and that’s okay. However, no other person can possibly know exactly how much you want or need to eat. even the most connected person can’t read your mind. especially because when we are in recovery we need to eat such a large amount of food, someone who has never had an eating disorder possibly just how much we want to eat. Unrestricted eating is between you and your body.
You are the only person who can truly know what your desires are. You may not want to be truthful about them, because you are afraid of them, you still the only person who can know. Therefore, for true unrestricted eating to be able to happen permission to eat has to come from you.
Leaps, or steps, you can get there.
Full recovery is something that you want then somewhere along the line and hopefully sooner rather than later you have to be able to give yourself permission to eat. if that’s not possible for you right now and you are relying on help from somebody else then you can still take steps towards this. So for example you eat the lunch that you are given, and then you challenge yourself to ask for something in addition that you desire but are afraid to eat over and above what you already ate for lunch. This way you had your bases covered so to speak, and you were still able to independently engage in a challenge.
Remember you eating disorder brain doesn’t like the idea of you giving yourself permission to eat. If you can give yourself permission to eat then it is highly likely that you will reach an unsuppressed bodyweight … and that is scary. Well, good. Recovery is about going towards and through the things that you are afraid of, not trying to sidestep them. It is only by walking through our fears that we teach our brains not to fear them.
Oh, and quit the bollocks
Don’t play the “I don’t know how” whine.
I’ve never, ever, met a person in recovery who doesn’t know how to give themselves permission to eat. I’ve have plenty of people try and feed me that crap mind you.
It is never the case we don’t know how to give ourselves permission to eat and always the case that we are afraid of what might happen if we do. In fact, part of the thing that is so scary is that you do know that you could give yourself permission to eat easily. It’s scary just how easily you know you could eat if you were to allow yourself.
What you actually mean when you say “I don’t know how to give myself permission to eat” is:
I don’t know how to give myself permission to eat and still restrict.
I don’t know how to give myself permission to eat and still maintain a suppressed bodyweight.
I don’t know how to give myself permission to eat and still keep my eating disorder happy.
I don’t know how to give myself permission to eat and not gain weight.
So … say what you mean. Then we can tackle the root of the problem.
These are all fears you have to overcome at some point. Might as well get on with it now.