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Food Habits: Are You A Restrictor or a Permitter?

Posted on 15 May 2014

A Restrictor and a Permitter Share a Pot of Tea: 2 Girlfriends, 2 Kitchen Bookshelves, 5 Lessons Learned 

Dr. Jo Ilfeld is a favorite friend who came over to practice yoga with me last weekend. We’ve known each other since we met at a mom’s group about a decade ago. Jo was hanging out in my kitchen with me, savoring tea and power bonding in the precious few minutes we could find to get together and catch up on each other’s lives. Suddenly Jo shrieked: “OMG, look at your bookshelf! Conscious Eating? Practical Paleo? Real Food Fermentation? Your bookshelf is the polar opposite of mine!”  

Jo Is the Permitter, I’m the Restrictor

It’s true that Jo and I differ in how we approach food. Geneen Roth of Women Food and God would call Jo a permitter, meaning that she is a rebel and likes to break rules. Geneen says permitters find rules “oppressive and suffocating. Although we know we could stand to lose a pound or 50, we’re suspicious of programs and food lists.” Jo loves to have a good time. Geneen would add that permitters prefer denial to hypervigilance about food. While on the subject of hypervigilance toward food, Geneen would call me a restrictor -- presumably I like rules and checklists “because they provide a sense of control over the uncertainty and unpredictability of being alive.”  

The Permitter’s Cookbook Shelf

When Jo comes up against hard rules, she rebels. She loves to have fun, to bake, and to show her family of five her love through food. The Permitter’s Cookbook ShelfOn her shelf, you will find (see photo)… Plus a gigantic binder labeled “Desserts.”  

The Restrictor’s Cookbook Shelf

As a board-certified restrictor, I can tell you the most recent additions include the following:  

5 Lessons Learned

Tea with Jo taught me a few things, and reminded me of a few others: 1. There is no one-size-fits-all. 2. As Chris Kresser adds: Not only is there no one-size-fits-all for everyone when it comes to food, but there’s no one-size-fits all for you over your lifetime. What worked for you five years ago may be very different from what you need now from food. 3. We all have different ways to numb ourselves. Are you a permitter or restrictor? Geneen Roth has found that figuring out which type you are is a tremendous relief to most women. 4. An alternative to restricting or permitting is to cultivate awareness… awareness of when you’re hungry, and when you’re full. Can you 10X your awareness of hunger and satiety, just for today? 5. Unfortunately, many of us have problems with the hormones that govern hunger and satiety, notably leptin and ghrelin, can get in the way when they’re off balance. If you have trouble connecting to true hunger and true satiety, connect with one of our practitioners who can help. Now it’s your turn. Please share the post on your Facebook page or other social media, and let me know… 
  • What’s on your bookshelf in the kitchen? Take a photo and post on Facebook or Pinterest or Instagram and include a link to this page.
  • What does your bookshelf say about you and your approach to food?
  • What would your bookshelf look like if you were more deeply aware of hunger, satiety, and nutrition?

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