There have been many years where the way I ate was most definitely a “diet”. My goal being to make my body smaller and lighter through food restriction.
Then there were several years where the way I was eating was still restrictive in a lot of ways even if weight loss was just a backup singer to the lead vocalist in the band of “health”. Sometimes I restricted that quantity of food I ate, sometimes it was the calories. Sometimes entire food groups, no dairy, no wheat, lower carb, no animal products, no processed food etc.
During these times, I referred to my way of eating not as a diet, but as a “lifestyle”. The goal of the “lifestyle” was to feel good, and to maintain and “insure” my health, but if my “lifestyle” way of eating was a TV show, there would definitely be some closed captions in parenthesis behind me, whispering shadily that my goal was still to become a smaller person. Make no mistake, the word lifestyle is a both a great way and a terrible way to describe eating like this. On one hand it has to be a lifestyle in order for anyone to be able to eat that way. You have to have a certain amount of money, time and willingness to prepare food with both strange and time consuming ingredients. Your life has to take on a “lifestyle” where food becomes the most important thing . . . because if you live this way you won’t have time or room for anything else. But on the other hand, a food “lifestyle” is just another word for a diet. It is still restriction with a more appealing name.
Somewhere beyond that is where I am right now.
I’ve been playing with a lot of ideas, a lot of foods and really analyzing what I want my relationship with food to look like.
3 and a half years of coaching women on their relationship with food and I decided that I don’t want dieting, “lifestyle” diets and moral judgements around food to be included in my own.
I want freedom with food. I want ease and I want time and energy available to do other things.
Having food freedom means having more freedom in my life in general.
You may have heard me toss around the term “food freedom” or having “freedom with food” a few times over the last year or so.
But what am I really talking about? I know it’s confusing, especially if you’ve followed me from the beginning. My stance has evolved quite a bit since I started coaching. It is still and always will be evolving. What works for me one month may not be true three month from now. And because of that recognition I have really moved away from giving specific food related advice here anymore. I really believe you have to make these decisions for yourself and that no one can know what makes the most sense for you, but you. It should go without saying that f you have certain health conditions that require abstaining from certain foods, like celiac disease or monitoring your intake of certain macronutrients, like diabetes, that may be a different story.
So in case your food story is also evolving and you too want to leave dieting, lifestyle diets and food morality behind, let’s talk about what I mean by food freedom.
Food freedom is:
- eating what I want, when I want. Sometimes it’s a burger and fries, and sometimes it’s fresh vegetables.
- making my own decisions about what foods are good for my body instead of changing my mind every time a new half-assed food study comes out
- being able to walk into any restaurant and find something to eat
- being able to eat food that isn’t “healthy” and be completely fine with that
- not feeling virtuous for ordering the fish or for eating light if I don’t have a big appetite.
- not letting other people’s decisions about food affect my own needs and choices (this one takes some time/work)
- not feeling like I have to explain or defend my food choices to anyone
- not being worried about what other people think about what I’m eating or not eating.
- trusting my body to tell me when I’ve had enough
- deciding that it’s ok to have ice cream for dinner because that’s what I want
- realizing that there are some foods that I don’t want to start eating again, because on revisiting them, they still make me feel like poop
- being able to skip a meal because I’m just not hungry
- eating after 8pm because I am hungry
- trying new foods, prepared in a variety of ways, without needing to know the nutrition facts for the item first
- not hesitating to order the thing I never “let” myself order when I was dieting (if it’s what I want)
- choosing for myself whether to eat the same amount of meals each day or to eat whenever I want to
- making only one rule around food and that is: I get to eat and not eat whatever the fuck I want
- accepting that my body shape or size may fluctuate throughout the year (and keeping some flexible clothing sizes on hand so that I can feel my best whether my body size goes up or down
- not making myself sick by worrying about what to make for dinner. One meal or 5 meals doesn’t make a big deal in the scheme of things.
- buying a box of cap’n crunch because I haven’t had it since I was little and I want to feel that delicious crunch on the roof of my mouth. And then eating it whenever I feel like eating it
- deciding that there is more to a healthy person than rigorously controlling one’s food intake within an inch of their life
- is being able to say yes to something as simple as ordering pizza or having a beer without having to weigh the pros and cons of it
- is revelling in and also not caring at all about food at different times
This is what I want from my relationship with food, and this is how I’m trying to live my life right now.
It feels less tiring.
It’s certainly a lot less work to go out to eat or to plan meals or to make food each week.
I still eat a wide variety of foods and I do have a preference for the types of foods that make me feel energized and comfortable most of the time (which often are traditionally “healthy” things) but nothing is off the table anymore at anytime.
“Food freedom” for me also feels more like “normal” eating for my husband. I don’t think I ever realized how my stuff around food affected him as much as it does. Even though I was always willing to buy or make whatever he asked for regardless of what food restrictions I was currently consumed by, he usually went along with it (because this girl is a decent cook and he’s easy going) but he told me a few months ago how awesome it is that he can say “hey can we have nachos for dinner?” and have me just say yes without even thinking about it or he can suggest some hole in the wall restaurant without me having a melt down about it not having the right kind of food on the menu. It makes me sad that I didn’t even realize that my issues with food made things not “normal” for him too.
I’ve put on a little weight during all this food freedom (to be expected when you stop restricting whole food groups) but I don’t really care. In a lot of ways, I feel lighter. I feel emotionally lighter for sure but even my body feels less burdened by the weight of carrying so many rules about food in it. And honestly, that is probably the best part of finding food freedom.
What does food freedom mean to you? Do you already feel that you have freedom with food or is this an area that you would like to work on yourself? I’d love to help you take steps towards finding your own version of food freedom when you are ready.