I hear many women say they want freedom with food and not feel like they are on a diet, but they also want to lose weight. I’m not pointing fingers, because I have been there too. I share this because I know this is common – maybe you can relate. The problem with this mindset is that losing weight and diets can’t be separated. Can you truly feel free with food with the intention of losing weight? After a nine-year battle with disordered eating and almost ten years of working through recovery, I’ve come to see a diet as any way of eating with the intention of losing weight or manipulating one’s body.
It’s natural to want to change our bodies. We live in a culture that glorifies thinness and “toned bodies”, so we naturally want to fit in and be accepted.When we lose weight or change the shape of our body, we do “feel better” at first because we’re fitting culture’s mold of beauty. It’s almost as if when you reach a certain size, you’re accepted into the “cool kids” club. I also don’t discredit the physical benefits of living a healthier life (whether you lose weight or not), however it’s all about mindset. For myself, I felt like I would never get anywhere in life unless I lost weight. Even after a lot of body image work, I sometimes still struggle with wanting to change my body to feel better about myself. I see others doing fitness programs and cleanses, and for a second think they’re better than me. For that brief moment, I feel ashamed of what I eat and inadequate because I’m not doing those workouts.
When you tune out your inner wisdom (i.e. your intuition), it’s easy to get caught up in what culture tells you you need to do and be. We see what others are doing, which makes us feel bad about ourselves, and then feel like we need to lose weight. Stop for a moment. Going back over that stream of events, where did my inner wisdom show up? Not at all. I took in outside information and placed it on my worth. Why do I need to lose weight? How does my body actually feel? Do I have energy? Am I getting enough rest? Do I have quality relationships in my life?
So we’ve unpacked where the message to lose weight comes from and why it’s so easy to get caught up in it, but let’s get back to how that fits with food freedom. When I say food freedom, what I mean is being able to make a choice around food without rules, rituals, or guilt. That means, eating the croissant sandwich for lunch with creamy sauce and cheese because it sounds good, without needing to skip your afternoon snack(s) because it was an “extra rich” lunch. Or choosing to forgo a donut because you’re full and know that you can have a donut later that day or whenever you feel like it. I could list so many examples of how food freedom plays out in my own life, but the gist is that you detach any morality or rules around what you eat.
So the question is, can you experience this type of freedom while trying to lose weight? Let me back up and say that eating in food freedom (i.e. eating normally/intuitively) does not mean you gain weight. If you’re body is at it’s happy set point weight (the weight you can maintain without a lot of effort), you can eat in freedom and maintain a happy weight. Will it be your goal weight? I don’t know, but I do know that your body knows best.
If you really want freedom with food, you need to let go of the goal of losing weight. That may be a big bite to chew, I get it. Yet, to truly experience freedom with food and with your body, we need to realign our goals. When the goal is to lose weight or conform our body to a mold, every decision we make will revolve around that. Could you lose weight by practicing intuitive eating? It’s very possible, but that’s not the goal. The goal with intuitive eating is to tune back into your inner wisdom and treat your body with love, respect, and care. When those three things are the goal, your intentions and actions completely change.
Take a moment to check in with what you really want and what you value, and connect those with your relationship with food. Does controlling your food lead you closer to those goals? For example, one of my goals is live freely and make memories, which means going out for ice cream with friends while being in the moment, not thinking about how I need to eat the rest of the day to make up for it.
Learning to align your values with your relationship with food will lead to a food freedom and more peace with your body.