Not everyone is ready to ditch the diet and go back to intuitive eating.
Sometimes, women need just one more diet to push them over the edge.
Sometimes, women need to know they tried them all. Sometimes, the time is just not right. Sometimes, the idea of food freedom seems so “out there” that it feels impossible to achieve, so women choose more restrictions.
Whatever it is, it’s okay. Each woman has her own path; there is no wrong way here.
I like to call intuitive eating just a professional way to call normal eating. Remember, we were all born intuitive eaters.
Intuitive eating contains a couple of principles that are designed to free you from weight and food obsession.
10 principles of intuitive eating:
1. Reject the Diet Mentality
2. Honor Your Hunger
3. Make Peace with Food
4. Challenge the Food Police
5. Discover the Satisfaction Factor
6. Feel Your Fullness
7. Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness
8. Respect Your Body
9. Gentle Movement
10. Gentle Nutrition
The main idea of food freedom is to listen to your body and its hunger and satiety signals, instead of trying to control your food intake.
Promoting food freedom and body positivity are the greatest trends in food/body/health industry, considering that average woman will spend around 31 years of her life dieting. (1)
Even if we ignore all the negative consequences of dieting, it’s easy to see how world would become a better place if women could spend 31 years focusing on her joy, pleasure, happiness and fulfillment. Eating when she’s hungry, stopping when she’s full. No big deal. Lots of free mental energy to change the world.
Going back to food freedom with require commitment and some time. Depending on how deep diet culture is stored within you, and depending on how long meal plans, calorie counting and diets were dictating your life, recovering from restrictions takes a while. Everyone’s journey is unique and perfect for them. Your food freedom journey depends on you and nobody else.
Food freedom journey is not a linear. It’s important to stay patient with yourself, to honor the journey and not rush. Nobody expects you to shift into food freedom in a moment. Moreover, if you do just jump into it without professional guidance, you may risk feeling overwhelmed, frustrated and scared. This may lead to giving up. I do not recommend that.
So I want to share with you some of the signs and steps that can show you if you’re ready to ditch the diet forever, come back to your body and its instincts.
1. Creating balance in your body
First step is to take loving care of your body. Before you start your food freedom journey, it’s beneficial to know if you’re lacking any important nutrients. This step matters because a body that is nutrient deficient will try to eat more and more, searching for the nutrients it’s missing.
Go to your doctor, test yourself for nutrient deficiency and take a supplement if necessary.
If you’re suffering from eating disorder such as anorexia, first step is recovering your body weight – seek professional help, such as a doctor.
If you’re suffering from eating disorders such as bulimina or binge eating disorder, your first step is eating regularly. You’re probably gonna need a meal plan to start with, seek professional help.
2. Identify the real issue
Sometimes, letting go of food freedom and diving into diets is a symptom for something deeper that’s going on. Food restrictions rarely have to do only with weight and food, mostly there is something else going on. What exactly did you want to achieve with all those diets?
When you identify the real issue, you can start working on it. In that process, when you realize it may be something else, you will stop seeing food as your enemy. Then, you will be able to slowly start using food as a friend, to take care of your body in a pleasurable way, and stop using it to avoid the real issue.
3. Ability to recognize and deal with your emotions
When you’re actively working on recognizing the real reasons why you’re eating when not hungry (and why you’re trying to lose weight), and when you’re ready to cope with your emotions in a more helpful way, without food, needing food as a coping mechanism will decrease.
Once you see the real reasons you’re eating (when not hungry), or not eating, you will be able to seek what you truly need.
Of course, this doesn’t happen over night – if you’ve spent years controlling your food intake, and/or overeating, you will need some time to get out of the automatic behaviour and become aware of what’s really going on.
This process has many layers to it. Be patient with yourself.
4. Ditch the perfectionism
Almost every woman suffering from diets, also suffers from perfectionism.
Mostly, it looks something like this: you follow your meal plan perfectly. If it says 3 almonds, 2 spoonf of yogurt and half apple as a snack, you eat only that and nothing more (ignoring your hunger, satiety and satisfaction). As long as your body is capable of following the meal plan, all is well.
However, the problem with meal plans and all of the other restrictions is – your body doesn’t like chronic hunger. Your body needs to have enough energy to function. When it doesn’t get the energy it needs, your body starts to complain.
The rest of this scenario is probably familiar to you – you follow your meal plan perfectly for a couple of days.. Soon, food becomes all yout hink about. In the end, you “screw up” and eat 4 almonds when you were supposed to eat 3 almonds, and your inner perfectionist goes like “Great, now I ruined everything, this is bullshit. Well, since I ruined everything, I may as well eat all!!”, and then you go on to eat all the almonds, then cookies, then cake..
Results you get from this hunger and binge cycle?
You eat until you’re super full and uncomfortable. You feel guilty, angry, sad, shameful and like a giant failure. You promise yourself you’ll start again tomorrow and follow your meal plan perfectly. And the cycle begins again..
You see, when you ditch the perfectionism and the diets – you pick up a snack that feels appetizing at the moment, you eat 4 almonds, or 7, or a cookie or 5 – and you move on with your life. Without the whole circus.
When you’re willing to abandon perfectionism, you’re ready to ditch the diet.
5. Willingness to risk
This means you’re ready to get way out of your comfort zone.
If you’re spent years dieting, this may simply mean eating a certain food without analysing calories and ingredients for an hour.
If you weren’ allowed to eat certain foods, getting out of your comfort zone may mean including some of them in your food world.
It sometimes even happens you discover that you don’t even like the food you used to binge on. You see, when you have unconditional permission to eat, when you’re free, you are able to decide what foods you like and know that they will always be available. And you’re able to let go of the foods you don’t like because you know you can have the ones you like whenever you want.
These risks are super important – they are how you show yourself you’re ready to commit, you’re ready to tune back into your body.
Although these steps are not the whole story – story comes with layers, it’s important to check in with yourself and see where you stand. Being aware of your situation and have it in mind is the most important sign you’re ready to ditch the diet – when you’re aware of something, you are free to choose to change it.
Remind yourself why food freedom matters. The best way to go back to food freedom is with loving support of your family, friends or a professional to guide you. You may also want to have a journal to note your journey, you can see when you’re making progress and when you took a step back – and then, you can journal your way out of it.
The most important thing is never to give up – I highly doubt your purpose in this world, in this lifetime is to spend 31 years of your life thinking about what you are and what you are not allowed to eat.
If you need support, I’d be honored to be a part of your journey.
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