Food freedom and non-diet approach to eating are becoming more and more recognized in the world. Finally.
Intuitive eating is a “revolutionary” way of eating that includes listening to your intuition, following your instincts and rational thought when it comes to your food choices. Actually, intuitive eating is a normal, natural way of eating for all of us – we are all born eating intuitively.
Children don’t label any foods as good or bad – everything is just food. They don’t obsess over food. Children eat when they are hungry, they eat whatever they want in that moment and they easily stop when they are satisfied. No restrictions, no obsession, no fear, no drama.
Food is just food, completely neutral.
However, growing up, we have learned a lot of rules about foods, we have started all sorts of diets and eating plans, while forgetting our inner wisdom.
Food freedom offers a lot of benefits: mental, emotional, physical and spiritual, starting with higher self-confidence, better relationship with yourself, less anxiety and depression, less emotional eating, disordered eating, eating disorders and better health.
Food freedom is based on 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
With all of these principles, you may be asking – where to start? What’s the right way to practice food freedom. Answer to this question is not black and white, just like eating is not black and white either. Every single one of us is unique, and each of us has a different journey to the food freedom. Therefore, it’s impossible to determine one right way of practicing food freedom and it’s impossible to determine one right journey to food freedom.
However, although your food freedom journey is unique, a few steps exist that can help you start. Once you start, you will intuitively feel which principles are the most important ones for you at the moment. For example, if you notice your biggest trouble is emotional eating, maybe principle no.7 is going to be best as your next step.
Food freedom is completely flexible, it has no rules. Unlike diets, that start with an idea that you don’t know what and how much to eat, intuitive eating start with the idea that only you know what and how much to eat. The only boss of your food freedom is you.
Yes, this may sound intimidating – taking full responsibility for your eating (and health) may seem like a daunting task. Especially if you’ve spent years believing all sorts of diets and meal plans that offered magical solutions to all of your problems.
This is why it’s helpful to work with a professional who understands your situation and can help you build your peace with food, and help you trust your choices, your body.
If this is for some reason not an option for you right now, next best thing is to start alone.
– What does your current relationship with food look like?
– Are you “allowed” to eat anything you want, when you want and as much as you want?
– Are you avoiding certain foods because of calories, carbs or fats?
– Do you have forbidden foods?
– Do you eat when you feel anxious, angry, happy, sad etc., even if you’re not really hungry?
– Do you feel like you must empty your plate, even if you’re not hungry?
– Do you restrict food because you’re afraid to gain weight or eat too much?
– Does it happen to you that you don’t eat all day, and then in the evening all hell breaks lose, you eat everything in sight, starting with forbidden foods?
– How do you feel about your relationship with food?
These questions are a great start to help you evaluate your current relationship with food. Of course, there are more things to consider – a professional can help you there, but these questions are more than enough to start your journey.
Approach them with curiosity and honesty. No matter what the answers are, don’t judge yourself – that is not the point of evaluation. The point is to see where you are at the moment, so that you can see exactly how important it is for you to start your food freedom journey. The point is to open up a new perspective for you, to see how deep in the diet culture you are, so that you can choose your next steps.
If you have discovered that your relationship with food is not ideal, that you have a lot of food rules and that you don’t feel good about your current relationship with food, don’t let it overwhelm you. It’s just a sign that you need to work on your relationship with food, that’s all. It’s totally okay. The truth is, there are more women who have unhealthy relationship with food, then the ones with a healthy relationship with food. It’s NOT your fault, we live deep in a diet culture that’s obsessed with weight loss, with making us smaller. You haven’t done anything wrong.
2. Reject diets, diet mentality, diet culture and weight loss obsession
Diets don’t work. Diets fail. Diets will never give you long term results, most diets end with gaining back all the weight and, on average, 10 pounds more. A lot of studies show that diets are useless, don’t work and are damaging (1)
Diets make you lose not only fat, but your muscles as well. (2)
The only you will definitely gain from diets (except, well, weight) is an unhealthy relationship with food – best case scenario. Worse scenario would be a full blown eating disorder, which can be deadly.
Of course, it’s hard to avoid all the articles, magazines, portals, ads, books, celebrities, influencers and all of their products that promise quick and easy weight loss, and all the other information sources that sell you diets and stories that the only way to be healthy, happy and successful in life is – to lose weight.
Rejecting diets and diet mentality starts by recognizing where thes messages come from in your world. Become aware of diet sources in your life and just stop following them. Stop feeding your mind with diet crap. Reject all the information sources that promise you quick, easy and long term weight loss.
Stop following people on social media whose content and diets make you feel like a failure, like you’re not enough. Stop following people who promote unhealthy relationship with food and disordered eating.
Reject everyone who’s trying to sell you diets by calling them “lifestyle changes” – nothing that includes restrictions in any way, shape or form, isolation and feeling like a failure is not a lifestyle, it’s a diet. Any “lifestyle” that promotes cutting out food groups is just a diet with a cuter name. Don’t fall for it.
Rejecting the diets is the greatest step on your journey to food freedom. You can’t have food freedom as long as you’re focusing on weight loss and making food choices based on that. Speaking of rejecting, reject the scale too. Throw it away. Scale is not your friend. You’re more than a number. A number that shows nothing efficiently, especially not your worth as a human being.
Food freedom promotes neutrality of foods. Food is just food and you deserve to have ALL the foods you love in your eating world, no matter what it is. Spinach and cake are both awesome and deserve a spot in your life. The only way to make peace with food is to “legalize” all the foods and accept them all as equal.
When all the foods are equal and neutral to you, you will have control over your eating – if cookies aren’t forbidden and you KNOW you can have as many as you want, they won’t be as interesting. This will, in the long run, allow you to eat a few cookies and move on with your life, instead of them being forbidden, and then, once you “try just one”, you end up eating an entire pack, feeling guilty and uncomfortable.
Take as much time as you need on your food freedom journey. I know it’s not easy to reject all ideas that diets are helpful, living in our time, our culture and our world. I know it’s scary to think only you know what, when and how much to eat. I know it’s scary to think your body functions best with a few pounds more than you imagined based on everything diet culture has served you.
Take as much time as you need, asking yourself what exactly did you gain following all these diets. Ask yourself if you’re an example to the children (girls especially) in your life that you’d like to be; do these kids deserve someone who will teach them that they’re worthy, perfect and beautiful just the way they are. They learn from watching you. Ask yourself if losing some weight is really worth all the trouble, obsession and anxiety, or is it possible to enjoy your life right now, today, in the body you already have. Ask yourself if you deserve more than deprivation, starving and desiring only food. Ask yourself is it true that the only way to be healthy, happy and successful is to lose weight.
Check out the studies that show real, long term results of dieting. Surround yourself with positive information sources that promote healthy relationship with food, healthy relationship with body, with yourself. (3)
It’s time to stand up for yourself. It’s time to accept yourself just the way you are – awesome.
It’s time to take care of yourself today, now, of the body you have right now. It’s time to trust yourself and your intuition.
It’s time to become obsessed with life, not calories.
If you need support, I’d love to be a part of your beautiful journey.