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Healing Your Relationship with Food Part 2: Ditching Restrictive Mindsets & Embracing Food Freedom

If you've been on the rollercoaster of restrictive diets, labeling certain foods as "bad," and internalizing harmful beliefs about certain eating habits, know that you're not alone. I know the frustration that stems from this cycle—how it can leave you feeling trapped and disconnected from the joy that food should bring. And, it’s not your fault!

There’s a LOT of misinformation out there, a lot of pressure to jump on a “quick fix”, plus the unrealistic images of wellness often promoted by the media. I’m here to tell you it's time to release those negative associations and embrace a new narrative—one that empowers you to nourish your body and soul without guilt or restriction. This 3-part series is a journey together towards liberation, where food becomes a source of pleasure, energy, and vitality, guiding you towards a path of lasting well-being.

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What do we mean by "Restrictive Mindset"?

The concept of labeling foods as "good" or "bad" is deeply ingrained in diet culture. These labels often lead to rigid rules, unrealistic expectations, and a sense of failure when those rules inevitably cannot be sustained. This mindset can create a harmful cycle of extreme restriction followed by overindulgence, fostering an unhealthy relationship with food and one's body.

What is diet culture?

Key characteristics of diet culture include:

  1. Promotion of Weight Loss: Diet culture places a significant emphasis on weight loss as a primary goal for health and well-being. It often suggests that losing weight is the solution to various health issues, regardless of an individual's actual health status.

  2. Good vs. Bad Foods: Categorizing foods as "good" or "bad" based on their calorie content, nutritional profile, or perceived health benefits. This leads to moralizing food choices and creating a sense of guilt or shame around eating certain foods.

  3. Restrictive Eating: Severe restrictions on calorie intake or the elimination of entire food groups are common in diet culture. These diets often promise quick results but can be unsustainable and harmful to both physical and mental health.

  4. Body Dissatisfaction: Diet culture perpetuates body dissatisfaction by promoting unrealistic beauty standards and creating a belief that a certain body size or shape is ideal. This can lead to low self-esteem, poor body image, and unhealthy behaviors.

  5. Focus on External Appearance: Diet culture prioritizes external appearance over internal health and well-being, leading to a disconnect between the way a person looks and their actual health status.

  6. Promotion of "Quick Fixes": Diet culture often promotes quick-fix solutions, promising rapid weight loss through fad diets, detoxes, and other trendy approaches. These solutions rarely result in long-term health improvements.

Diet culture can perpetuate harmful behaviors and attitudes, leading to a cycle of dieting, weight cycling, and negative self-perception. Moving away from diet culture involves adopting a more holistic and balanced approach to health—one that focuses on nourishment, self-care, and body acceptance rather than rigid rules and external appearance.


Let's talk about Food Freedom!

Food freedom emphasizes a balanced and flexible approach to eating, free from restrictive diets, guilt, and negative associations with food. It's about cultivating a healthy relationship with food that prioritizes nourishment, enjoyment, and self-care while respecting individual preferences, needs, and cultural considerations. Food freedom encourages you to make food choices based on internal cues, rather than external rules or societal pressures.

Key principles of food freedom include:

  1. Listening to Your Body: Food freedom involves tuning into your body's hunger and fullness cues. It's about eating when you're hungry and stopping when you're comfortably satisfied, rather than adhering to rigid meal schedules or portion sizes.

  2. No Food Is Off-Limits: In a food freedom approach, there are no "good" or "bad" foods. All foods can be enjoyed in moderation without guilt or shame. This eliminates the need to label foods as forbidden or to follow strict dietary rules.

  3. Intuitive Eating: Food freedom aligns with the principles of intuitive eating, which encourages you to trust your body's natural signals and make choices that honor your physical and emotional well-being.

  4. Variety and Enjoyment: Food freedom celebrates variety in your diet and encourages you to explore different foods without fear. It prioritizes the joy and satisfaction that comes from eating a diverse range of flavors and cuisines.

  5. Body Positivity: Embracing body positivity and body acceptance is a crucial aspect of food freedom. It involves recognizing that health and self-worth are not determined by body size or appearance.

  6. Flexible Choices: Food freedom allows for flexibility in your eating choices based on your preferences, cultural background, and individual needs. It's about nourishing your body in a way that feels good for you.

  7. Self-Care: Prioritizing self-care and well-being over external pressures or societal standards is central to food freedom. It's about making choices that support your health and happiness in the long term.


Paving the way toward food freedom and away from restrictive mindsets

After reading that you may be thinking it's a no brainer - living with food freedom probably sounds MUCH more enjoyable, right?! But when we've been exposed to restrictive mindsets and taught these principles our whole lives, sometimes it's not so easy to just make a new choice. Here are some ways you can begin to incorporate food freedom into your life!

1. Self-Reflection and Awareness:

  • Begin by acknowledging your current mindset and any negative beliefs or rules you have about food and your body.

  • Reflect on how these beliefs and rules have impacted your relationship with food, your self-esteem, and your overall well-being

2. Educate Yourself:

  • Learn about the principles of food freedom, intuitive eating, and mindful eating. Understanding these concepts can provide you with a solid foundation for change.

3. Challenge Negative Thoughts:

  • Identify and challenge any negative or judgmental thoughts you have about food, your body, or yourself. Practice self-compassion and self-forgiveness.

4. Mindful Eating:

  • Start incorporating mindful eating practices into your meals. Focus on eating slowly, savoring each bite, and paying attention to your body's hunger and fullness cues.

5. Ditch Food Labels:

  • Let go of the labels "good" and "bad" when it comes to food. Remind yourself that all foods can have a place in a balanced diet.

6. Permission to Eat:

  • Give yourself permission to eat foods you enjoy without guilt. Allow yourself to savor the flavors and enjoy the experience of eating.

7. Trust Your Body:

  • Trust that your body knows what it needs. Listen to hunger cues and respond with nourishing foods when you're hungry.

8. Release Dieting Mindset:

  • Shift your focus away from dieting and weight loss. Instead, focus on health and well-being as holistic concepts that go beyond the number on the scale.

9. Practice Self-Care:

  • Prioritize self-care activities that support your overall well-being, such as exercise you enjoy, stress management, and getting enough rest.

10. Seek Support:

  • Consider seeking support from a therapist, counselor, or registered dietitian who specializes in intuitive eating or food freedom. They can provide guidance and a safe space to explore your relationship with food.

11. Celebrate Non-Food Rewards:

  • Find ways to celebrate achievements and milestones in your life that don't involve food. This can help break the association between emotions and eating.


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It is such a powerful shift to go from restrictive mindsets around food to the liberating embrace of food freedom. We've explored how diet culture's rigid rules and labels can harm our relationship with food and our self-esteem. But there's another way, one that promotes intuitive and mindful eating, self-compassion, and body positivity. It's about giving ourselves permission to enjoy all foods without guilt, trusting our bodies, and prioritizing our overall well-being. This path leads to a healthier, more balanced, and joyful connection with food and ourselves. So, let's take that step towards a life free from food restrictions and filled with nourishment, self-love, and genuine freedom.

I hope you've enjoyed Part 2 of Healing Your Relationship with Food! What did you think, did you learn something new, or do you still have questions?

Share them with me wherever you like to hangout!

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Steph Genco, plant-based wellness & nutrition coach for women.

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