These days, I would say that I feel complete freedom around food. But it has definitely not always been that way. It took work to move away from the mentality that because I'm not as thin as I was in high school, or as thin as other women in my family, or as thin as my friends or women I see on TV or in the gym that I needed to restrict my food intake until I achieved a more "acceptable" physique. I struggled to stop listening to the latest diet trend and to stop seeking a "quick fix" or some guidelines I could blindly follow and feel confident that I was being "healthy."
Diets made me: binge, eat foods that didn't make me feel good, disconnect from my body, put off loving myself and my life until I was thinner, feel hungry all the time but feel like I couldn't listen to that sensation, obsess about food and mistake that obsession for hunger.
I could probably write a book about my journey to greater self love, better body image, and food freedom, but today I thought I'd share 3 things that have helped:
(1) Deciding to stop, and reverse, negative self talk. When that critical voice in my head would creep up and condemn a certain body part for not looking the way I wanted it to, I would make a conscious choice to shift to radical and unconditional self love. This looked like seeing my legs in the mirror, starting to hear "ugh, cellulite" and pausing, taking a breath, and smiling and saying "thank you legs for carrying me around all day."
(2) Begin to pay attention to hunger and fullness and honor it. As I learned about the concept of intuitive eating, I heard about thinking of your hunger and fullness on a spectrum. 1 would be absolutely uncomfortably famished, and 10 would be stuffed to the point of discomfort. The goal was to eat when you reached a 3 or 4, and stop when you reached about a 7. It helped to actively think about rating my hunger and fullness as I got used to living in these more moderate levels of those sensations. I was so used to waiting until I was starving to eat and then overeating so I was uncomfortable. At first, it felt odd to eat at a 3, and it felt scary to stop at a 7. But once I got used to it I felt GOOD most of the time, obsessed about food less, felt less guilt when I ate, and made better choices because I wasn't coming from a place of being famished. Eventually, this came more naturally and I didn't have to focus so much on it.
(3) Eat fun, yummy foods. When we choose our foods based on what someone else tells us is "healthy" or what we think will make us lose weight, and ignore what our body loves and craves and what is actually enjoyable for us to eat, we really do ourselves a disservice. It's natural to want to derive some pleasure out of food, and when we deny ourselves that privilege, we miss out on an important aspect of nourishment. We send our body the message that she is not deserving of what she wants. Deprivation now almost always leads to overindulgence later, followed by deprivation due to guilt, followed by.....well, you get the picture! I've found it helpful, in my quest for food freedom, to revisit foods that I have loved in the past, but given up due to diet rules. I've found that if I do this in a way that is honest and curious, and I really pay attention to how the food tastes and makes me feel, I will continue eating those that are beneficial for my body, and lose interest in those that are not. For example, as I posted about on instagram, I've loved starting to eat this hummus & chicken wrap for lunches again recently. On the other hand, I used to eat ice cream a ton when I was younger, and I loved it. I now have equal permission to eat a salad, or a wrap, or pizza or ice cream, but I'm only very occasionally interested in ice cream. When the only goal I have for my food is to have it taste good and make my body feel good, I find myself far better nourished and far less panicky to eat or repent for what I've eaten.
What thoughts does this bring up for you? Are you doubtful? (I was at first, too). Fearful of what you will choose to eat if you can eat anything you want? (Yep, I felt that!) I'd love for you to share with me in the comments.