For the last five years I have found myself on a rollercoaster relationship with food. I would fluctuate between restriction and over indulging, using control over my food as a way to ignore difficult emotions.
The more stressed I got with life, the more I wanted to restrict and create rules around food. Labeling foods “good” and “bad”, not straying from the pre-approved Paleo foods, or avoiding certain foods for months even though I had no known allergy to them.
But I was finding that these periods of restriction just lead to overeating and feeling worse about myself than before. During my phases of restriction, I found myself thinking about food constantly. What would my next meal be? Am I eating the correct level of macros? I can’t possibly eat at that restaurant with my friends.
It became obsessive and caused me to feel lonelier than ever before, isolating myself from life thinking that food control was the answer to all my problems. It wasn’t until I decided one day that I was done with control. I didn’t want food to have control over me anymore. I wanted to feel free and show up for my life, not staying home and planning out macros.
I had to truly let myself eat whatever I wanted and feed my cravings. Sure it was intimidating at first but I felt something shift inside me for the first time. I felt ease and enjoyment around food, I trusted myself to guide me to eat the appropriate food at the right amounts, I allowed myself to cultivate a life I enjoyed. I discovered that my body knows how to heal itself and can guide me toward a way of eating that can be sustainable everyday.
Yes, I believe that there is a time and place for paying more attention to our food and even tracking calories for a couple days just to see where we are. I always use weghing and measuring as a way to get back on track and famliarize myself with proper portion sizes.
But it is becomes dangerous when life becomes a rollercoaster of dieting then overeating and feeling shame. That is why I believe that dieting is never the answer. It is all about making conscious lifestyle shifts that make us happy and healthy for the long run. Why is dieting so detrimental to health?
Stressing about our food is worse than the food itself!
Stress, which has become an epidemic in our society, wreaks havoc on the body. All normal functions such as digestion, blood sugar balance, heart rate, and so on, get compromised when we are stressed out. The body believes that danger is coming and it needs to be on high alert.
So of course the body isn’t going to be breaking down and processing all the nutrients from the meal just consumed. Or functioning a normal blood sugar level when cortisol, the stress hormone, is pumping at an alarming rate throughout the body.
Overtime, stress leads to nutrient depletion, adrenal fatigue, weight gain, sugar cravings, and much more. So when diet rules and restriction are causing stress, our body is getting twice the detrimental affect. Instead, try re-framing food as nourishment and fuel to feel your best. Let go of some of the rules and focus on eating food that is real and whole, as close to it’s original form as possible. Start incorporating stress management techniques to calm the anxiety and realize that food is not the enemy.
Chasing perfection leads to more restriction.
This is something I wish I had realized a long time ago. So many times I would start a new eating plan, feeling really motivated, clinging tightly to the rule book. I would see results and want to restrict more, wanting to diet “harder”.
Asking myself what else can I cut out? Food became a set of rules and I wanted to knock out as many as I could. Even though my body was giving me some serious red flags, my mind wanted more restriction. I felt that as long as my willpower was rock solid, I would be happy.
But as all diets eventually lead to, I would overeat on all the foods I ignored or my health would be so messed up it took me months to feel good again. Not to mention all this effect this had on my emotional wellbeing!
See when we are in the state of diet and restriction we feel so high on this power we’ve deemed over food. We feel that we have “conquered” eating and we will lose that fifteen pounds finally. So we want to diet harder and keep cutting foods out, until what? There’s nothing left to eat?
The thing is our diet will never be perfect, because we will never be perfect. We just end up sicker than before, even less confident and happiness is nonexistent.
So please, don’t even start down the path of dieting. Start listening to the feedback of your body and eat what truly makes you come alive and feel energized. Our bodies are our greatest teachers, don’t punish them anymore.
Diets override the ability to eat intuitively.
Aside from the fact that diets lead to nutrient deficiencies, they also harm the ability to listen to the intuitive signals. The body has an innate intelligence that guides everything a person does. From the choices we make, the people we love, and even the food we eat. But the more diets we partake in, the more we lose this ability to hear this voice.
Diets and restriction create an atmosphere of fear, which is a much louder voice than one of compassion and trust. But it doesn’t have to be like this. The more we can treat ourselves with respect, the more we can drown out the fear voice.
It can be a daunting task to speak to ourselves kindly after years of self doubt and restriction. But when we choose to team up with our body, to treat it with respect, we can find this innate intelligence we have been ignoring for so long.
So start slow. Start to drop the rules you have placed around food and move towards foods that make you come alive. Sure, you may want all those foods you have missed out on for so long. But after time you realize your body doesn’t want to subsist on pizza and ice cream. The body wants food that are nutrient-dense, a way of eating that leads optimal function.
Make a pact with yourself that you will empower and love the best version of you. I bet you will find that your food choices will reflect that mentality.
I wish I could say that this is a skill that just comes one day and you no longer have to practice it. Quite the opposite, this is something I must implement every day. But over time it becomes easier. You will recognize what feels good to you and the battle with your body becomes quieter. Taking the step towards self-trust is the best thing you can do for yourself, starting with the food you eat.