Sometimes when I try to tell people to stop thinking about weight and food in such weird and crooked ways, and when I tell them that I just eat whatever and however much I want, and that I don’t believe in calories or points or carb grams…
They seem to think I just don’t give a fuck.
But, alas, they’re wrong.
I actually give all the fucks when it comes to listening to my body. But I guess they are right in the sense that I give zero fucks about restriction or diet culture or weight distortion.
Now don’t get me wrong, I know from personal experience how it’s just as easy to fall into the trap of not caring as it was to fall into the diet mindset.
When I was working on freeing myself from the “good food, bad food” (seriously though, food does NOT have any personality traits!), I first assumed I wasn’t ever going to be allowed to eat anything green again.
I thought I’d have to stuff my face with cake and brownies and ice cream for the rest of my life and not care one bit about vegetables and health. I think that’s quite normal behavior when you allow yourself to let go of all restrictions and just eat without thinking about it too much? I couldn’t even drink water because I felt triggered by it.
But I can assure you, it didn’t last forever – but going through the process of eating what I feared most was crucial to me.
My first step was to let it all go
So the first time I recovered from nearly a decade of restrictive and disordered eating, I went all-in.
My then-boyfriend (and now-husband) was incredibly supportive when I explained to him that I’d be living off frozen pizza, ice cream, juice and granola for however long I needed to – it’s important to surround yourself with people who support and love you. And then I let go go go and just ate.
- Whenever I felt guilty, I’d intentionally move that thought aside in my mind.
- Whenever I obsessed about food, I’d try to just forget about it and eat mindlessly in front of the TV (yes, really).
- I stopped exercising because I was suddenly so exhausted, I slept a lot (this was pre-kids) and just generally spent entire days on the couch with Breaking Bad and pizza.
It was hard and I cried a lot but it was also so good.
But guess what. I got sick of it.
I know, I couldn’t believe it either.
Me, the girl who obsessed about eating a single square of dark chocolate didn’t feel like dessert anymore. But I really got sick of it.
BECAUSE I FUCKING ATE.
My mind and body knew there was always going to be more food.
I didn’t restrict any food groups, nutrients, ingredients.
So food completely lost its power over me.
Then this happened…
I started to feel so bored.
I started to forget about eating because I was so busy doing something else (a scenario I could only dream of before, food was ALWAYS on my mind).
I started to tell my husband I didn’t want pizza.
I started to crave protein and vegetables. Like, not “I’ve been so unhealthy, I HAVE to eat greens now!”. No. An inexplicable internal desire for freshness and juiciness (that’s exactly how it felt! so bizarre but also so beautiful to feel your body’s intuition) and an irrational craving for meat.
And also, even after we started cooking again, with whatever looked good at the supermarket (including butter and cheese and vegetables and fruit and various cuts of meat and desserts I felt like eating), I started to be able to not finish a meal… Because I was truly satiated.
I remember very clearly one evening, we had buttery steak, roasted sweet potatoes and probably some asparagus or green beans, and I just… Didn’t want to keep eating after a few bites.
Not out of restriction, but because it was becoming more and more difficult to put food in my mouth. So I just stopped, with my plate half-full. Because I was done and there was no more need for me to put fuel in my body that very moment.
Food freedom isn’t equal to not caring!
Eating intuitively and living in food freedom doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to care.
It doesn’t mean you can’t have ethical values when it comes to food.
It doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to eat vegetables because oooooh, they’re healthy and we’re not doing that anymore.
It doesn’t mean you have to completely ignore your body in a whole new way, by forcing food on it it doesn’t really want just because you think that’s how you have to eat now.
Not at all. Quite the opposite, actually.
It means caring so much that you will actually pay attention to what your body wants instead of letting anything else override your intuition. And hint: As long as you’re still overthinking your eating habits, you’re not living in food freedom.
Food freedom means eating kale because you fucking want kale, not because you’re blending tons and tons of it into a smoothie because somebody said so on the Internet.
It means eating vegetables and grains and meat and eggs and fish and beans and cookies and cake and ice cream because that’s what your body wants to be nourished with (yes I said cookies and cake and ice cream and nourishing in the same sentence, and I’m proud of it). Not because you’re following some set of arbitrary rules somebody else made up.
Sometimes you’ll want to eat four slices of cake, and then you’ll probably not be hungry again for a while. Sometimes you’ll want to eat four slices of cake and still be hungry again an hour later.
And if you let yourself be and just eat, these cues will become more and more clear to you.
And eating will become so so so simple.
If you’ve been restricting and denying anything (dessert, sugar, carbs, you name it), chances are you’re going to want to eat lots of that kind of food initially when you set your body free. And that’s OK, we all felt like this. (btw, this link is about hunger in eating disorder recovery, but I think it applies if you’re recovering from dieting, too – it’s just a great piece on crazy hunger you might experience initially)
But if you go into it with the mindset of finding your true intuition, and let yourself get there naturally (uhm no, you don’t need to write down your hunger cues on a scale from 1-10, and neither do you need to eat slowly and “mindfully” to get to the perfect point of satiation, you just eat and slowly start noticing how your body reacts) – I believe you will eventually feel like eating something other than frozen pizza.
What you can’t expect from food freedom though
Food freedom doesn’t cure everything. Sure, letting go of my twisted beliefs of diet, health and beauty shifted a lot of anxiety and other things. It helped me have a regular cycle for the first time in my entire life.
But it didn’t heal my fatigue, my insomnia, my cystic acne, my phone addiction or my discomfort in being in a large group of people. Because in my opinion food is neither the cause of nor the solution to everything.
Allowing my body to get the fuel and rest it needs did something else for me though: It gave me the mental clarity and energy to pursue other ways of healing. Things like yoga and meditation, for example (things I had previously deemed a waste of time because they didn’t burn enough calories) to help with my insomnia.
Food freedom absolutely helps you take so much better care of your wellness and self than diets and restriction ever will. But it is not a cure for allthethings.
Food freedom is better self care than any diet or healthy meal plan ever will be!
Let your intuition guide you and don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to prove anything to anyone, be anything to anyone or eat cake for the rest of your life because you’re not dieting anymore.
Once eating becomes as natural as peeing and breathing to you, it’s perfectly fine to enjoy vegetables, to care about ethically raised meat, to drink water, if that’s what you feel like.
You do not have to live in a way that’s careless just because you’re not on a diet anymore. All you have to do is eat whatever you damn feel like (I bet it’s not always going to be peanut butter cups) and STOP OBSESSING.
Seriously, just stop obsessing and free your mind.
- No guilt if you don’t eat any vegetables for a day. Or even two.
- No panic attack if you’re at a restaurant and don’t know their meat source.
- No freak-outs if the gas station is out of bottled water (seems unlikely, but all is fair in point making).
And that’s how I live in food freedom all the while giving all the fucks about my health and wellbeing of MY body and mind, without ever dieting or restricting again.