Food Freedom is a buzz phrase that seems to be taking over the internet. But to anyone who has lived their life following the next fad diet, restricting and trying to find that “healthy consistency”, it sounds like a pipedream. I guarantee that once you truly understand food freedom, and overcome the resistance towards it, the next phase of your life will begin. It’s a no brainer.
Let’s start with what Food Freedom actually is. Or, more accurately, what food freedom is NOT. Food freedom is not anti-health. This is the most prominent misconception that is pushed by diet culture through fitness professionals and diet creators. This belief is based on the idea that restriction = health, which is categorically not the case. Logically, we know this. Restriction is never seen as positive when talking about anything other than diet but with diet we are programmed to believe that our moral worth is tied up in our willpower – can we resist the foods we like? Can we eat less than we really want? Can we successfully cut out certain foods? If we can, we are automatically better people.
When we accept the above premise (which the majority of people do, because diet culture is everywhere and engrained in our consciousness), food freedom is synonymous with anti-health, it is something that “lesser” or “bad” people do. Food freedom is the easy option and only people who have willpower and are worthy can restrict. In addition, to someone who has been restricting and avoiding the foods they love for a long time, just the words “food freedom” conjure up an image of eating mountains of sugar, replacing all vegetables with chocolate and avoiding all nutrients.
And that’s really where the first resistance we are going to talk about comes from.
We have been inundated with information about what is “healthy” and how we “should” be eating for decades, so to say that it is possible to live a healthy life without restriction seems absurd. Accepting Food freedom is accepting that there’s an ulterior motive for people creating diets and selling them (spoiler alert, there is - and the majority of the time, it’s money) and it can be uncomfortable. To be told that the ideas you’ve lived your life based upon are not only wrong, but have been pushed upon you with a hidden agenda is not an easy pill to swallow. For a lot of people, it’s easier to continue with diet culture and refuse to belief that food freedom is an option, rather than doing a complete 180 on their beliefs. That is how powerful and engrained diet culture is.
The second resistance to food freedom comes from fear. The fear of not looking a certain way that we have been told to look. The fear of putting on all the weight you have lost through restriction, because you can’t see how you can maintain a healthy body WITHOUT restriction. Of course, the more we look into this, the more clear it becomes that these fears are born from diet culture itself. Diet culture is riddled with fatphobia – the idea that you cannot be healthy in a larger body is time and time again being disproved (though that is a whole other discussion).
In fact, diet culture is so much a part of our society (and psyche) that we look at photos in magazines that we know have been photoshopped and still try to achieve that body. We celebrate the dedication of female bodybuilders, even when they tell us that they have lost their period because their body is starving. We love a girl who “eats what she wants” – as long as she doesn’t look like she does. And then we are scared to enjoy food freedom and food freedom is what sounds crazy to us.
For me, denial is the strongest one. Even if you’ve accepted that food freedom can work for people, and acknowledge that the fear of it is because of diet culture, taking the step to actually let go of restriction and live your life in a different way means accepting that every diet you went on in your life was unnecessary. Every missed social occasion in the pursuit of a beach body was worthless. The goals you were aiming for were meaningless.
Believe me, that is a tough pill to swallow – I know this from experience. I remember being on holiday with my family, feeling “fat”, avoiding photos and then deleting them off the digital camera if the angle wasn’t quite right. I think I even cried at one point feeling so horrible in my own body because I hadn’t stuck to my pre-holiday diet. It would turn out to be the last family holiday we ever had before my dad died.
I still, seven years later, can’t spend too long thinking about all the things I missed on, the family time I sacrificed for the gym, the meals that I felt guilty for because I should have been on plan, because it hurts. It wasn’t worth it. Accepting food freedom meant accepting that I made the wrong choice, and that I could have (and should have) felt absolutely fine in my body when on holiday, and should have enjoyed every family meal without guilt because restriction is the unhealthy option, not food freedom.
On that third resistance, it’s important to cut yourself some slack and be kind to yourself, otherwise you can spiral. Instead of reliving every choice you made and mourning the lost opportunities, remember that diet culture is so prominent and pushed upon us that sometimes you can’t even see the edges. It is a part of who we are as a society – it is not your fault that you buy into it.
It doesn’t happen overnight, but once we are aware of the resistances towards food freedom, the reasons behind them and decide to work towards that life free of restriction, a weight is lifted. For support on how to start that journey, check out my Food Freedom Experience eBook, which not only gives practical tips but also lifelong mindset changes when it comes to food. Diet culture is difficult to undo – but it’s not impossible. Remember, you were put on this earth to do more than just diet.