So you're weight restored, you're not actively dieting or restricting or otherwise engaging in eating disorder behaviors- but still, you don't quite feel totally "normal" around food. Sound like you? You're not alone. I see a lot of people getting stuck in the gap between disordered eating and being totally liberated around food. A lot of times, it's not glaringly obvious that there's an issue but rather subtle signs that you still have some areas to work through when it comes to eating. Here are my 5 signs that you might not be totally free around food yet (pssst... if you read to the end, you'll get a special discount on some of my coaching sessions so don't go anywhere!)
1. You’re still following food rules.
One of the tactics that diets and eating disorders employ are the food rules. Limitations on how many grams of fat a meal can have, how many calories are allowed each day, how many grams of sugar are “acceptable”, etc. But here’s a secret: you don’t have to live by these rules! First of all, I’ve never heard any of these rules being backed by sound science. Most of them came from a women’s “health” magazine (or arguably worse, a women’s fashion magazine) or a “wellness” blog or were just made up arbitrarily in your head one day (I’m certainly guilty of this back in the day). These numbers aren’t real- they’re simply a method of control. And if you're still following them, there's definitely room for a little more freedom in your relationship to food.
2. You label foods as good and bad.
Society makes it really, really easy to see food in the black and white terms of “good” and “bad”. But as I’ve said before, food is not a moral issue. It cannot be good or bad and it does not have the power to make a person good or bad; it is just food. And I get it- there are so many nutrition “experts” in the media talking about how this food is the devil or that food is the reason you’re having XYZ problem. But it’s so important to look at these recommendations with a critical eye. It’s possible (probable) that if people are trying to make you fear a food or food group that they are trying to sell you something or at least they’re being sponsored by someone or some industry to say so. And it’s really important to keep that in mind. But on an even more basic level, food simply does not have the power to be good or bad- food is just food. It's different configurations of proteins, fats and carbohydrates, all of which our body needs in different amounts at different times. It's not good. It's not bad. It's just food.
3. You eat by a schedule, not by your hunger.
Food freedom means eating when and what we’re hungry for. However, I often see people hitting a bump in the road when it comes to the “when”. Diets and eating disorders alike thrive on schedules and plans and timed meals. There are certain hours where food is allowed, a certain amount of time that should be passed between meals, a “cutoff” time in the evening. Unfortunately, all that does is diminish the trust we have with our bodies. Diets teach us that we can’t trust our hunger cues so to be “safe”, we follow a schedule that someone else (arbitrarily) created. But part of being free around food is being able to trust our body’s natural hunger. So it doesn’t matter if we’re hungry a half hour after a meal or three hours after a meal, whether it’s late in the evening or you’re going out to dinner in an hour- that is our body’s signal that we are hungry and if we truly trust ourselves and our bodies, we can respond to that hunger regardless of the time on the clock.
4. You panic at social gatherings, meals out and any other function that involves food.
Social gatherings and meals out at restaurants can be some of the most anxiety producing for people with a history of disordered eating or dieting. There are so many potential pitfalls- eating foods without knowing the nutritional information or ingredient lists, eating in front of other people, eating a “bigger” meal than you might be used to, participating in cocktail hour. All of these things can be major sources of anxiety for someone with a history of eating concerns. But when you finally reach a place of freedom with food, you no longer need to ask the waiter exactly what is in that meal you’re thinking of ordering (unless of course you have allergies, in which case please keep asking!) or whether they have the nutrition information on hand- and say goodbye to trying to look up the calories in each option on your phone under the table or suspiciously excusing yourself to the bathroom for 15 minutes so you can google the nutrition information and try to memorize it before you head back to the table. You can just go to a restaurant or friend’s house with the knowledge that no food is off-limits and trust your body to stop when it has had enough. You can enjoy social events without having rules for yourself. And most importantly, you can enjoy your time with your partner, family and/or friends without fixating on that crab cake you just ate or how much syrup they used in that cocktail.
5. Food is still dominating your brain space.
When we’re entrenched in diet culture and eating disorders, food is often one of the only things that we are able to think about. I picture it like when you check your battery level on your phone and you can see exactly how much energy each app has used in the last 24 hours –if food were an app and we were phones, all of our battery would be sucked out by that one singular app. There wouldn’t be room for any others to run and then by the end of the day, that pesky food app would have drained all of our energy until we recharged and then did it all over again. BUT when we’re living with food freedom, we can focus on food a "regular" amount while also still making space and energy for our friends, relationships, families, work, causes and movements we care about, hobbies, houses, journals, morning walks, coffee, book clubs…literally every other part of being a human. Food freedom means food is no longer taking up a disproportionate amount of space in your brain- meaning that are no calories, numbers or meal times holding you back from living your best life.
Ready for total food freedom? I want to work with you! Send me an email to set up a free consult before tomorrow (Wednesday 8/23) at noon EST and get 25% off my coaching packages! You connect with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the contact page. Talk to you soon!