Sugar-free, gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, wheat-free, caffeine-free, fat-free, GMO-free, carb-free, soy-free, salt-free.
Those all sound not only fun-free but mental-sanity-free. And sure, there are allergies and intolerances to certain foods. However, eliminating foods to be hip wid it or in hopes to lose weight is harmful. It’s also unsustainable.
Dieting is one of the top risk factors for developing an eating disorder. It makes sense too. Eating clean (aka dieting) starts off harmless, slowly eliminating one food after another. Then, it becomes about needing control that leads to potential obsessive thoughts about food/weight/appearance/calories. And because dieting decreases our bodies’ ability to produce leptin (an appetite-suppressing hormone) any time an off-limits food is presented we are on the brink of a binge. Overeating leads to negative physical and emotional feelings and a vow to never eat “bad” foods again. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
It’s hard to know what normal eating even looks like in today’s world. Don’t worry, I got you. Normal eating is a lot of things like…
- Not relying on a calorie/macro counting app OR a nutrition facts label to make food decisions
- Honoring your cravings and not substituting them. “Eat this, not that” upsets me, it’s the most ignorant thing. Cocoa nibs ARE NOTHING like a chewy fudgy brownie. Eating carrot sticks IS NOTHING like eating crispy greasy waffle fries. You know the saying “say what you mean and mean what you say?” Apply that with your food choices too. Eat what you crave and don’t settle for the diety version.
- Not obsessing over diet rules or eliminating food groups
- The ability to have (name your food, ex: Girl Scout Cookies/CheezIts) in your pantry and not feel compelled to eat the whole package. Coming from a background of restriction or dieting can make keeping all types of food in your kitchen challenging. Speaking from experience, baby steps are a necessity and reaching out to a non-diet RD is so so helpful.
- Allowing yourself to eat even if you didn’t work out or burn “x” amount of calories that day
- Eating at any point of the day because you feel hungry. And for that matter, eating what is available without feeling anxious. McDonald’s on a road trip? No problem. Didn’t eat a salad yesterday because there were no veggies in the fridge? Don’t sweat it. Your weight can fluctuate like 5-10 pounds in one day yet remain stable for years. Weight is unmicromanageable. Don’t weigh yourself, just take care of yourself.
Normal eating is about balancing the big picture. Some brush strokes are big, some are small, some are sloppy, and some are thoughtful. At the end you have a beautiful painting. Each painting turns out different, but each is wonderful. Food choices are the brush strokes and your body is the big picture. Not every meal or snack needs to be meal prepped and free of sugar and Instagram worthy. And not every body is meant to be thin and toned with a perfect BMI. That’d be boring. Body diversity (and all diversity for that matter) is really special.
Let’s try being obsessed-with-our-weight-free rather than sugar-free. It sounds good to me.
How? Throw away your scale. Delete MyFitnessPal. And toss out that Whole30 cookbook. And while you’re at it, try ditching Instagram for a day or two because studies show a harmful correlation between social media and body image. You are not your body, you’re a somebody. A somebody that is beautiful, strong, capable, tough, and smart.