Why I stopped Labeling Food as “Bad”
Restrictive Diets. Vs. Intuitive Eating
Fad diets are out. We are no longer expected to count every last calorie that goes into our body. We don't have to step on the scale every morning to monitor the half lb gained or lost. So, what does this mean exactly? Do we all just have a free for all and eat whatever we want whenever we want? Well...ya! I've learned this year that with intuitive eating, you can kick diet culture and live more freely. Eat what you crave without self-criticism, while also being aware of your hunger signals and mental state.
The idea behind Intuitive eating isn’t to disregarding your health. It’s important to fuel your body with the proper number of calories and nutrition to sustain energy while not over eating. Eat slow and listen to your body’s fullness signals. Trust that your body will know what it needs and when to stop. Observe how the foods you’re eating make you feel and if you’re actually enjoying it. Stop calling foods “good” or “bad” and don’t feel guilty when you crave the latter. Taking food groups away (not including those with allergies or sensitivities) for the sole purpose of losing weight is making people feel worse and creating a vicious binge and restrict cycle.
Most of our parents grew up in a weight-obsessed society that never talked about body positivity or fuelling your body with ingredients that make you feel good. The pressure to be “skinny” was, and let’s be honest still is, something that drives a lot of peoples eating habits. We were brought up thinking that being on a perpetual weight loss diet is normal and healthy. This has created a harmful relationship with food, leading to cycles of restricting and binging that end in feelings of failure, depression and low self-esteem. Thankfully, our generation has started to push back on this detrimental mindset by saying “no” to diet culture. In the past, the idea was pushed that if you ate less and lost weight, you would feel better about yourself, because that’s what media and advertising has told us for years. We started extreme diets. Lost 2-3 lbs the first few days, feeling proud that we started to shrink to meet societies unrealistic expectations. Then, a week into the diet we lost momentum and “slipped up” by eating some of the “bad” foods we didn’t allow. All of the sudden we are elbow deep in a bag of chips feeling guilty and defeated. I know this pattern all too well because this has been my relationship with food for years. What I learned when I came across intuitive eating was your brain actually craves these foods more when you tell yourself you can't have them, to the point that it’s impossible not to binge. The only way to break this cycle is to allow yourself to get rid of expectations and give in to your cravings without self-criticism.
My journey with intuitive eating started about 6 months ago. I was at a point where I was fed up with my relationship with food, I was always thinking about my next meal and what I wasn’t “allowed” to eat. I was mad at myself that every “diet starts tomorrow” started with overeating a goodbye meal and ended a week later by doing the same thing and feeling incredibly guilty. I was done with dieting. I needed to make a change. With a very quick Google search I found the book “INTUITIVE EATING, 4TH EDITION: A REVOLUTIONARY ANTI-DIET APPROACH” by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. This book changed my life, not all at once, but it helped me start this journey to find a better relationship with food and break the vicious cycle.
I call it a journey because it hasn’t been easy to kick the very much ingrained diet culture that has saturated my thoughts since I was about 12. After reading the Intuitive Eating book and practicing mindful eating I mostly feel in control, not restricting, eating until I feel full, and stopping when I’m satisfied (whereas before I wouldn’t be able to go a week without feeling guilty about my food choices). It’s difficult not to be sucked back into diet culture for a few days now and then, especially when you see all the perfectly edited pictured on Instagram, being bombarded with anti-bloat pill ads, mixed in with the creeping up of my old thinking habits when I eat something that is deemed “bad”. What’s different now is how quickly I stop myself and am reminded that diets don’t actually work. It has started to become almost humorous how incredibly reliable the cycle of restricting and binging is.
Some things I’ve learned:
1) Don’t label foods as “good” or “bad”
2) Eat when you’re hungry and trust your hunger signals, don’t ignore them
3) Don’t get mad at yourself when you eat something that was previously categorized as a “bad” food - eat what you’re craving, stop when you’re satisfied and move on with your day
4) Eat nutrient dense foods and monitor your energy levels to learn more about what your own body needs instead of what diet culture has told you to eat
5) Don’t be hard on yourself if you slip back in to diet culture, and be proud for catching it and going back to treating your body with respect
It’s amazing to see the communities that have started to pop up around intuitive eating. To make real change in diet culture, it’s important that we all work together to lift each other up and not criticize based on body shape, eating habits, or food choices. Most importantly, eat what you love, listen to your body and be kind to yourself.