Like a child; I eat what I want. Cue the gasps and, “how the heck do you eat what you want? If I ate what I wanted I’d be four thousand pounds.”
First off, no you wouldn’t. Second off, I’m not kidding. Similar to children, I eat what I want when I want, how much I want and I do it without guilt. I have complete freedom, and food no longer makes me feel stressed, or restricted.
Choice, as it relates to food scares the shit out of people — I know because it used to scare me. I thought, if I ate whatever and whenever I wanted I’d gain a million pounds and be damned to hell for the rest of my life — as if weight gain was a moral issue.
Okay, a bit extreme, but honestly — why else do people gasp when they hear the phrase, “I eat what I want.” It’s because they fear weight gain and fat. They ultimately don’t trust their food choices, which leads to a reliance on diets to decide for them.
People say things like, “I can’t eat chips, they’re bad for me. But sometimes I can’t help it; I just love salt.” Or, “I have a sweet tooth, so I don’t keep anything sweet in the house. If I do, I’ll eat the whole package of Oreos.” Meanwhile, the minute nobody’s looking an entire bag of chips or Oreos gets devoured in one sitting.
You see, freedom to choose is scary. And we’re taught by society that we can’t make choices on our own because ultimately, we’ll choose wrong — so to fix our “bad” decisions, we diet. But you know how the story goes, once a diet is enforced, there’s a quick high because of rapid weight loss but the minute your brain and body can’t take it anymore, you find yourself head first into something off plan (cookies, a bag of chips, etc.). And because we fear fat (thanks again to society) we also fear freedom of choice.
Choice also scares us because, “Oh god, I might gain weight,” and this opens up the door to blaming ourselves (which nobody likes). Also, our choices can be “wrong.” And being wrong is scary. The “wrong” concept exists because we rely on pseudoscience, “experts,” and whatever the government decides to support, rather than our intuition. It’s essentially the flavor (diet) of the day, and it’s confusing at best.
Additionally, choice makes control harder because control is easier when you can bow out of it. We are uncomfortable with choice because others can blame us for what we choose. In other words, if I am ashamed of my choice (eating food and becoming fat), it’s all my fault, right? And other people can blame me for what I’ve “done” to myself. We would rather rely on a diet because we can then blame the diet for “failure” and people may not judge quite as much.
So, it’s no wonder choice makes us anxious — especially as it relates to food. We think things like, “what if I’m wrong? What if I eat intuitively, but it makes me fat? Or gives me a heart attack?”
So then, what can we do?
It’s simple. Learn to trust yourself again. Think about when you were a kid. I bet you said when you were hungry (it didn’t matter if it was lunch time or dinner time). You would announce to the world you were hungry. And your mom or dad jumped at the chance to get you some food. You’d also stop eating when you were full. It didn’t matter who judged you for eating your whole plate or just three bites. You finished when you finished. And your parents, I’m sure, would try and feed you more if you didn’t eat “enough” but you likely refused because of one simple biological reason; you were no longer hungry. Ultimately, we intuitively know how to nourish our bodies. We do NOT need a diet to feed us. We can feed ourselves, and we don’t need someone telling us how to — no different than someone telling us how to walk, or when to go to the bathroom. Our bodies just know.
A common argument to this lifestyle is, “If I eat what I want all I’ll ever want is Oreos. And I’ll eat all the Oreos in the world and then I’ll be unhealthy.” Here’s the thing. Try eating Oreos for every meal, and I guarantee, you’ll eventually rather barf on Oreos than eat them. Sure, we all get cravings for food that may or may not be “healthy,” but your body speaks up if you let it. And if you listen to it, you’ll hear what it has to say. Trust me, your body will deny an Oreo only diet. And, if there is no restriction, full allowance, and no guilt associated with food — you’ll be free, and you won’t go off the deep end and eat Oreos every day for every meal. You’ll taper off into a place where you just eat what you feel like eating. You’ll eat when you’re hungry, and you’ll stop when you’re full. It’s nature. If you let it, it will take over and be your ultimate road map to choosing food.
For me, food no longer seems interesting because I allow myself to eat whatever I want. In fact, some days food is a second thought because I’m busy and I don’t think about it. It’s a freedom that allows me to think about other important stuff in life instead of obsessing about my next meal.
I get how hard it can be to think of a world where you don’t obsess about food, you don’t diet, and you allow yourself the freedom to choose whatever you feel like eating. So, try these five things and learn to trust yourself again. It can be done! And you CAN eat what you want and be healthy and well.
- Try things and see how they feel. Really connect with your body. When we eat mindlessly — due to constant dieting or due to numbing ourselves (think Facebook while eating), we never really connect with what food is doing to our bodies, how it tastes or how it’s making us feel. Yes, sometimes when you eat and feel bloat or something that’s uncomfortable you may recognize it. But what people typically do is make themselves feel bad for eating whatever made them feel that way. “Why did I eat that Alfredo? I know cream upsets my stomach! Ugh! I don’t know why I do that to myself.” Rather than beat yourself up, chill out! It was just a food choice, and it didn’t sit well with you. So think about that, recognize it and know it to be a simple fact and nothing that needs emotion or judgment. It upset your stomach. Period. Move on. And next time, don’t choose something with heavy cream. Sometimes the side effects are worth it. And sometimes they aren’t.
- To my point above, be gentle with yourself. There’s no reason to go on a self-defeating tear just because you ate something you think wasn’t a good choice. It’s no different than taking a wrong turn. You chose to avoid Siri’s directions, and now you’re lost. You correct and move on. But for some reason, when it comes to food and our bodies, choices turn into morality issues. As if we’re now a bad person because we chose something we weren’t supposed to eat. You did it, you learned from it, and now you move on. Nothing to harbor or let fester. Plus, when guilt comes with the choices we make, this creates shame and judgment. None of this will help you get to a better place when it comes to eating intuitively and know what your body wants -guilt, shame, and bad thoughts block your ability to pay attention to how your body feels. You’ll beat yourself up and be too occupied to hear anything else your body says. Just let it go. It was a choice, and perhaps it wasn’t the best one for you.
- Learn that nobody’s perfect. You’re not morally wrong if you like sweets, sugar, salt, chips, etc. You’re just human. Food associated with the pleasure senses isn’t immoral. And when you choose to eat ice cream, it doesn’t have to be about right or wrong or bad or good. It’s just ice cream. That’s it. And everyone likes it (mostly). So, nobody’s perfect. Nobody is going to live their life with no sugar, no salt, no fat, etc. -if they do, good for them. But most people, even “healthy eaters” get down and dirty with a brownie now and then. Trying to be a perfectionist with your food choices will lead once again to restriction, and that just leads to binging.
- Know that food is something we biologically need. It’s no different than sex. Or any other pleasurable thing that allows us to live as humans. Imagine if our food tasted like crap all the time? We might eat much less, and we’d have health issues if not nourished appropriately. And I use sex as an example because again, if it weren’t pleasurable would we do it? Would animals recreate? Probably not.
- Your choices will never be perfect, and that’s okay! Give choosing a go and see how it works out for you. Get away from eating what you “should” eat and just make choices based on how you feel and what you want. Listen to what your body needs, it will tell you! And the more you allow yourself and exercise choice the more comfortable you’ll get with it.
Forget everything you’ve ever tried to learn. Go back to basics, go back to knowing you can trust yourself. Go back to relying on that kid inside who knew exactly when she was hungry and when she was full.
Would you like freedom around food? Would you like to experience a non-diet approach to life? For more on how to give up dieting and live a life free of the stress and anxiety dieting creates, check out my website at www.melissacoloton.com. and leave a comment — I’d love to hear what you think.