This is a short but important podcast from the ladies at Balance 365. Food freedom, as defined by Jen, is when you can say “yes” or “no” to food without it carrying a big emotional cost; it is not unrestrained eating from a place of rebellion. A huge part of the teaching at Balance 365 revolves around learning to respond and respect our internal cues, especially for hunger and satiety. Eat when you’ve been hungry for a little while, stop when you’re satisfied but not stuffed. Mostly avoid eating when you’re not hungry. That doesn’t mean never eating emotionally, but limiting it so that it’s in alignment with your goals and values. Rebellious eaters (and they have a whole different podcast on that) are stuck eating all the things, still eating in response to the restrictions they’ve had in the past–I’m going to eat this cupcake because I can and fuck you if you don’t think I should! If this is your pattern, you’re still caught in the pendulum swing between restriction and rebellion.
I love the analogy Jen makes between rebellious eating and a young person moving out of the house from living with strict parents to going hog-wild when they’re finally free of those restrictions. She states “If you want to be a thriving, autonomous person who can move out their parents home and manage yourself, it requires critical thinking skills, it requires life skills, it requires setting self-loving boundaries for yourself. Food freedom requires the same things.” So, we need to learn those skills to set self-loving boundaries. These are the skills she mentions: 1) Learn about balanced nutrition. 2) Address the feelings of panic and anxiety you have about food. 3) Learn critical thinking skills and life skills, like food neutrality. 4) Set self-loving boundaries with food (your own, based on yourself and your goals, not on an external diet).
Finding a place of food freedom won’t necessarily lead to weight loss or fat loss. It might just mean someone is finally able to decide what they want to eat and when they want it based on how they’re feeling and the cues their body gives them. It removes them from the diet culture thinking that any restraint is restriction (part of why I have a problem with folks restating the myth that 95% of diets fail). Understanding the distinction between the two are important. Jen has said in other podcasts that restraint means “not now” and restriction means “not ever.” Notice what a difference in emotional urgency there is between these two approaches!
For me, I know I’m still working on shifting my mindset. I’ve done a lot of work already. I enjoy foods, like rich desserts, in moderation that I used to restrict. I don’t spiral out of control after eating something rich and decadent. It doesn’t become a binge, and I don’t feel like I’ve failed. However, my thoughts can still swing from one extreme to the other–between restriction and rebellion. Maybe our thoughts always will do that to some degree, and it’s just about how we learn to respond to those thoughts. If that’s the case, then I’ve absolutely made progress, as I’m much better at recognizing the swings and deciding how I want to respond to them than I used to be. I don’t feel the urgency to react to my feelings that I once did.
I love Jen’s focus on the behaviors that can come from an end to dieting and recognizing that those behaviors are a response to the restriction of dieting, but need not be the final chapter in how we make food choices. I hope you give this podcast a listen, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on it! (Here is our comment policy.)
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