What does food freedom even mean?
Food freedom means to feel completely free around food (no sh*t!). But there’s a reason why I titled this ‘how to create food freedom’. Because you don’t find it, you create it for yourself to fit you, your lifestyle and your idea of food freedom.
So let me ask you a question…
“What does freedom look like to you?”
I’ll share with you what it means to me:
- Not having to count anything, weigh anything or ask myself “am I allowed to have this?”
- Mostly choosing to eat foods that not only taste good, but make me feel good.
- It means to eat the ice cream and chocolate occasionally even when I know it won’t make me feel great, but because I simply want the pleasure of eating it.
- It means having zero guilt or judgement around my own food choices and anybody else’s.
- Not thinking about food unless I’m hungry.
- Being invited out for a spur of the moment dinner without freaking out about it.
- Being able to say “no thank you” to my fave food, just because I know I’ll feel better this time if I don’t have it.
And if I’m being honest, it means the same to most of my clients too. And the good news is that I now HAVE complete food freedom and so do my clients when they walk away from coaching with me!
So I invite you to write down what food freedom looks like to YOU.
How to create your own food freedom
So now you’ve written down what food freedom looks like to you, let’s get on with creating it!
The biggest obstacle in creating food freedom is the difficult task of letting go of ‘good and bad’ food labels. When we label foods good or bad, it leaves us feeling good or bad depending on which ones we end up eating. How many times have you said to someone, “I’ve been really good today.”? No doubt your version of ‘good’ is eating your so-called good foods and avoiding your bad foods…? How freeing does that feel? Yeah, thought so…
So step one is letting go of labelling foods or good or bad.
Although there are more steps to creating your own food freedom than just this one, this is one of the most important ones. So today I will share this one with you in-depth…
Clients often come to me thinking our first meeting is going to be a “confession session” where they discuss all the “bad” things they’ve been doing when it comes to food. Acting as the “food police” is not what my role is as a Certified Transformational Nutrition Coach.
Nutrition is not black and white. Instead, I recommend that you embrace the grey – I like to call this the colourful area & get curious about your habits and choices as opposed to critical.
Why is labelling foods as “good” vs “bad” harmful for my health & happiness?
The moment you’ve labelled a food as “bad”, you begin to fear it. It takes up more of your mental space as you spend more time thinking about it. Labelling a food as “bad” inherently puts it on a pedestal. When something is on a pedestal a few things happen….
A) You may want it even more (since it feels off-limits)
B) You may not be able to be fully present while eating it since guilt will sink in, which will reduce your ability to listen to your bodies feedback…(i.e are you even enjoying it? or maybe it’s not that good?, or maybe you had a few bites and that felt satisfying or maybe it’s so damn delicious you’re going to take your time enjoying it)… instead the guilt may lead to a feeling of “well, I already was “bad” might as well just have more”
C) It stops being a neutral food choice and starts having a moral implication. Meaning, when we eat the “bad” food, we tell ourselves that we are “bad” for having made that decision.
As long as you continue to think of food in terms of good or bad, you will continue to harbour a diet mindset.
And as long as you continue to harbour a diet mindset, you will continue to struggle with food.
What to do instead…
I know it can be easier said than done to drop these labels. For some of us we’ve been labelling foods since childhood (often from hearing adults refer to foods as “bad” and “good”).
It’s a bit of an unlearning process. Here are the steps I recommend when it comes to “unlearning” the tendency to label foods:
The first thing to do is to gain awareness. What foods do you label? Make a list of the foods and what you label them as (i.e bad, fattening, not approved, etc).
How does this make you feel?
Next, now that you know which foods are most triggering for you when it comes to labels continue to listen to your thoughts around those foods and increase your awareness. Every time you catch yourself calling a food choice “bad” or “good” try and reframe the label to something else.
For example… I could say…“Brownies are delicious. I will enjoy 1 or 2 and then take a break to see if I really need any more. It’s my choice, I’m allowed to eat as many brownies as I like. How will I feel if I eat more? How will I feel if I don’t eat any more? I trust myself to make the right choice for my body at this moment.”
It can also be helpful to empower yourself. For example, if you previously told yourself “I can’t control myself around brownies”. Instead, work on telling yourself “I am in control of my choices”.
Additionally, instead of attaching words of morality around food empower yourself to make decisions based on what FEELS GOOD for your body at that moment by thinking of food as a part of your self-care (not self-control). For example, sometimes choices rooted in self-care are going to mean a nourishing bowl of veggies and other times it’s going to be a bowl of your favourite ice cream.
Even though intellectually you know you feel more vibrant when you eat more nutritious foods – such as veggies and fruits – over less nutritious foods – such as chocolate, ice cream and chips – if you associate nutritious foods as a good/healthy food and less nutritious foods as a bad/unhealthy food, you will continue to crave the less nutritious foods.
Depriving yourself of it until you have an emotional trigger and you fall into the “what the heck” mode. You then overeat the forbidden less nutritious foods, perhaps even to the point of bingeing, followed by guilt, shame, and hopelessness.
Practice makes progress
It IS possible to shift your mindset away from labelling foods and out of a dieter’s mindset. However, this must be done without consideration of the nutritional value of the foods otherwise you are still thinking in terms of good/bad, healthy/unhealthy which will keep you stuck in the diet food rule trap.
This is the very reason that I don’t teach building nutrition habits to my clients until they are at the zero guilt stage.
If we started the process of learning how to nourish their body, yet they still had a diet mentality, all the nutrition conversations about foods that make them feel healthy and vibrant are heard by them as more diet rules (good/bad, healthy/unhealthy).
With practice over time dropping the labels will allow us to feel more in power when it comes to food and lessens the power that food has over us. We will get to decide what we want to eat and how much based on how it makes us feel…not because of moral motives.
This serves as a reminder that you are in charge of your food choices and that the food doesn’t control you. I know this isn’t easy work and sometimes it may feel easier to go back and follow rigid diet rules. The problem is – while it seems simpler to see things in black and white… it is not sustainable or balanced.
As a Type A personality myself, like most dieters, we learn the all or nothing mindset. The last thing we want to hear is to create balance! We don’t think balance is ‘good enough. Trust me on this beautiful, The grey area between black and white (the colourful area I like to call it!) is THE place to be to live in a place of food freedom and peace of mind.
One last thing I would like to add is that it can be really helpful to use affirmations in your daily practice, not just when your mental food police pop up. Throughout the day, a million times a day, repeat an affirmation to yourself until it feels true for you. Affirmations such as the brownie scenario example I gave above and like the ones below:
“The more I physically and mentally allow ………… (insert whatever food is relevant to you), the less power it will have over me over time. I chose to heal from diet mentality over listening to the food police in my head.”
“It’s just food.”
“All food is equal. What do I feel like eating right now?, not what food should I eat right now.”
“The less I obsess about food and the more I make my food choices from feeling and intuition, the more it will free me from the mental food police.”
“I trust myself.”
“My body knows what to eat to nourish herself.”
I would love to know what you choose to say to yourself! Please share it with me. Sending so much love and remember… This will takes practice – no doubt you’ve had years of being in food jail so be patient with yourself and you will get there. I’m here for you – so reach out if you need help – this is what I’m an expert in!
I offer a free consult call to give you help straight away and to explore the different ways that you can work with me. Let’s chat to see which option suits your situation best.