- How long has your diet and weight consumed your life? Months? Years? Decades?
- Can you remember the last time you ate a holiday cookie and actually enjoyed it? And I mean truly tasted and savored it, without feeling guilty or ashamed after.
- What would your life be like if food rules and the number on the scale weren’t in control?
This holiday season, give yourself the gift of food freedom. And, that woman you described in the last question, yes her, give yourself the gift of being her right now.
Sound impossible? It’s not. The truth is, our thin-obsessed, diet-focused culture has tricked you, has tricked us all, into believing that happiness is reserved for only the few who can meet society’s weight standard.
And, this quest to achieve that thin ideal has nearly ruined one of our most basic pleasures – eating. The kicker is, this constant mission we are on, the one for which we never seem to be quite good enough, has left us feeling pretty miserable. And the reality is, it’s not your fault, it’s not the fault of any of us, that mission was programmed to fail from the start.
How Do We Find Food Freedom?
So, where do you begin turning this around? Giving yourself permission to not only eat, but to enjoy your food again, is probably a pretty good start.
I’ll admit, this isn’t always easy when you have all of those diet messages whirling around in your head. But, here are a couple of strategies to help:
1. When you find yourself wanting a food that you feel like you probably shouldn’t have that because the little diet voice starts telling you things like, “you can’t eat that, you’ll gain weight,” talk back to it.
Engage your other voice, that voice of reason, and remind that diet voice that you can eat what you want. That you are in charge and this is your decision to make. That no single eating occasion is going to significantly affect your weight. And, depriving yourself of what you want now will likely backfire, only leading you to overeat later.
Learning how to talk back to that diet voice takes time and practice. The longer it has been around, the stronger, and more powerful it has likely become. But, that doesn’t mean you need to let it stay in control. The more you practice talking back to that voice with your voice of reason, the quieter and weaker it will become.
2. When you do decide to eat that food, do so mindfully.
Slow down the eating process. Tune out distraction. Make each bite deliberate and intentional. Give yourself the opportunity to engage all of your senses – savoring the smell, the taste, and the texture. And, practice staying present in the moment, letting judgment pass by without inviting it in to sit down and join you.
When you eat mindfully, and tune in to the entire eating experience, don’t be surprised if you find that you feel more satisfied with less food than expected. Often when we eat, especially food that we feel like we shouldn’t be eating, we do so with distraction – whether it be from TV, conversation, or that diet voice shaming you for every bite.
Distraction interferes with our ability to really experience the food, and in turn that food becomes just a teaser to our taste buds. We finish it, but because we didn’t really experience it, we don’t feel satisfied and find ourselves wanting more.
With mindfulness, you are likely to find more pleasure in your food, overeat less often, and walk away from eating experiences feeling more content and satisfied.
3. As you experiment with incorporating previously restricted foods back into your diet, pay attention to how they make your body feel – different types of foods and in different quantities.
Use these experiments as learning opportunities to figure out which types of foods not only taste the best, but also feel good in your body. Use this information to help inform future food decisions.
Your decisions will no longer be based on a set of food rules, or trying to choose the good foods over the bad ones, they will be about eating the types of foods in the quantity that allow you to truly feel your best.
Will I Lose Weight?
Sounds good, but still find yourself thinking, “if I do this, then I will never lose weight.”? I hear you. You may lose weight, but you may not. That’s really something that is up to your body to determine and letting go of that thin ideal can be difficult to do.
But one thing we do know, dieting doesn’t lead to sustained weight loss either – usually it’s just the opposite. And dieting does interfere with so many other joys in life.
So, while no I can’t promise weight loss, by liberating yourself from the restrictive chains of dieting, I can promise a path toward making peace with food and finding greater joy and happiness in life.
So, make this the year dieting and your weight take a back seat to other pleasures in life. Make this the year you do really, truly enjoy your favorite holiday meals without guilt or shame. And, maybe this the year you start living the life you’ve been putting on hold.