Inside: Are food rules ruling your life? Here’s how to have a healthier mindset and legalize foods (all of them!) so you can feel more at peace.
Dietitian Rebecca Scritchfield has dedicated her career to helping people break up with dieting and food rules–and be kind to their bodies. This is an excerpt from her book Body Kindness: Transform Your Health From the Inside Out–and Never Say Diet Again.
How to Legalize ALL Food
by Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN
We all know it’s important to eat healthful foods. However, healthful eating patterns are not perfect eating rules. Free yourself from jail and fire the “food police”—you have the keys.
Believe no food is morally good or bad
Trust your opinions about taste and enjoyment to guide your food choices. Include foods you love on your regular menu, not just for a “cheat day” or once in a blue moon.
Be skeptical of any information sensationalizing food
“Poison,” “toxin,” “never eat,” or other words that trigger your fear reflexes inappropriately.
Challenge your own beliefs
Stop and think about why you’re avoiding certain foods. Do you even remember? Is it possible what you believe may not be true?
Give yourself a get-out-of-food-jail party
Make a list of foods you tend to avoid, and then serve them with other foods at a party with friends. Savor them out in the open.
Make a “food freedom” list
Choose one food a week you will eat every day in a calm, pleasurable way.
Date your dessert
Come up with a special plan for enjoying a yummy cupcake that resembles how you imagine other people eat cupcakes.
You might also like: How Intuitive Eating Can Help You Come to Peace With Food.
Feeling absolute freedom from years of food purgatory is a journey. Try not to rush the process and be quick to forgive yourself when you slip back into old habits.
As you release yourself from moral judgments, you may find yourself noticing them everywhere you turn.
Your good friend feels guilty about something she did or didn’t do. Your colleague makes a comment that suddenly makes you feel bad about the dessert you ordered with lunch. In these moments, I take a quiet deep breath, say, “Let me do me” in my head, and then completely change the subject. It also helps to recall someone I respect not giving a care about what other people think to remind myself I’m not alone.
Healthful eating is a pattern, not a rule.
Trust your habits enough to be flexible. You can eat a meal on vacation, at a restaurant, or in your own home that doesn’t earn a gold star, and you can enjoy the hell out of it without feeling like you should be in jail. You still remember that you love fruits and vegetables even when you don’t eat them.
If you’re thinking, “I’m screwed. I don’t trust myself at all,” you’re not alone. Past negative experiences can injure trust, but new positive experiences can repair it. You’re not screwed. Find the courage to try to create new, positive, and joyful experiences.
Have You Put Yourself In Food Jail?
The more you tend to agree with these statements, the more you live by food rules and need to get out of jail!
- I tend to think of foods as either “good” or “bad” based on their nutritional content.
- I avoid certain foods or food groups for reasons other than an allergy or dislike of their taste or texture.
- I find myself preoccupied with thoughts about food and what to eat or not eat.
- I feel disappointed in myself when I “splurge” on a food I typically do not let myself eat.
- I don’t let myself eat “junk food” and sweets because they are not good choices.
- If I eat bread or starch, it will make me gain weight.
- If I eat something I shouldn’t have or eat more than I wanted, I feel the need to compensate by adding exercise or planning to eat less at another time.
- If I eat a fatty food, such as cheesecake or ice cream, I will gain weight.
- If I eat more than my friends or family, that means I have eaten too much.
- If I eat a meal or snack and I’m hungry an hour later, there’s something wrong with me—I don’t need that extra food.
Where to go next
- If you’d like to stop dieting and start enjoy all foods without guilt, find out how the non-diet approach of Intuitive Eating can help you.
- Worried about passing on your body image to your kids? Here’s what to do.
- Here’s what happened (and what I learned) from going on a restrictive diet.
Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN, is a well-being coach, registered dietitian nutritionist, and certified health and fitness specialist. Through her weight-neutral Body Kindness practice, she helps people create a better life with workable, interesting self-care goals. You can read her Body Kindness blog and listen to her Body Kindness podcast here.
Excerpt from Body Kindness: Transform Your Health From the Inside Out–and Never Say Diet Again by Rebecca Scritchfield, used with permission from Workman Publishing.
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