Thoughts on Food Freedom (Revisited)

What images pop into your head when you think about living a healthy lifestyle?

Perhaps your mind wanders to fresh-pressed green juices, a plant-based diet, and regular yoga classes.

Maybe images of “skinny” lattes, egg white omelettes, and grueling workout sessions dance around in your head.

Or maybe it’s a leisurely meal enjoyed al fresco in the countryside complete with fresh, and seasonal ingredients and great company to go with it. (Oh wait, I think that’s one of my images ;))

Of course we all have many different ideas when it comes to living healthily, and they by no means fit so tidily into the boxes I mentioned above.

The ultimate question that matters the most though is whether these ideas serve us well in our life, or if they hold us back.

Do they feel restrictive and leave us “on and off again” a diet?

Or do they feel liberating and pleasurable, like we could live this lifestyle forever?

I talked a bit about beliefs in my post last week.

These beliefs can be so deeply ingrained that we never stop to consider whether they even make sense anymore.

But maybe we should. Especially if those beliefs make us feel miserable.

It always saddens me when I see grown women still caught up in this miserable game. Spending too much of her precious life force obsessing over what to put in her mouth, rather than enjoying her life, and her food.

I believe the key to sustainable eating is finding the place where fuel, nourishment, and pleasure ALL intersect.

This is what I get most excited about when working with my clients – helping them to relate to (and experience) food in a whole different way.

I call it food freedom, and I wrote a post about it a few years back.

Some people believe that food freedom means indiscriminately eating up anything and everything whenever they desire, and that to actually let themselves experience it would surely mean throwing in the towel, or giving up on their health and body goals (whatever those may be).

But the kind of food freedom I’m speaking of here, doesn’t come at the expense of feeling great in your body or overcoming health challenges (because that wouldn’t feel very freeing, now would it?).

Please don’t equate food freedom with a lack of self-discipline, because in my opinion, you can’t have true food freedom without it.

Okay, so experiencing this freedom isn’t likely the reason why somebody initially comes to work with me and they may not word it in this exact way, however, I find that it’s often an underlying desire, whether a conscious one or not.

Perhaps they want to figure out their stomach issues, their digestion, lose the weight, or prepare their body for a healthy pregnancy.

And of course, we’ll work on these things.

You see, education is the easy part. Some people really just need the knowledge and the guidance to put all of the pieces together in a way that jives with their body and life best. They take the knowledge and hit the ground running.

If only it could be this simple for everyone.

Implementation is what trips people up the most. And not because they don’t want to make the required changes, but because sometimes those changes can be really uncomfortable.

When the soother is taken away, we’re forced to deal with the negative emotion head-on. No numbing out.

Of course a soother can take on many other forms (i.e. alcohol, shopping, work), but for many of us it’s food.

And while the journey may not always be smooth sailing, I think it’s worthwhile to hang in there for the ride and figure it out.

Because living in a diet prison = no fun.

By the way, just to clarify, it is completely possible to be on a restrictive diet (out of necessity) and not feel like you’re living in a diet prison.

Sometimes not eating “the food” (whatever it may be) is actually MORE liberating if doing so leaves you with debilitating symptoms or feeling lawful.

In other words don’t get sucked into a false sense of freedom and then let restriction slip in the back door (in the form of unpleasant symptoms that restrict your life).

Remember, the freedom I speak of includes feeling good in your body.

At the end of the day, each of us gets to decide what we choose to believe about healthy living and eating as a whole.

That’s the beauty of free will, my dear.

You can choose to live behind the bars, or break on out of them.

Didn’t you know that they were self-imposed, anyways?

All love,

Elaine

p.s. I always love hearing from you. In the comments below, let me know which beliefs about health have been serving you well in your life. Are there any beliefs that you’re ready to give up?

How to Break Out of Diet Prison

Break Free

photo credit

Are you still trying to figure out what type of diet works best for your body?

Does it ever feel like you’ve been on an endless pursuit of trying to figure out what you should be eating to look and feel your best?

Last week I was speaking with a new client for the first time and she said something that really struck a chord (p.s. she gave me permission to share this with you).

She told me that she felt like she wasted the better part of her life hung up on food and that she couldn’t believe that at her age (38) she still hadn’t figured out this whole “diet thing”. She was still struggling with the same health issues. She was starting to feel that the “healthy” diet she had been eating for the past 10 years was failing her, and to top it off she had completely lost her mojo for life.

I really felt this woman’s pain, but the truth is I’ve heard a similar version of this story countless times before.

I can’t help but compare it to being trapped in a prison. Diet prison.

The thing is most women don’t even realize that they’re living in one until suddenly…they’re not. And it’s not until after they’ve escaped from it that they can clearly look back and see they were even imprisoned in the first place.

So how do you break out of prison and figure out this whole “diet thing” once and for all?

While I don’t claim to have ALL the answers, there are definitely a few things I know to be true if you want to experience freedom in this area of your life.

If you’re struggling, feeling stuck or just ready to give up, here’s what you need to do to make your journey towards health more enjoyable and sustainable.

Consider these steps the foundation on which you’ll build upon later.

1. Remain Nutritionally Flexible. In other words don’t become too attached to any one nutritional approach. You don’t have to confine yourself to a diet label or squeeze yourself into anybody else’s nutrition box. Your nutritional needs are as unique as you are, and they’ll change throughout the course of your life based on lots of different factors, such as life stage, health status, and your activity level – just to name a few!

Experiment with any “style of eating” that’s in alignment with your beliefs or just feels intuitively correct for you, but know you are free to change course whenever you want (without shame or guilt) – particularly if it’s no longer serving your body best. Know that there is no ONE perfect diet for everyone (including you), so don’t get caught up in diet dogma or rigid belief systems that keep you blinded from seeing other nutritional truths.

2. Get Back-to-Basics. At some point there comes a time when you can’t help but feel overwhelmed and confused by all the conflicting health information touted by “experts”. When this happens (which it inevitably does) return to this simple but powerful truth:

Our bodies need natural, whole, minimally processed food that’s easy to digest and leaves us effortlessly and efficiently.

The rest is details. Experimentation. Trial and success.

Don’t get caught up in the notion that you need the latest superfood, powder, or other specialty food item to build a healthy body. Sure, they can add some fun and variety to your diet but don’t let them become a distraction or deter you from opting for more simple and “basic” options (i.e. fruits and veggies) if you can’t afford them – they’re not a requirement.

Furthermore, ditch the “I’m on a diet” mentality. You’re on this journey for the long haul. Focus on food quality and NOT numbers (i.e. stop counting calories), and for heaven’s sake please don’t turn your plate of food into a math equation.

3. Kick Your Food Addictions (Once and For All). It’s not easy being self-sovereign and making decisions for your highest good when you’re trapped in the vicious cycle of over consuming substances that compromise your health and leave you feeling lethargic and depressed.  Many people don’t even realize that they’re addicted until they try going without their “poison”.  The first step in this difficult process is just becoming aware of the substances that have a hold over you and leave you powerless.

For many people its refined sugar that runs their show. Whether it’s the muffin that calls out their name in line at Starbucks, the sugary coffee drink that gets them through the afternoon, or the bulk candy section at the grocery store they just can’t seem to resist. The more that’s consumed, the more your body craves it. Believe me, I know this firsthand!

But just ask anyone that’s cut out sugar for a few weeks. If you can just get past the initial discomfort of the first few days it usually gets easier there on in.  Not to mention the freedom you feel afterwards when you’re no longer a slave to it makes it well worth the initial effort. This isn’t to say that you’re never going to indulge or treat yourself again, but you probably won’t desire it in the same as you did before and you’ll be happier opting for quality over quantity.

There you have it.

Here’s to breaking out of diet prison!

xo Elaine

What do you think? As always, I love hearing from you so please share your thoughts in the comments below!