Food Freedom in a World of Dieting
Food. It never used to be such a big deal to me until I was 16. Before I was that golden age, I never really thought much about food, nutrition, and never once thought of restricting my meals. Often times, I would eat ramen noodles for breakfast (so healthy right?) without batting an eye, and simply, enjoy whatever came my way. It wasn’t until I started running that I really began thinking more about nutrition and what I was really fueling my body with. It started off innocent enough, I was going to eat healthier to help my body run and live healthily for my future family. So, I started researching and studying. I learned all about the ‘bad’ foods and what not to eat. I cut out foods completely and narrowed down my ‘good’ foods list until it was a tiny number of healthy items. I then only starting allowing myself to have tiny amounts of my ‘safe’ foods (i.e. ¼ cup of oatmeal in the morning > I was living large 😉 ) and all of these steps led me deeper and deeper into bondage.
I went from a care-free ramen noodle eating girl, to a young woman in bondage over food. I literally would plan my meals out, days in advance, while eyeing the clock, begging for 12:30 to come so I could eat my lunch.
As I look back on those dark days, I realize just how enslaved I was so food and my body and how, in trying to find freedom and health, I wound up malnourished, without a period, cold, irritable, and downright miserable.
So, how do we navigate these waters and find true freedom with food, while still living a balanced life?
I believe in all starts with mindset and how we view the food around us. I don’t want to throw all caution to the wind and eat a large pizza and a ton of fries in the name of ‘food freedom’ and think it will help us achieve our health goals. However, I believe that we should live with the freedom to be able to say yes to pizza and ice cream and whatever foods come our way, because really, there is no ‘bad’ food.
Living a life of food freedom (for me) is all about fueling my body with things I know will make me feel good, function at my best performance, and truly satisfy my body’s cravings. Back in the depths of my eating disorder, I ate so, so many meals that truly did not satisfy my cravings or hunger pains, but they made my ED happy. I spent too many meals eating a pitiful bland salad or eating plain oatmeal, while others surrounding me ate delicious, warm cinnamon rolls. Was the oatmeal ‘healthier?’ Yes. Was it better for me to eat the oatmeal than the cinnamon roll? No. If I am eating something while truly dying over another item someone else is eating, I should have the freedom to enjoy whatever meal that is, whether ‘healthy’ or not.
Now, is there a time and place for saying no to certain things. YES. But, saying no to ice cream or pizza or whatever should be a decision made out of FREEDOM and not fear. I never want to make a decision to not eat something out of fear. True food freedom (for me) is yes, eating kale and broccoli and enjoying large salads and salmon and tofu; while still being able to enjoy a big bowl of delicious ice cream and feeling ZERO guilt or shame.
Food freedom means that I am able to enjoy anything I want, but in moderation and with my nutrition/ fitness goals in mind. And if I see someone eating something a bit healthier than me, I cheer them on. If Grandma offers me a cookie that she spent time making, I choose to say yes.
Everyone has different food strategies and beliefs and opinions, but I hope that you can enjoy life. I hope you are able to savor that piece of pie with your sister, I hope you are able to say no to foods you know are not good for your body, and learn to enjoy fresh, local, and natural foods. I hope you are able to create a delicious batch of homemade ice cream, while also loving your fresh grilled chicken salad.
I hope you have goals for your nutrition and an idea of why you eat what you eat, but more than that, I hope you live a life of freedom – the freedom to say ‘Yes,’ and, in contrast, the freedom to say, ‘No.’