It is all too common for people (especially women) to struggle with disordered eating, or an unhealthy relationship with food in general. I get it, I’ve been there. And sometimes those thoughts still creep up.
The truth is, these tendencies are likely a result of the society we live in. One that praises women for being smaller, rather than taking up space. While we’ve come a long way thanks to the body positivity movement, and size inclusion, body image issues continue to be a prevalent problem for women.
So, if you’re one of those people who feels like food, labels, and restrictions have you in freaking a chokehold…just know that you’re not alone, okay? And it certainly isn’t your fault.
The good news is that with a little mindfulness and a whole lot of self love, we can work through these thought patterns bit by bit- eventually landing in a place of food freedom. This post will share my top 10 tips for finding food freedom based on my experience, and advice given from therapists and other medical professionals.
What Is Food Freedom?
When you arrive at that glorious destination otherwise known as food freedom, you won’t be consumed with thoughts, facts, and stats about food the way you might if you’re used to crash dieting.
In this place, you’ll eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. You’ll eat what you want, when you want it. You’ll honor your cravings, and you’ll let your body tell you what it needs rather than leaning into rules to feed yourself.
Sounds simple, right? Well, this is one of those things that’s easier said than done for a lot of us. Especially if we’re used to restricting, counting, or tracking.
10 Tips For Finding Food Freedom
One of the most important things to remember as you’re navigating the road to food freedom is that it can be a windy one. You might have some days where you feel free and great in your body and mind, and other days where you feel a little trapped again. Those ebbs and flows are normal.
Plus, you now have these tips to lean into in those moments where you feel a little lower. You can always start over with the next meal, the next day…or the next breath. You’ve got this.
Break Up With Your Diet
So, the very first thing you do might be one of the hardest- which is a good thing, then you can get it out of the way! You need to break up with your diet. To be clear, I’m talking about a diet based on restriction for body image reasons, rather than a way of eating that’s tied to religion or ethics.
This means no more counting calories, tracking macros, or eliminating whole ingredients for no reason. Of course if you have health issues or allergies, that’s another story. I’m just talking about diets that are to change the way you look. Be gone!
The next step after you break up with your diet is to lean into intuitive eating. This is not a diet, but rather a way to return to your body’s natural ability to nourish itself with its own cues and cravings.
Drop Labels Of “Good” And “Bad”
Part of intuitive eating means letting go of labels with food. Particularly when we call some foods “good” and others “bad.” Most of the time we use these words when we’re referring to the nutritional content of the food.
This is important because while some foods might feel good to you, they might not feel good to someone else. Generalizing and calling an entire food group good or bad creates fear and stress around eating. It’s also just plain inaccurate.
No More Restriction
One of the main components to intuitive eating and food freedom is letting go of restriction. Restriction with eating might look obvious, like not letting yourself eat certain foods. But it can also be sneaky, like not letting yourself eat foods at certain times, or in a particular order.
Start to notice when you want to eat something, but you won’t let yourself. What’s the block there? Is it time, quantity, quality of the food, or something else? This is a sign of restriction, and something you want to work on letting go of.
Practicing mindfulness can be so helpful in all areas of life, and certainly a valuable tool to practice on the road to food freedom. Mindfulness is simply the act of observing oneself. You’re noticing your thoughts, patterns, actions, and responses- rather than reacting off the cuff.
Mindfulness doesn’t have to occur in meditation, it can happen throughout the day if you’re attuned to it. Think of it like a muscle that you need to exercise. If you’re new to mindfulness, that muscle might be more atrophied, making it harder to pause before you react. But the more you work it out, the stronger it’ll become.
Notice Your Thoughts
As you begin to let go of restrictions (which is hard, mind you!), you’ll want to notice the way you’re talking to yourself. Observing your thoughts is basically Mindfulness 101, so if you’re brand new to all of this- then this is a perfect starting point!
Rather than judging your thoughts that come up, you want to simply notice them. Like you’re watching the thoughts float past you, rather than being the thought itself. Separating yourself from your thoughts can help you have a more grounded and objective approach in all areas of life, including in your relationship with food.
As you begin to notice your thoughts, you’ll probably observe a lot of “shoulds” being thrown around. Oftentimes these “shoulds” are rooted in conditioned ideas of what we feel we’re “allowed” to do. That means somewhere along the way you were taught this- whether in your own home, your own experience, or by society at large.
If you don’t “allow” yourself to have Oreos in the house, because you’re scared you’ll eat them all- that’s a sign that food has power over you, rather than you having power over your body. Challenge yourself to simply allow yourself to do the things that you typically wouldn’t. See what happens.
For those of you wanting to up your mindfulness game, incorporating meditation is a great way to do so. I know that meditation can sound intimidating to a lot of people, because it comes with this idea that you have to sit perfectly straight in a Lotus position practically levitating off the ground. That’s not true.
There are a million ways to meditate in stillness and in motion. If you want more ideas for moving meditation, check out this post for inspo. For still, guided meditations you can find a variety on my app.
Let’s be real, I’m a yogi, so of course I’m going to suggest yoga when it comes to healing body image and finding food freedom. The main reason for this suggestion is that yoga is intentional, mindful movement. Plus, it’s meant to be loving, kind, and a way to better understand your body based on the way it talks to you throughout a class.
If there’s another form of intentional movement that calls out to you- do that! Just try to choose something that’s more about inner work, than an exercise that focuses on changing your outer appearance. And, of course, if you want to learn with me- you can find hundreds of all levels classes on my app (link) or my bundle series library.
Last but certainly not least is therapy. While healing your relationship with food is often tied to body image, it’s also more about the health of your mind above all else. It’s a mental loop, a trap that’s easy to get sucked into. And for that, we need mental health support the same way we’d need physical health support from a standard doctor.
Therapy is a great way to seek tailored medical advice for you, beyond these general tips from some stranger on the internet. Plus, it provides support in healing- which is extremely important in recovery of all kinds.
Wherever you are along your journey to food freedom, just know that I believe in you.
You’ve got this, my friends.