Food restriction. It’s something that so many women struggle with, and yet very few people talk about it – probably because there is so much shame around this behavior that we all try to pass it off as “healthy” or “clean” eating.
“I don’t do carbs. Sugar pretty much causes cancer, anyway.”
“I’m vegan now. I don’t need any of that fatty stuff.”
“Dessert? No thanks. All those empty calories aren’t worth it.”
Writing these lines is almost laughable to me, because I’ve said all of them and I hear them coming out of the mouths of other women all the time. Whenever someone noticed me not indulging in the dessert platter, they’d almost always tell me something along the lines of, “You have so much willpower.”
WILLPOWER: A concept that I attempted to master for years.
I went vegan for reasons motivated mostly by health, but also so that I would have an excuse to not eat cheese and most desserts.
I never, ever bought “bad” foods from the grocery store because I didn’t want them taunting me from my kitchen cabinet. If it was there, I might eat it! (Gasp)
I was afraid to overdo it with sugar-packed calories in alcohol, so I told my friends I’d go out with them, but I’m not drinking.
I would attend workout classes around dinner time so that I could skip a meal without needing to think about it.
Even though I regularly craved snacks, I never carried any with me strictly because I didn’t want the extra calories. Again – if it was in my bag, I’d definitely eat it. (Double gasp)
Do you see the type of effort I put into making sure I ate less? Some may call this willpower. I call it misery. Because that’s exactly what it felt like.
And most importantly, this never, ever, ever, EVER kept me from eating less. Why? Because restriction backfires 100% of the time. Yes. 100% of the time. Let’s dive in.
1. Food restriction causes cravings
When we control our food intake – let’s say, for example, by eliminating entire food groups such as grains – then we subconsciously start to pay attention to all the grains around us that we aren’t allowed to eat anymore. Think about it: If someone tells you not to think about something specific, you’ll immediately start thinking about that thing. We’re hardwired to function this way. So when you’re not allowing yourself to eat any white carbs, you’re gonna start noticing the mashed potatoes and wonder bread everywhere. And you’ll start wishing you could have some. So where does this leave you? Needing even more willpower. Because now you’re thinking about this “bad” food twice as much, and you’ve given it a ton more power by placing the negative emotion “bad” on it, so the food is now controlling YOU – not the other way around.
What’s the solution? Allowing all foods. Yes, all of them.
Almost all women, upon hearing this, think that they will go through 10 boxes of Oreos in one sitting if they completely allow sweets back into their diet. But think about it: if you truly are not restricting your food, and you can eat Oreos anytime you want, don’t you think you’ll just eat them whenever you feel like it? No one’s body wants 10 boxes of Oreos in a row, because you would feel sick and the body never wants that. Think back to when you weren’t obsessing about your weight, but you were eating all the foods that you’ve now eliminated from your diet. You weren’t binge eating because you allowed yourself to have the foods whenever you truly wanted them -- not in an all-or-nothing approach.
*I want to point out that allowing all foods back into your diet will not work like a magic bullet (because, unlike what the diet industry tries to tell you, there is no such thing as a quick fix). You may binge-eat some foods (at first) because your body is so excited to be ALLOWED to eat these foods again. But I want to emphasize once again that NO ONE’S BODY wants to eat an excessive amount of food that leads it to sickness. The key is to listen to your unique body signals and trust them – something I’ll teach you to do in my 1-on-1 coaching.
2. Food restriction causes judgment
While everyone around you indulges in the slice of cake that you refused, a few different things will start to go through your mind. First, you’ll be proud of yourself…because you refused to eat delicious cake. Is that really what you’re most proud of? Not eating cake? You’re better than that, babe.
Next, you’ll be jealous of these women. They can eat CAKE and not be worried about their weight. How nice does that sound?
You’ll then jump to the opposite -- judging the women around you because – ew – they’re eating cake. So much fat, sugar, and carby grossness and you are just soooo much better than them because you are eating nothing. Nope. Your eating makes you no better or worse than anyone else.
Finally, you’ll judge yourself. You start to feel different from everyone else, because you believe that you’ll blow up 100 pounds heavier by eating a slice of cake and they’ll just stay skinny forever. This leads to feelings of self-pity, self-hatred, and self-doubt. In truth, no one on earth ever gained 100 pounds overnight from eating a single slice of cake.
3. Food restriction makes you kiss FUN goodbye
This is a big one. Food shows up at basically every social gathering ever. So during nights out with your girlfriends, birthdays, family holidays, etc, you don’t want to be stressing out about the foods that you won’t let yourself eat. You want to be enjoying the atmosphere around you, soaking up the love vibes from your friends and family, and being grateful for every moment of it. Your energy deserves to be directed towards this and not towards willpower.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Do you ever restrict your food intake? Has it ever backfired? What would happen if you let yourself eat whatever you wanted, unconditionally?