I’ve seen so much about “food freedom” on social media lately, and I’m loving the message! Food freedom is all about letting go of diet rules and restrictions and instead being guided by an inner sense of what foods feel best in the moment.
As someone who has had weight loss struggles for most of my life, I’m completely on board with ditching calorie counting, carb-cutting, food tracking, and weigh-ins. I’m also ready to leave behind all of the guilt and shame around eating “bad” or “off limits” foods.
Who doesn’t love the idea of being able to eat whatever you want, whenever you want?
But wait: I have a feeling I know what you’re thinking now. I’m guessing you’re thinking that food freedom sounds overly indulgent and selfish somehow. And that it might lead to significant weight gain and poor health.
I’ve thought all of those things.
So I came up with a simple method to achieve food freedom without fear and guilt:
Step 1. Drop Every Diet Rule and Restriction You’ve Ever Known
I’m an ordinary mom just sharing my own thoughts and experiences. I don’t claim to be a health expert. So, of course, you should consult a professional if you have any health issues. But imagine what it might feel like to drop every diet rule and restriction you’ve ever known. How freeing would that be?
My practice is to stop putting foods into categories like “unhealthy” or “too many calories” or “too much sugar” or “off limits,” etc., etc. Because labels lead to massive guilt when we crave those foods. Then we end up overeating. And then restricting even more severely to make up for having eaten “bad” foods or “going off” our diets.
Instead of all of this misery and madness, try to begin to openly embrace every food.
Yes, all foods – from kale to Doritos – and everything in between. Let every food be completely neutral.
You might find that you naturally still categorize foods to some extent, due to a lifetime of dealing with mainstream diet culture. For example, some foods may seem more rich and indulgent, some more light and nutritious. That’s fine. But do your best to drop all negative labels like, “junk,” “wrong,” “bad,” and, most definitely, “off limits.”
Step 2. Ask One Question: “Does This Choice Feel Loving Or Unloving Right Now?”
Here’s my simple food freedom practice. Like all things, I’ve found it’s really important to have some parameters or boundaries around food. People function best when we have a framework to operate within.
So, instead of tracking, eliminating, or avoiding foods, I ask a very simple question instead.
The simple practice is to ask, “Does this food choice feel loving or unloving right now?”
Ask this one question anytime you find yourself thinking about grabbing a snack, preparing a meal, heading to a restaurant, or whenever you’re considering the possibility of eating.
What you’ll find with this practice is that the same food could feel like a loving or unloving choice, depending upon your feelings and experiences in the moment.
Here’s an example:
I was out with my family on a recent Saturday morning, and I found that enjoying some sugar donuts – and sharing the experience with my family – felt very loving.
On the other hand, I later had an overwhelming and stressful day and the bag of donuts started calling my name. I noticed that I wasn’t actually hungry and the desire to eat was a stress response to deal with my difficult emotions.
The more loving choice in that moment was to fix a cup of hot tea and curl up with an uplifting book.
Here’s another example:
Due to years of conditioning, I tend to think that a fresh salad with lots of organic veggies is always the most loving choice for my body. But, I might find myself really hungry on a chilly night, craving a rich, warm, comforting dish like mac ‘n cheese.
In that instance, forcing myself to eat the “healthy” fresh salad feels unloving because I’m completely ignoring all of my cravings.
This process can extend beyond just food too. Let’s say you’re scrolling through social media and you start comparing your body to the photoshopped images on the screen. You start telling yourself that your appearance isn’t good enough. You make mental notes to get back into running tomorrow and start a new diet. But then maybe you catch yourself and ask, “Is this loving or unloving?” And maybe you decide to unfollow a few accounts that make you doubt and question your own value.
So that’s my Food Freedom practice.
It has nothing to do with labeling or categorizing foods.
Instead, it’s about being fully present, caring about how you feel, and making the most loving choice for yourself in the moment.
Step 3. Set an Intention Every Morning
Since this is a brand new method you’re introducing into your life, you might find yourself forgetting to ask the “loving or unloving” question before eating. Especially when your day gets really stressful or overwhelming.
So I suggest putting a reminder on your phone (or a sticky note on your bedside table) to remind yourself to set an intention when you wake up in the morning.
To set your intention for the day, simply say out loud, “I’ll remember my ‘loving or unloving’ practice today. I’ll remember to ask myself the question before I eat.”
As you make your way through the day, don’t beat yourself up when you suddenly catch yourself mid-snack, having never remembered to ask the question. Just reset your intention and do your best to remember next time.
Each time you think to ask the question before eating, you’re taking a step forward in rewiring your brain. Over time, you’ll turn the practice into a habit.
So give this Food Freedom practice a try if it feels right and resonates with you. And please let me know how it works out!