Diet culture rests on the idea of exclusion, or restricting what you eat by eliminating specific foods. However, denying yourself choices that are supposedly “bad” or “off-limits” can lead to intense cravings and preoccupation with all the things you’ve told yourself you can’t have.
In contrast, taking a more neutral stance without judging yourself harshly for the decisions you make will allow you to trust yourself and eat when you are hungry, instead of counting calories, obsessing over every meal or viewing the world through a black-and-white lens.
How to Prevent Disordered Eating
Ultimately, labeling some foods as “bad” can lead to disordered eating patterns because it attaches complex emotions such as guilt and shame to the simple act of sitting down for a meal. Being inflexible about your dietary habits means assigning moral values to various foods like grains and dairy. When you do that, feeding yourself may eventually become a chore with little to no variety, novelty or pleasure.
If you have been limiting your nutritional choices in an effort to lose weight or make yourself feel more virtuous, it’s essential to work on accepting and practicing the idea that all food has a place in a healthy diet. You can start by changing your internal monologue to include words like “can” and “OK.” For example, “I can trust myself to make healthy choices about what I eat” or “It’s OK to have a scoop of ice cream after dinner.”
Foods Work Together to Fuel Your Body
Making peace with food requires getting rid of concepts like “unhealthy” and “bad.” Your body needs nutrients, regardless of the source. When you limit the variety in your diet, you won’t get the ideal balance of fats, proteins and carbs you need to keep your metabolism and digestive system functioning at optimal levels.
Combine eating for nourishment with eating for enjoyment. You don’t need to be perfect every meal, because you can be flexible to achieve an overall balance. Making the same choices every time will cause you to get stuck in a rut and choose foods because you have to eat something, not because you look forward to it. If you routinely turn down things you want, you might overeat alternative options instead.
Learning to Love Yourself
The nutritional choices you make can adversely affect your mental health and quality of life. Instead of getting caught in the cycle of making restrictive changes that are impossible to maintain, give yourself permission to eat things you enjoy in moderation, and balance your dietary decisions with other healthy choices like exercising and following a sensible sleep schedule.
Your body is the vehicle that allows you to experience all the joys of life. You shouldn’t torment yourself to fit a narrowly defined beauty standard. Being happy at any size requires you to accept yourself for who you are and practice self-compassion. Ultimately, your relationship with food doesn’t define your personality, and you shouldn’t judge yourself too harshly for being imperfect.
At Rising Roads Recovery, we offer comprehensive programming and guidance for women struggling with their mental well-being, including process addictions like disordered eating. By focusing on the underlying trauma that often fuels compulsive behaviors, we can help you find a healthier equilibrium. Contact us today to learn more about women’s-only treatment.