Have you ever heard the saying I was trapped, I was lost and then I was found?
Food restriction can feel like you are trapped, in guilt, disordered thoughts and rules which are endless. Getting lost and breaking free from the rules and restriction probably feels TERRIFYING but it is the first step to finding your way back after years of food restriction and deprivation.
What may start off a seemingly “harmless” healthy eating regime, cutting carbs here and there, eating less sugar and then suddenly trying out the latest faddy diet just to see how it works for you, often leads to obsession and further restrictive patterns. I am not saying you should never think about what you put into your body, especially in relation to how it makes you feel. But how many of you reading this honestly started restricting as a means of health, as opposed to a physical goal or to look “bikini ready” for holiday because X in the media swore it was the fastest way to get results!
Food is ultimately food and is there for NOURISHMENT, FUEL, HEALTH and ENJOYMENT! It is such a sacred and often privileged part of existence (there are areas in the world where people really do not have much access to it).
First of all, I want you to admit to yourself that you are restricting your food. If this is hard to do then you can try the following:
- JOURNAL IT
Make a food and mood diary, to see how what your eating makes you feel, are you hungry, preoccupied about food or feeling guilty when you eat something that is off the plan? Then ask yourself, how much of your life is revolved around food, are you missing out on time with friends or loved ones because you can’t eat what’s on the menu?
- IDENTIFY THE RULES
Ask yourself and make a list of all the rules you have around food. Ask yourself how it makes you feel if you “break” one of these rules, are you racked with guilt and self-loathing? There is no one rule book for food and what you should put into your body, we are all so unique and essentially food should be a sacred and enjoyable experience, one which keeps us alive! Whether you are embarking on this alone (I would always suggest seeking advice from a qualified expert), try lessening the rules one at a time, if you can feel the fear and do it anyway the anxiety around this will lessen. Your body will thank you-trust me!
- COLOUR CODE IT
Next, make a traffic light list to really get an understand of WHAT you are restricting from your diet and split this into 3 sections: red- FEAR FOOD, would never eat or would find it hard to eat. Green-sometimes eat but feel a little guilt or worry when doing so. Yellow-safe foods, foods you eat daily, which fit in with your “plan”. Go through this, see how long each list is, most of the time someone who is restricting heavily will have a larger red list in ratio to the yellow, this may even be cutting out major food groups which can be dangerous if not under supervision by a Nutritionist or Dietitian. If you are reading this today and you feel ready to start freeing yourself from this cycle, with the support of a loved one or a health professional, work your way back up to eating some of the foods on the red, and more on the green.
- FILTER OUT THE NOISE
Throw away any magazine that includes faddy diets, turn off social media for a while and definitely steer clear of accounts which promote dieting and restrictive ways of eating especially if they have no backing! Taking time away from the “noise” social media, other people’s ways of eating, food rules and essentially diet culture will make your own journey far easier.
- GO WITHIN
Finally, look inside yourself, when did this restriction begin, what happened before and what came after? Is there anything else in your life that feels like it’s not working, are you trying to control food in order to control your life? Are you dealing with painful emotions or difficult circumstances which you need to work through with someone? If answering yes to any of the above please do not hesitate to reach out to a Therapist, Doctor or Counsellor who can work through these issues with you. It may not turn out to be about the food at all.