The term “food freedom” is plastered all over social media… and for good reason! But what does it really mean to have freedom from food? In this blog post we’re going to go over what it means to have freedom from food, what the benefits are and the 5 steps that you can start taking today to find it for yourself!
What Is “Food Freedom”?
Food freedom can mean different things to everyone but in general it means that you have unconditional permission to eat all foods and are able to do so in a way that feels good mentally and physically. There is no guilt, stress or anxiety around food choices. It means that food you’ve taken the power back from food and diet culture, no longer allowing food rules to determine what you do and do not eat.
Essentially, food freedom is when you have a positive relationship with food and body.
What Does Food Freedom Look Like?
Having freedom from food, despite what you see on social media, does not necessarily mean you’re eating donuts and pizza all day long. Of course food freedom will look different for everyone because we’re different human beings but having freedom from food looks like, yes, enjoying donuts and pizza, but also implementing some of what I call ‘gentle nutrition’ in order to provide your body with the fuel it needs to function optimally.
Here is an example: Having freedom from food looks like having donuts on the counter and not feeling the “pull” to either A.) not touch them with a 10 foot pole because you think they’re “bad” or B.) want to devour them all the second your sink your teeth into them.
I really dislike the terms “balance” and “moderation” because typically they’re something we’re striving for and do so by implementing food rules. However, when you find food freedom many times it does look like what you’d envision “balance” or “moderation” to be. Except it happens naturally and you’re not trying for it to happen.
To sum it up: having freedom from food is taking the power back from food, learning to listen to your body, and find body attunement to implement gentle nutrition in a way that feels good.
Is Food Freedom Different Than Intuitive Eating?
Food freedom is a byproduct of intuitive eating. Many times these two terms are used interchangeably, especially on social media. Intuitive eating is a means of achieving food freedom. It’s made up of a set of 10 principles to help you learn to stop dieting and start finding that body attunement. Be sure to check out my blog post on what intuitive eating is (and what it isn’t!) for a more in depth discussion on it!
Why Is Food Freedom Important?
Having freedom from food is tied to many positive health outcomes including both physical and mental health. It can help with body weight stability (as a result of finding one's set point weight) and it can decrease weight cycling which has been associated with an increased risk for disease. It has also been shown to improve body image, self-esteem and increase overall satisfaction with life. Pretty great, huh?
Personally, food freedom made my life whole again. I can’t even begin to tell you how much more mental space I gained when I gave up dieting and following food rules. And not only has this happened for me but it’s happened for thousands of others inside of The SociEATy food freedom membership community.
Yes, it’s absolutely amazing to eat a delicious donut without guilt or worry about your weight. But it’s even BETTER to enjoy those experiences and make memories with those you love and do so in a way that feels good mentally and physically. That? That is what lights me up and is what has been the driver for me to make this my career. It’s just so good!
How To Find Freedom From Food
So by now you’re probably thinking this whole food freedom thing sounds pretty great but HOW do you actually get there? I spent years trying to figure it all out (way too much time wasted with trial and error) so I’m going to give it to you straight…. Here are the 5 things you need to do in order to find freedom from food.
These are the exact steps that I lay out inside of The SociEATy in our food freedom success path. Follow these steps and you’ll be on your way to achieving freedom from food too!
Step 1: Ditch Diet culture & Adequately Fuel Your Body
The first step is to stop dieting. Sounds simple, right? While, yes, on the surface it sounds easy peasy, the actual implementation of it can be tough! I mean, we’ve been literally conditioned to pursue dieting and weight loss since we came out of the womb. We’re influenced by the magazines we see at the grocery store, the TV commercials and now the social media influencers we follow. We’re constantly bombarded with subconscious messages that we need to diet… whether we seek them out or not.
I like to explain it this way: when you first start ditching diet culture it’s like you’re wearing tissue paper as a suit of armor. You’re easily impacted by things (that’s not a ton of protection!) so you need to do everything in your power to protect yourself. This means unfollowing diet-y accounts on social media, surrounding yourself with non-diet influences, and continuing to dive into this area by reading books, listening to podcasts, etc. (Be sure to add The SociEATy podcast to your cue!)
The more you go through this and do the work the thicker your suit of armor gets. And then? Those bogus influencers who are pushing their latest weight loss plan won’t affect you as much. It’s unrealistic for us to expect to live inside of a bubble forever but for now do what you can to minimize diet culture influences so your suit of armor can thicken.
The second part of this step is to give your body enough overall energy. This means not restricting! Your body will likely need more energy than you were eating when dieting so it’s important to give it that. I have a whole blog post on what to expect when you stop dieting that explains this phase more!
You want to do this, give your body adequate fuel overall, first before tackling your food rules (step 2!) because this removes the biological urge to binge those foods. Sometimes just allowing yourself to eat adequately is hard enough and doing it at the same time as breaking your food rules can be overwhelming and cause confusion. Obviously everyone is different, but it was overwhelming for me so this is how I now teach food freedom and what I find to achieve the most success.
Step 2: Break Your Food Rules & Tackle Emotional Eating
The second step, now that we have ditched diet culture and have gotten our bodies to a place of adequate nourishment, is to work on breaking your food rules, “neutralizing foods” and overcoming emotional eating.
I have an entire blog post on how to identify and break food rules but essentially I recommend doing this in a stepwise fashion (Yep! Structure CAN be part of food freedom and intuitive eating!) and through exposure therapy. Make a list of your food rules, then start with the “easiest” to break, and then expose yourself to breaking that food rule until you do not feel guilt/stress/anxiety around it anymore. Then? Move on to the next!
This exposure therapy works hand in hand with the compound effect meaning that we break things down into smaller, more manageable steps then allow them to compound or “snowball”. You’ll find that breaking your food rules gets easier as you go and by the time you get to the hardest one it won’t feel as hard!
The second part of this step is to tackle emotional eating. I talk about this more in my blog post on what to do when you’re not hungry but want to eat and also my post on how to beat boredom eating. Emotional eating is a coping mechanism and it’s important for us to develop with ways to cope with emotions beyond just food.
Step 3: Body Acceptance & Finding Joyful Movement
I truly believe that in order to make peace with food you must learn to make peace with what you put that food into! I like to focus more on body acceptance & body respect VS feeling positive about your body all of the time. I just don’t think that’s realistic! However we can always view our bodies through a lens of respect and appreciation… regardless of what we think of what we see in the mirror.
In this step you’re also going to focus on creating an exercise routine that feels good and is not a way to “earn” or “burn off” food. I have a YouTube video where I walk you through one of the exercises that I have members of The SociEATy do called an “exercise audit”. You can checkout that video on how to have a healthy relationship with exercise here!
Step 4: Implementing Gentle Nutrition
Remember how I said having freedom from food isn’t just about eating donuts all day? Nutrition DOES play a role in food freedom and intuitive eating! I have a whole blog post explaining gentle nutrition but take a peek at the image below which will give you a good visual of how you can marry your internal cravings, desires, cues, etc. with external nutrition and health knowledge.
Implementing gentle nutrition will look different for everyone. For example someone with a food allergy may need to implement more gentle nutrition than someone without. If that’s you sure to check out my blog post on how to eat intuitively with dietary restrictions here (it covers everything from intolerance to specific medical conditions!).
Step 5: Finding Food Freedom For Life
So once you’ve gone through all of the previous 4 steps you’re probably feeling pretty good which is great! But…. that’s not where the work ends. Diet culture is a BEAST and it takes “maintenance” work to keep your new found freedom from food.
This can look like continuing to listen to podcasts about intuitive eating, joining a supportive community like The SociEATy to stay motivated and guided, and simply checking in with yourself to see how you’re feeling in regards to your relationship with food.
One thing that I recommend is to take a weekly “temperature” and reflect and see how you felt in terms of mental, physical and emotional health. Are there any areas that need attention? Remember, food rules and dieting are coping mechanisms- be sure you’re coping with that needs attention in order to avoid resorting back to old ways!
When you reach this “maintenance” phase it’s also where you can dive even deeper into areas of gentle nutrition and wellness.
A Final Note On Finding Freedom From Food
I hope this blog post has been helpful in giving you an idea of what food freedom is and how to go about finding freedom from food for yourself. One thing to remember is that we didn’t learn our diet culture ways overnight (it was YEARS of messages being compounded) so it’s unrealistic to expect to breeze through the above 5 steps overnight.
And also know that while this stuff all may sound simple on the surface it’s totally normal to struggle with the actual implementation. I know I did! Which is why I created The SociEATy to provide others with the supportive community and guidance that I didn’t have.
Bottom line: you CAN find freedom from food. I’m so confident. And I can’t wait for you to do that because, like I said, it’s SO good!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on having freedom from food and the 5 steps I explained! Be sure to leave a comment and let me know!
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Need more guidance? Be sure to check out my YouTube channel for more tips to help in your intuitive eating journey!