I was 15 when I first started dieting. On the heels of my first chronic illness diagnosis, I was placed on a medical diet that would improve my symptoms better and more efficiently than any drugs they had me on. From this experience, I internalized the belief that food was purely pragmatic, something to be restricted and feared. My life with food was predicated on the next best diet and a hard set of rules that I wasn’t suppose to break. There were always should and should nots, goods and bads, calories in, calories out, good carbs and bad carbs… I think you get the point.
Truth be told I was never all that good to sticking to diets for a long time. I would spend a few weeks, maybe a month, adhering to the diet I was attempting to perfect. And then, as always I would cheat. Usually after dark, in my room, by myself, where no one was witness to my food crimes. I would get high on these little moments of what can only be described as devilish delight. This would usually spark something inside me, a flicker of rebellion, which would completely derail my diet. Next thing you know my diet would end in total destruction, filed away and classified as another failure. There was always a lingering sense of guilt and shame, not being able to fully control what I was eating. I always felt like there was something wrong with me.
Yet from these experiences I have found that the key to eating, and eating well, is to stop caring about the rules.
If you tell yourself not to do a thing, chances are, you’re going to do the thing. I know very few people who can stick to a diet 100% of the time. I also know very few people who can deviate from their diet and not completely derail. My solution to this issue is to voluntarily do the thing anyways. Eat the ice cream, have the pizza, fully embrace the simple experience of actually enjoying the food your eating without guilt.
Guilt is a choice, not a given. And every time we eat our mac and cheese ith an extra side of guilt we will never feel fully satisfied with our choices. We were never meant to eat just to eat. We’re social creatures who will always wrap our culture, traditions, and emotions into what we’re putting on our plates and despite what other’s might say, I think that that’s okay.
When you allow yourself the opportunity to go ‘no rules’ around your diet I have personally found I simply want less nutrient devoid foods then I use to. I have been able to achieve balance and moderation by simply giving less fucks about actually balancing and moderating.
One of the worst and most destructive aspects of our society is perpetuation of this disjointed belief that we cannot know for ourselves what is best for us. And in the case of food, that is true more than ever. We’re put into little boxes and given dietary advice like were genetic clones of one another. We’re forced to endure the pressures of beauty standards and weight stigmas. We’re deprived of food, given erroneous and outdated dietary advice, and then forced to cope with the emotional fallout from the enormous pressures of it all. We have no business telling each other what’s best for ourselves but that is exactly how our society and diet industries operates: by contriving and then praying on our perceived insecurities.
But here’s a little secret no one wants to tell you: you have power over your health and over your body. Your body knows what’s best for you. In fact, your body does quite a good job of assessing it’s own nutrient needs and telling you what it wants and doesn’t want. The real question here is if you’re actually listening to it.
After all, it’s easier to eat the plate full of whole foods when we actually want it.
by Allison Myers