Imagine going out with a friend to your favourite restaurant and having no anxiety about what you would choose on the menu because you trust yourself, you trust your body and you can just focus on the conversation.
Ah ‘fearless eating’ this magical world where you can eat whatever you want without consequence. But is it really the ‘unicorn’ we believe it to be? Can it be an absolute reality?
Why not? Many people eat without any of the concerns that many of us attach to it and not only can you be ‘one of those people’ but I believe that being able to eat whatever we want will allow us to be healthier overall.
Whatever we want? Yikes!
I know that the very thought can bring up some negative feelings amongst most of us but hear me out. Firstly, yes, you are a grown-up and whatever you eat should be nobody’s business. Does that mean we ‘should’ be eating everything? Not if we don’t want it. Just because we don’t eat chocolate bars doesn’t mean we should start because that makes our relationship with food healthier.
The key message is eating what we ‘want’. If you don’t want to eat certain foods there’s no need to do so just because I preach balance. For me though, a life without chocolate chip cookies or homemade bread is a slow form of torture.
Eating fearlessly means that we can go to a relative’s place for dinner and feel zero anxiety should they dish up something on the ‘do not eat’ list. It means that if we go out to a café with a friend and they buy us a ‘treat’ we can go ahead and eat it politely without worry. It means spotting a hot cross bun at the local bakery and thinking – actually – I could really go for that right now and being ok with it.
So, why is this so important? Is it simply about ‘letting go’? Sure, but it’s a lot more than that. The best part about fearless eating is that we start to see some incredible changes:
One huge change is that the likelihood of binging is greatly reduced if not eradicated and you can also say ‘bye-bye’ to those intense cravings. Seriously.
Restriction is a problem. I’ve written about it over and over again. Foods we feel out of control around are almost always the ones we’ve restricted mentally or physically. We think they are ‘bad’ but they taste so damn good! When we restrict a certain food we start a vicious cycle of “restrict – binge – repent – and repeat”. Leading to binging and dieting/restricting over and over (and over) again.
I hear you though, this illustrious unicorn called eating fearlessly is well – scary! There are so many reasons why we restrict these foods and the fear is very very real.
Let’s unpack some of the 3 most common ones I hear.
I’ll get fat
As someone who has battled all her life with body dysmorphia and fear of gaining weight after years of bullying – I get it. Just because I’m in a smaller body now doesn’t mean the fear isn’t real. But logically – the fear that a portion of food will make us fat is unwarranted. Weight gain happens for SO many reasons but no one food in isolation is going to cause us to instantly add body fat. It just doesn’t work that way. For food-related weight gain, this comes from an excess of calories overall. Calories from chocolate vs calories from avocado are no different to our body when it comes down to it. If we eat plenty of natural foods and eat happily and mindfully – going out for a splurge on a Friday, for example, is NOT going to make us fat. Having a Kit Kat bar for afternoon tea when you’re on the run is NOT going to make you fat. No one food in isolation has that power.
Furthermore, if we're going to get technical. The number one cause of weight gain is actually dieting and restricting. Yep. Look it up. Weight cycling just leads to gaining more and more weight over time.
And most importantly – there’s nothing wrong with being in a larger body anyways, we come in all shapes and sizes but that’s another post altogether and for today we’re simply addressing food fears.
I won’t be able to stop.
I know what you’re thinking though, if I had a biscuit I’d end up eating the whole packet and give up on my healthy journey altogether because well I’ve blown it. The problem is not having a biscuit, the problem is not eating the whole pack the problem is your thinking. The thought that you’ve blown anything at all is the problem. That’s what propels us to keep eating or to stop taking care of ourselves. Simply believing wholeheartedly that we ‘won't be able to stop’ around certain foods gives us the go-ahead. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and nobody enjoys feeling out of control around food.
I’d like to challenge you. I bet you 1000$ that you can stop eating at two cookies if you really want to. * I don’t actually have 1000$ but you get the idea. Challenge your thinking, believe in yourself, eat what makes you feel good and eat how much will make you feel good. Eating a certain food will propel us to keep eating only if we believe it will.
I’ll be unhealthy.
Many of us growing up in the world of social media have at some point heard the phrase that food will either heal or harm us or that ‘food is medicine’. This is scary. This makes us think that one little bite of processed food is doing our body harm instantly. Or that those sprayed grapes are going to slowly infect us with the latest deadly disease. I understand! I battled with these thoughts myself (read more) on a daily bases. But guess what – NO ONE FOOD IN ISOLATION HAS THE ABILITY TO HEAL OR HARM YOU. It’s the dose that becomes a problem. Do I believe that sugar is coming at us from too many angles? Yes. Does having a little bit of sugar each day hurt us? No. Even having too much kale can make us unwell.
Ultimately, if we want to stop the binge, repent repeat cycle and have freedom from cravings and negative food emotions, we need to begin the process of ending restriction. This will take time, this will take practice but ultimately we will get to place where we can simply eat to feel good, keep it simple, make our most of the time matter and enjoy those delicious soul foods without fear or guilt.