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Are You Restricting Without Realizing It?
Josée Sovinsky, RD
In my practice as a non-diet and eating disorder dietitian in Toronto, Canada, I work with a variety of clients looking to embrace intuitive eating principles. This radical approach to eating can facilitate food peace, balance and freedom. One of the concepts we often work on is letting go of restriction and dieting. This can have many benefits, such as being more nourished, reducing cravings, and feeling less shame around food.
However, after being introduced to this concept and trying it out, many clients return to sessions claiming this didn’t work for them. Even though they ate all types of foods and enough food, they still felt out of control with their eating patterns.
This can happen when we see restriction as only behavior; instead of recognizing it is a mentality.
Restrictive behaviors include avoiding certain foods, counting calories, and cutting down on portion sizes. These are usually easier to identify. On the other hand, restrictive thoughts, or a restrictive mentality, can be sneakier. Even when we don’t engage in restrictive behaviors, we can still be subscribing to a restrictive mentality.
Signs you may still have a restrictive mentality:
· You feel guilt after eating specific foods
· You feel shame when you eat more than others around you
· You describe yourself as “bad” or “naughty” when you eat certain foods
· You believe certain foods will make you gain weight
· You think there is a perfect way to eat
· You believe some foods are “healthy” and others are “unhealthy”
· You think you will binge if you keep certain foods in the house
· You worry about what other people think of your eating habits
· You view food as an enemy
· You view your days as “good” or “bad” based on what you ate
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Restrictive behaviors are what we do or don’t do.
A restrictive mentality is what we think, feel and believe.
Restriction includes both of these concepts.
The Bottom Line:
Letting go of restriction goes far beyond changing our behaviors. Don’t get me wrong, modifying behaviors is certainly part of the battle and can prove to be extremely challenging. However, even if we manage to change our behaviors, we will never truly find food peace if we don’t also work on our thought patterns and mentality.
Remember, intuitive eating and finding food peace is a process. Be kind to yourself.
Josée Sovinsky, RD is a passionate Registered Dietitian working in a community setting in Toronto, Ontario. After facing her own struggles with disordered eating during her degree, she developed a strong interest in helping those affected by eating disorders and mental illness. She decided to learn more about intuitive and mindful eating, body acceptance and Health at Every Size®, which now strongly guide her work. She dreams of a world free from mental health stigma, body shaming, and disordered eating. When she is not helping others make peace with food, she enjoys baking, photography and doing yoga in her living room. Visit Josée's website and connect with her on social media.
Spotted: A Diet in Disguise
Dr. Colleen Reichmann
I’m just going to come right out and say it- I hate the term “clean eating.” Never has a diet used such obviously guilt-ridden vernacular. The message behind clean eating is clear, isn’t it? Certain food is “clean” (i.e. moral, pure), and other food is “dirty” (impure, bad, amoral).
Clean eating culture is dangerous because it is not super transparent. Advocates of clean eating like to assert that it is not a diet, but a lifestyle change.” Sounds pretty doesn’t it? Lifestyle change. The small font not included by most clean eating advocates is that this lifestyle change includes a series of food rules and restrictions. Or, in other words, it is a change of your style of life into one that includes dieting.
Clean eating is a dressed up term for diet. Plain and simple. Where did this euphemism come from? Well, the idea of dieting seems to have gotten a little bit of a bad rap over the past ten years or so. Maybe that is because the public was catching on that diets don’t work. Maybe it coincides with the influx of militarized fitness fads. Whatever the reason, one thing is for sure—the food industry and media have capitalized and continue to capitalize on the idea that we no longer need to diet—we just need to change. The worst part? We, the public, eat it up (pun intended).
We charge out to buy spiralizers and denounce fruit as too sugary. We load smoothies with vegetables (seriously come up—let’s call a spade a spade—smoothies made mainly from vegetables suck) and whip up bone broth soup because of collagen. We are attracted like magnets to food products listed as organic. Milk chocolate? Processed crap, we mutter to ourselves. Cacao bits? Load ‘em up.
I do not actually have any problem with wanting to incorporate healthy food into one’s diet. However, anything taken to the extreme is problematic. It is just as bad to eat just kale three meals a day as it is to eat pop tarts three meals a day. And the problem is, the concept of clean eating becomes extreme so easily. Think about it. The term “clean” denotes a morality of the food that we consume. Some foods are good, clean, or pure. Others are bad, dirty, or amoral. We humans tend to become activated by messages about morality. Hence, the judgement-laden undertones of the term “clean eating” affect our psyche in undeniable ways.
The good news? There have been a spattering of articles over the past year or so that question the benefits of “clean eating,” hence it is reasonable to assume that the term will be defunct in the next five years. The bad news? Be aware: fad diets are shapeshifters. When one wears thin, the wellness industry tends to catch on and coins a brand new name for said diet. Hence the only way to truly shut down diet culture is to educate ourselves about those roses-by-other-names (i.e. diets in disguise).
So the next time you hear about the newest wellness fad involving food, be sure to ask yourself:
1. Does it encourage restriction?
Is this food fad suggesting that eating less is important? Is fullness considered a negative? Is the message “eat less to be happy” pushed at all?
2. Does it subtly or blatantly include the message that thinner=healthier or better?
Is the message behind the food fad, “eat this way and you will look like him/her?” Does it promote the idea that weight loss is the golden fountain of health?
3. Does it suggest cutting out certain food groups?
Does the food fad promote the message that certain foods should be completely banned from your energy intake? Is the word toxic used at all?
4. Does it promote mistrust of your body?
Does the message suggest that our bodies need to be outsmarted? Does it suggest that certain foods are the equivalent of drugs to our minds?
Summarily, when it comes to food fads, a good rule of thumb is—if it promises salvation through eating—it is a fad diet. So call out the wellness industry every time they shape-shift. Protect your emotional well-being by shouting back at diet and “wellness” culture. Food freedom and overall happiness will be worth the effort-I promise!
Dr. Colleen Reichmann is a licensed clinical psychologist, practicing in Williamsburg, Virginia. She works in her private practice, Wildflower Therapy and is a staff psychologist at the College of William and Mary. She is recovered from an eating disorder, and this experience sparked her passion for spreading knowledge and awareness that full recovery is possible. She is now an eating disorders specialist, and has worked at various treatment facilities including University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro Center for Eating Disorder Care, and The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt. She is an advocate for feminism, body positivity, health at every size, and FULL recovery. She writes about body image and eating disorders for morelove.org, Project Heal, Recovery Warriors, and The Mighty.
Visit her website.