I have literally spent hours writing this blog post, revising it, rereading it, rewording it, etc. My goal here is to help people who are like me find freedom from obsessing over food in an unhealthy way, not to cast judgement of any kind on those who do choose to follow a defined diet. The most important things here are health and freedom! If what you eat/how you eat helps you achieve health and freedom, keep on keepin’ on. If not, perhaps my thoughts will help you brainstorm a different approach–whatever that may be.
I care a lot about nourishing my body and caring for it. I make every effort to get a good night’s sleep, move my body, and eat well. I use sunscreen when I’m outside to protect my skin. I prefer natural to synthetic when it comes to food or products. The doctor I visit most is my chiropractor and I almost always try natural remedies first before modern medicine–I definitely have a little crunch in me. All this, but I intentionally don’t follow a paleo, low-carb, gluten free, all-organic, or any other kind of defined, named diet. Here’s why.
I spent years really, really hating my body. So much of this stemmed from my slightly obsessive personality–I was daily tracking what I ate, when I ate it, how often I exercised, what I weighed each day, etc, etc. Mentally, I was not in a healthy place. (Neither was I physically.) All I thought about incessantly was my body and how much I hated it, and I dealt with absolutely endless guilt and self-loathing for eating “the wrong things.” It was exhausting, all-consuming, and got me exactly no where.
I tried every new diet and fad. I’d pour over checked-out library books outlining the latest “way to get skinny,” I stayed up late on my laptop reading about what I “should be eating,” I clicked through every online article telling me to “eat this, not that,” I subscribed to magazines that promised to tell me the “secret to getting thin…” I was obsessive. All this mind-spinning was ridiculously time-consuming.
I would lose a little weight and then gain it back, and I would obsess over that too. It was all, so, so, so, worthless. And for what? Nothing changed. I never felt better about myself. I never got to my “desired size,” whatever that was. My entire life was centered around chasing an unattainable and ultimately unfulfilling dream.
Finally, after soul-level healing and making peace with my body, I decided I was done, done, done with diets. Done.
There is no medical or health reason why I need to follow a defined diet of any kind: I’m not lactose intolerant (though I used to be severely lactose intolerant as a teenager; I know the struggle), I’m not gluten intolerant, I’m not allergic to any foods, I don’t have any stomach issues, and my body is healthy. Any diet I was following in the past was purely by my own choosing–and this choice was causing my mind to constantly reel.
I want to be so clear here: it does me more harm than good to follow a formalized diet because, in the past, I have become obsessive about it in a way that is wholly unhealthy and unhelpful. I absolutely understand and respect anyone who A) has a medical or health reason to follow a specific diet, or B) follows a diet by her own choosing/preference and is able to incorporate it healthfully into her life. I have close friends and family members who follow a diet because of either reason A or B, and I completely respect them and understand/support their decision. Basically: you can eat whatever you want. It is your choice, and only your choice.
For me, I know that defined or restrictive diets are a trigger to get wrapped up in the unhealthy mindset of obsessing about my body. I see so many bloggers and other internet articles pushing readers to follow a diet/way of eating so strongly that there is nearly an air of shame for anyone who doesn’t comply. But I’m not ashamed to say that my grocery basket isn’t 100 percent organic/paleo/vegan/low-carb/etc. each week. Because I know that if it were, as much as my “grocery haul” would look healthy, I would not be healthy. (Health isn’t measured by just my waistline.)
Naturally, I tend to eat small meals frequently throughout the day. I choose to nourish my body with wholesome foods most of the time, and I choose not to obsess wildly over ingredients or make guilt and shame a daily side dish. In fact, I choose to think less about food altogether. In my life, it is not something to be obsessed over; in fact, now, it’s not something that I give much thought to at all. This has been such a healthy shift.
This isn’t some crazy “eat whatever you want all the time and throw all caution to the wind” battle cry. I practice daily moderation and self-discipline, and I understand the importance of a balanced, wholesome, nutritious, healthy diet. (I’ve watched all the documentaries, read the books, and followed the blogs!) I completely understand that the majority of our society’s health problems today are due to the cheap, over-processed junk that lines the grocery store shelves, and I desire so much for us to move in the direction of real food.
But if I’ve been craving a chocolate milkshake for a week, I drink one and enjoy it. Sometimes, especially when I’m traveling, I eat fast food. The other day, I ate two peaches for dinner because I was craving fruit but wasn’t hungry for a big meal. If I don’t have a lot of energy, I eat a hearty salad with protein and some healthy fat. Pulling away from diet labels has actually allowed me to learn to listen to my body and feed it accordingly.
My husband and I make an effort to eat real, nourishing food, like full-fat dairy and locally grown fruits and veggies, but sometimes we eat french fries. We eat organic foods when we can, but sometimes that’s not possible, and that’s okay with us. For me, achieving a perfectly balanced diet isn’t worth the stress if it means living an unbalanced life.
When my life was revolved around my diet, I was miserable. I refuse to live that way.
If you’re like me, and diets wear you out mentally and physically, perhaps you should consider another way of interacting with food. The world will continue to scream and obsess about food, but you don’t have to. There are really gracious, beautiful bloggers, authors, and people who have found freedom and joy in their way of eating and share ideas and recipes in a gentle and informative way. This is to be wholly celebrated for them! I want everyone to find freedom and joy in all areas of their life.
People find freedom in different ways. Some people thrive with distinct and defined parameters with regards to what they eat, but those same parameters make me feel obsessive, all-consumed, and unhealthy. So, if you’re like me and choose not to follow a defined/restrictive diet, when you read what others write, or hear what they say, it may not be for you. Not everything is for everyone!
If you’ve struggled to cultivate a healthy relationship with food, I hope and pray that you find freedom. Freedom looks differently on different people, and for me, as I’ve explained, it looks like approaching food in a more relaxed, undefined, unrestricted way. I’ve found freedom and a way to show up to the table healthy, not obsessive or self-loathing. Whatever you choose to put on your plate or keep off of it–I hope you find freedom and health!
If you want to discuss anything I’ve mentioned here, you can, as always, comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, though I have not read it, I have heard rave reviews of Made To Crave by Lysa TerKuerst (affiliate link), which is a book about understanding food cravings and cultivating a healthy, holistic approach toward food, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
// What is your approach toward food? Do you follow a defined diet? Why or why not?
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