Not going to lie, writing this post was a little bit scary for me, as it’s a topic that I don’t discuss very often! It’s going live on my 26TH BIRTHDAY! Which I thought was fitting, because with age comes growth, and I wanted to share how I’ve become more wise with my food choices over the last several years.
When I say “more wise” food choices, I don’t mean eating more vegetables, or more healthy fats, or eating out less often (I’ve already got these aspects under control!). What I mean is that I’ve learned to embrace intuitive eating and food freedom, which is honestly very difficult as a registered dietitian.
I’m sure a lot of my dietitian readers can relate. There is A LOT of pressure on us to eat “perfectly.” I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve gotten comments like “you’re a dietitian! you shouldn’t be eating that!” or “oh, you don’t usually eat that, you must be having a cheat day.” At social gatherings, it can often feel like my food choices are under a microscope. Even though the people behind these comments don’t mean any harm, in our society of body & food shaming, they’ve had a tendency to sit with me & so I established a habit of associating guilt and negativity into food “indulgences.” Although I’ve been pretty blessed in that this has never grown into a full-blown eating disorder, that doesn’t mean that my relationship with food hasn’t taken a hit. Here are a few of the “beliefs” that I’ve had around food over the years:
- Feeling guilty for hours, even days, after “indulging” in a so-called “bad” food.
- Calling myself “bad” or “naughty” or a “failure” for straying away from “eating healthy.”
- Giving foods morality – associating them with good and bad.
- Restricting and avoiding certain foods that were too high in calories, fat, carbs, whatever due to fear of being “unhealthy.”
- Being afraid to eat at restaurants due to fear of eating too much and “gaining weight.”
- Worrying what others thought about my food choices (I’m a dietitian, I HAVE to eat healthy ALWAYS!).
After struggling with all of this for a few years (and I’ll be honest, I do still struggle with them – it’s an ongoing journey!), I discovered a couple of amazing podcasts: Mind Body Musings, Paleo Women Podcast, Food Psych Podcast, and Nutrition Matters Podcast, which opened my eyes to food freedom, body positivity and intuitive eating…all topics that were never even mentioned during my schooling to become a dietitian. They made me realize that food doesn’t have morality, it’s not good or bad, and that one “off” choice isn’t going to compromise my health, especially given my already healthy lifestyle! They made me realize that if I listen to my body, I’ll be able to provide it with what it needs without guilt. They made me realize that all foods fit. And most of all, they made me realize that food is about nourishment and pure enjoyment, NOT negativity.
Since making all of these realizations, I’ve been able to make choices based on what I really want to eat. Honestly, I crave healthy foods most of the time…it’s what my body needs to thrive! Without nourishing foods, I wouldn’t have the energy I need to make it through this crazy life. HOWEVER, I also crave ice cream, pizza, and chocolate…and sometimes I want to skimp on the veggies and have a bowl of cereal, a big old sandwich or a plate of nachos. If that’s what I want, that’s what I’ll have, no questions asked.
By allowing myself to have what I WANT, when I want, honestly, I don’t crave “unhealthy” foods as often. Nothing is off limits, so I’m not constantly thinking about what I “can’t” have. If I treat myself to something, I simply move on without dwelling. And that, my friends, is food freedom.
I do want to mention that even though I’ve come a long way with this journey, that doesn’t mean that I don’t still struggle. It’s an ongoing process – there will be good days and bad days. If you’re on a similar journey, don’t give up if you resort back to old habits & thought patterns. Just keep at it and it will get easier & easier every day.
Now I want to share some specific examples of how I’ve embraced food freedom in my lifestyle!
Beer and Cocktails
You guys, I was the biggest beer hater for SO LONG. I claimed to hate it when I really never gave it a chance after trying a couple of cheap, terrible beers in college. Well, in the last few months I’ve suddenly become a beer drinker and a beer lover! But not just any beer, I like beers from local breweries especially dark beer. Love me some coffee benders! Another thing – I love trying fun cocktails at restaurants, including margaritas. I used to never order cocktails when out at restaurants due to fear of them being “too high in sugar.” I’ve learned that enjoying one or two or even THREE cocktails isn’t going to hurt me. Now, instead of immediately turning down a drink, I assess how I’m feeling in the moment. Do I really want a drink tonight? If I do I do, and if I don’t, I don’t!
Ohhhh, ice cream. I’ve loved ice cream for as long as I can remember (who DOESN’T love ice cream?!). But for a really long time, I had such negative thoughts around it. I ALWAYS wanted it, because I told myself it was bad & I couldn’t have it. Now, because I’ve accepted that I will always love ice cream no matter what, I let myself have it whenever I want it, sometimes a couple times a week (this is big because I used to have a “rule” that I could only have it once a week). I love exploring new ice cream shops and all the fun flavors there are to choose from nowadays. And you guys, I’m telling you: because I’ve taught myself that I can have ice cream whenever, I really don’t crave it as often as I used to and I’m satisfied off of a smaller portion.
Many of you know I’ve become quite the foodie over the last couple years. Trying new foods and restaurants is one of my favorite things. I wasn’t always that way, though! I used to hate eating out because I didn’t like not knowing exactly what was in my food. I feared that I’d eat “too much” and always associated it with guilt. Well, fast-forward to now and I’ll tell you that I don’t even think twice before going out to eat anymore. If I eat too much, IT’S OKAY, life goes on – I’ll just make a point to be more mindful at my next meal.
Oatmeal and Bread
I think it’s pretty silly that oatmeal & bread are on this list, but for a while I avoided both of these foods like the plague. I absolutely loved oatmeal when I was in college but then I went through a phase where I avoided it because it was “too high in carbs.” Whatever. I’m way over that now and enjoy oatmeal for breakfast several days a week – it makes me feel great and I appreciate it for its healthy fiber and nutrients! The same goes for bread. Honestly, bread doesn’t make me feel awesome so I don’t eat it often. But when I stumble upon some freshly made sourdough bread at the farmer’s market you can bet that I’ll be going home with some and making avocado toast!
So that’s my story. I love the state of balance that I now have in my eating habits & all the extra energy I have to focus on more important things (instead of wasting all of it on worrying about food!). I love my healthy & active way of life, with a side of beer and dessert! 🙂