Before I started writing this I ate a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal. Okay that’s a lie. I ate two bowls. And oh man was it good!
I haven’t had Lucky Charms in years!
I can’t tell you why I needed them but for some reason I needed vitamin Lucky Charms and after having the craving for 4 days I decided, yes. Yes. I will eat those Lucky Charms.
Was it worth it? Yes.
Am I going to feel like muck in about 1/2 an hour/tomorrow morning when I wake up? Probably.
Will I eat some more tomorrow? Maybe. I haven’t decided yet.
The thing is, I’m an adult. You’re an adult. While you can be dictator over what your kiddo eats, you get to play all loosey goosey with what you eat.
That means that there are no rules. In fact, throw out the rules. They aren’t helping you get or stay healthy.
Sure you might be able to follow a diet that prescribes so many carbs, so many grams of protein, cheat days and you-can-never-haves for a month or two. But who wants to live their life like that?
I don’t. Do you?
Instead of trying to follow a strict diet wouldn’t you rather enjoy food freedom and still look and feel awesome?
What’s this magical sounding thing I speak of?
As Melissa Hartwig puts it in her book Food Freedom Forever, food freedom means…
“Finally feeling in control of food, instead of food controlling you. It means indulging when you decide it’s worth it, savouring the experience without guilt or shame, and then returning to your regularly scheduled healthy habits.”
Yes. That does sound lovely, doesn’t it?
And it makes total sense.
The problem with diets is that they all have some sort of restriction inherently involved.
You can’t have bread. Or cheese. Or wine. Or chocolate. Or all of the above (which would be the worst diet ever!)
So obviously the only thing you want to eat is bread. Or cheese. Or wine. Or chocolate. So of course 7:42pm comes around and after a day of chicken and broccoli you inhale all the bread, cheese, wine and chocolate you can find – even those Halloween chocolates you found in the back of the cupboard that you’re pretty sure are at least 2 years old.
Then you feel like garbage and so you pop some kale in your morning smoothie to hopefully balance it all out and then start the cycle all over again.
Overindulge. Restrict. Overindulge. Restrict.
I mean, I’m definitely not speaking from experience or anything…
Yes. That was me once upon a purple moon ago (purple is more my colour).
Now I see things differently.
I’ve decided that the best way for me to eat healthy is to tell myself that I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want it.
And it works. I’ve been able to lose all 30+lbs of baby weight I gained during my pregnancy and stay at a healthy weight for the past 5+ years without ever dieting because I’ve adopted this mindset.
But. And it’s a big but. Before I indulge in something that I know isn’t nutritious fuel (AKA a fat-sugar-salt bomb) I always ask myself if it’s worth it first.
Because I’m a healthy person. I want to continue to be a healthy person. So 9 times out of 10 the idea of hoovering a bowl (or two) of Lucky Charms doesn’t appeal to me because I know it’s usually not gonna be worth it. All those artificial flavours and colours and syrupy corn is going to make me feel like rubbish.
But sometimes – like tonight – it’s gonna be worth it. When the idea of eating a bowl of Lucky Charms feels like I’m stepping back into my childhood jammies that my Grandma made me and eating my bowl of magically delicious sugar nuggets on the floor while watching The Raccoons.
Because let’s be honest – they don’t actually taste that great. It’s the feeling – the memories it brings up – that taste so scrumptious.
That’s why it’s worth it. And that’s why I give myself permission to eat whatever I want, whenever I want – because it’s fun to go down memory lane occasionally. And sometimes it’s actually really, really delicious (like that s’mores ice cream sundae I had a few weeks back with a homemade marshmallow. That was worth it!)
I actually get asked sometimes when people see me eat the “worth it” stuff how I’m not 30lbs overweight. Because even though I know I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want, I’m still at a healthy weight.
So what’s the secret?
There’s gotta be more to it then that, Jen!
I know it sounds super simple – and it is – but there are some key parts of the equation that you need to understand in order for this to work for you.
Because if I just leave you with “Tell yourself you can eat whatever you want” two buckets of fried chicken later you’re gonna send me an angry email… “You told me if I said I could have the chicken I wouldn’t want the chicken!”
So here’s the thing.
In order for this to work you need three key slices of pie (figuratively speaking, of course):
- The part where you give yourself the freedom to eat whatever you want, whenever you want it – as long as you decide it’s worth it (you’re willing to put up with any potential consequences like headaches, stomachaches, acne, moodiness, etc.)
- The part where you actually enjoy whatever you’re eating. Savor. Enjoy.
- The part where you adopt a growth mindset instead of trying to be Miss Perfect Diet 2017.
One of the most incredibly simple but effective strategies that will help you adopt food freedom is embracing a growth mindset instead of staying stuck in a fixed mindset.
These growth and fixed mindset concepts come from Carol Dweck – The Stanford psychologist who has studied mindset for decades. According to her…
“In the fixed mindset it’s not enough just to succeed. It’s not enough just to look smart and talented. You have to be pretty much flawless. And you have to be flawless right away… After all, if you have it you have it, and if you don’t you don’t.”
But with a growth mindset the focus isn’t on being perfect. The focus is on getting better. Learning. Adapting. Believing that you can and will change for the better.
And when it comes to healthy eating, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you which mindset is going to be more helpful to you when you’re face-to-face with those 8pm chip cravings.
So adopt a growth mindset.
Instead of labeling yourself as a loser who can’t put down the red velvet cake with extra cream cheese frosting so you might as well just give up and eat the whole thing anyways because nothing will ever change. Ever.
Assume that you’re a healthy person.
Repeat after me: “I’m a healthy person. I make healthy choices.”
It sounds so simple but trust me on this one. Research shows that your brain can literally change when you adopt this way of thinking.
Thinking “I’m a healthy person” can actually help your brain adopt this idea on a neural level (AKA your brain actually changes in a positive way).
Pretty darn cool, right?
Thoughts become things. Those law of attraction people were right.
But only if you make a conscious effort to think healthy thoughts. Growth mindset thoughts.
So try these on for size…
This isn’t an overnight transformation.
I’m not going to promise that this will magically mend every last disordered, negative and painfully torturous thought you’ve ever had about food this instant.
But if you try positive changes can (and will) happen.
You can enjoy food freedom over dictatorship. The cupcakes don’t have to be in charge.
Step 1: Tell yourself – and honestly believe – that you can eat whatever you want whenever you want. With 24/7 drive-thrus and 24 hr supermarkets you literally have access to all the sugar, fat and salt you desire at any time. So there’s no rush. Indulge if it’s worth it (you’ll know when it’s actually worth it). Don’t if it’s not.
Step 2: Enjoy every tiny smidgen of deliciousness. Really. Seriously. Don’t cram it down like you’re ashamed to be seen with it. Take your time and enjoy the moment (or else what’s the point?!).
Step 3: Adopt a growth mindset. Tell yourself “I may not be perfect but I’m still a healthy person who makes healthy choices. I just sometimes want a cupcake and that’s okay. That doesn’t make me a bad person, or a failure, or unhealthy. It just makes me human.”
Food freedom. It does sound lovely, doesn’t it?
It’s definitely better than the agony of the overindulge-restrict cycle.
You can still have all the foods you love. You just won’t want them all the time because after eating healthy, nutritious, fueling foods for a few weeks you’ll want to indulge less and less because the headaches and moodiness and acne and bloated belly just won’t be worth it.
Because you’re a healthy person.
Not perfect. Not the healthiest lady on the planet.
Just a great mama who usually makes healthy choices.
Not just so you can be a better mama, but because you deserve to feel awesome for you.
P.S. Have a friend who’s stuck on the indulge-restrict caravan? Pass this post along to them and suggest you try this out together. It’s always more fun trying new things with a buddy!