We are all familiar with physical restriction where we restrict our food intake in some way whether that is calories, portion sizes, or certain food groups. 

What about mental restriction? Let’s say you are following a whole foods diet where ONLY whole foods are allowed. You are eating enough calories and you probably aren’t worried about macro- or micro-nutrients much because you are getting enough nutrients by consuming whole foods. 

However, say you love ice cream. Like, real ice cream, not the dairy-free cashew/coconut/oat milk shit. But by committing to do 100% whole foods, ice cream is not on that list. When you mentally tell yourself that you will NEVER have it again, how does that make you feel? Sad right?

I had a friend that found out she had Celiac disease. This is a serious autoimmune condition where even a trace of gluten consumed can lead to becoming dangerously ill. She was a carb lover. This was devastating news for her. She could have substitutions, but nothing was the same. Even for someone like her who faced some serious health consequences if gluten was consumed, she still missed it like crazy for years. There was one time she called me crying because her co-workers ordered pizza and she couldn’t have any. 

If you don’t HAVE to give something up, I wouldn’t. Even when the health consequences are dire, knowing that you cannot have something that can be tough on you mentally. 

It’s also worth noting that even with a serious health condition like Celiac disease, one could still eat gluten if they wanted. That is their prerogative. 

Health is not a moral virtue. What is often behind the restriction is the feeling of wanting to be “good.” Think about it. When are refusing to eat a certain food for health reasons, what do you say? “I’m trying to be good.” Right? There is this idea in our society that being modest with our eating equals good moral virtue. It means we are not being gluttons or living in excess. 

This may seem like ancient shit to you, but it is still very much alive today. America’s Puritan roots underly our society even today. And that includes the modesty with our food choices and body size.  

And what’s the flip side of these Puritan ideals? Rebellion. When someone is really strict and tells you not to do something, what does it make you want to do? You want to do it anyway! It’s a natural reaction. 

So, think about a food that you don’t love, but like to have on occasion. If someone told you that you were never allowed to have that food ever again or if you did, that you should feel guilty. You would start to think about it more. You would pass by that food in the store and suddenly it looks soooo good, right!? This is why it’s better just to not restrict in the first place. If every food is allowed, you will find yourself hardly ever eating certain foods naturally. But, as soon as it’s not allowed, it’s so much more attractive.

Here are some tips on how to restrict less:

  • Don’t label ANY food off-limits.
  • If you are craving a certain food, eat it!
  • Avoid the “last supper” mentality which means eating a certain food or meal for “the last time” in your head. This usually happens before a diet.
  • Check your thoughts and what you are saying to yourself about certain foods and make sure you are avoiding labeling.
  • Be kind to yourself and skip the guilt

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