Food freedom has various interpretations in today’s society.
For some, food freedom can be defined as the path individuals take to fight food addiction, or transition away from industrial food production. For others it’s about improving food security in public health settings.
For those in recovery from harmful diet culture or eating disorders, food freedom embraces the belief that all foods can be enjoyed in moderation without guilt or shame.
Because of the various definitions and applications of the term, food freedom can be a confusing topic. In this post, we’re focusing on food freedom to challenge the social norms around diet culture and the damaging “thin” ideal imposed on our culture for decades.
This article is intended to help readers find food freedom by discovering a positive, judgment-free relationship with food and learning how it nourishes the body.
Intuitive eating is a non-dieting approach to consciously changing eating habits by trusting the body’s ability to make good food choices.
By learning to trust their gut (literally), people can develop positive relationships with food and their bodies while rejecting the damaging impact of dieting on physical and mental wellness.
Through intuitive eating, individuals learn how to stop fixating on their weight and focus on eating to feel satisfied and in ways that make them feel healthy and energized to improve their lifestyle.
Mindful eating stems from mindfulness, defined as an intentional focus on a person’s current thoughts, emotions, and sensations. By eating mindfully, a person can utilize all their senses to fully enjoy the food they’re eating and appreciate how it nourishes their body.
Mindful eating encourages the practice of gratitude as you eat and experience food. By choosing foods that provide nourishment and energy, we become more aware of what our bodies need to feel satisfied. Mindful eating also aims to dissuade judgment around any food choices we make with compassion and understanding.
Food freedom vs. diet culture
Now that you have a general understanding of food freedom, let’s discuss how it stacks up against diet culture.
At its foundation, diet culture values thinness above all else. To achieve a thin body, the message is simple — restrict calories, obsess over food and exercise, stigmatize, and avoid being overweight at all costs.
Nearly 45 million Americans are impacted by diet culture every year; spending money on weight loss products and trying to eat as little as possible to achieve the unrealistic image of what a successful, valuable person looks like.
Food freedom vehemently discourages and discredits diet culture by encouraging people to trust their bodies, promote a positive body image, and learn sustainable eating habits and attitudes.
Gastronomy seeks to embrace the cultures and foods worldwide and understand how these cuisines positively impact human health and well-being. It strives to understand and experience various cultures’ foods and how they contribute to general nutrition.
As you take steps towards embracing food freedom and guilt-free eating, gastronomy can help you understand the value of any food experience and how it can benefit you physically and mentally.
Food freedom for mental well-being
The dangers and harms of diet culture are no secret, and they take a lot of hard work to undo. Diet culture promotes low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression in its foundational message that you are not worthy or valuable unless you look a certain way.
These beliefs can contribute to mental health conditions, including body dysmorphia, disordered eating, bulimia, anorexia, binge eating, and restrictive food intake disorder. Over 30 million Americans struggle with eating disorders from these unachievable societal expectations.
Developing food freedom beliefs and practices can help break the cycle of emotional and binge eating. As an alternative to dieting or restrictive eating, the food freedom mindset encourages people to eat as they please and to remove food as the most important part of their day.
Food freedom experts believe that as you develop flexible feelings around food, your mental health and general well-being will improve, too.
Practical steps towards food freedom: Making it work in your life
Applying food freedom practice to your daily life can be challenging, but the rewards are worth it. Over time, it is possible to improve your relationship with food, enjoy satisfying foods without guilt, and improve overall mental and physical health.
Here are some actionable steps you can take to make food freedom work in your life:
As we discussed, diet culture is often rooted in our beliefs about self-worth. Unlearning these toxic ideals takes time and effort. Practice self-compassion by reminding yourself that you are worthy, being thin is not a sign of being healthy, and you learn new things about nutrition and food daily.
Follow your body’s cues
Our bodies are effective communicators; we just don’t always listen how we should. Pay attention to any signs of hunger, cravings, and fullness so you can give your body what it needs when it needs it.
Learn to enjoy eating
Learning to enjoy eating may seem silly, but the mindfulness we mentioned earlier is critical in redefining your relationship with food. Many who are working on guilt-free eating like to try new recipes to set themselves up for success with their daily nutrition.
Practical tips include packing a nourishing lunch or eating slowly to savor and fully appreciate each bite.
Add physical activity to your day
Exercise can play a significant role in reshaping your relationship with food. It helps you learn to appreciate your body for all it’s capable of and, in turn, be grateful for the food you consume to nourish your body and create energy for the workouts you enjoy doing.
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Fostering a healthy relationship with food takes time, especially if you're unlearning harmful ideals from diet culture. Learning to enjoy food without restrictions and shame may be one of the best things you ever do for your mental and physical health.
Whether you have specific goals or are simply trying to build healthier habits for a more sustainable lifestyle, Evidation is here to support you with our powerful health tracking app to become your healthiest, happiest self. Join us today!