Learning to Eat Healthfully Without Restriction

July 10, 2010

So, when I polled my readers recently for topics that they would like covered here, a reader asked me to address the topic of learning to eat healthfully, but without falling into restrictive dieting. And wouldn’t you know, this is one of my favorite topics these days? Because this can be difficult.

I often feel as though I’m negotiating with myself like I’m a small child. My inner malnourished bratbaby demands all kinds of food all day long – ice cream sundaes, bread products, cookies, crackers, assorted super fattening cheese laden delicousness.

Bratbaby demands food like this because this was the food she wasn’t allowed when she was a small fat child or a moderately fat teenager or during the many years of fruitless binge/diet/pain/punish/shame/binge cycle. She wants all of the foods that she was told she was too fat to enjoy. And now that I’ve unleashed her with my vow to eat intuitively, she is reeking havoc and stomping on things and demanding to be fed.

But really – can you blame her??

I can’t, and I rarely do. But I do try to reason with her on a tri-daily basis. I make bargains – ok, if you eat your vegetables now, you can have a cookie later. I work to eat healthfully, most of the time, but I do not get crazy about it and I definitely do not restrict myself. I learned a long time ago that restriction leads directly to binge, though sometimes not directly, but somehow, somewhere dietary disaster will strike, inevitably resulting in my consuming 75 x the amount of calories I would have consumed if I just let myself eat the effing cookie to begin with.

I have learned that, for me, restriction is an absolute danger zone.

Thus I strive to make healthy choices where I can, frequently, and to grow my appetite and palate for healthier foods. For example, recently I taught myself to love oatmeal for breakfast, thereby eliminating most of the eggs and cheese from my daily diet. I also at one point taught myself to love green smoothies because they allowed for me to get a major amount of my daily greens and iron consumption.

I strive to make healthy choices, so that if I need to eat french fries every day every once and a while, it is ok. We need to eliminate the fear of “bad” or “restricted” foods in order to reconnect with our natural hunger and cravings. Once the fear of previously off limits food is lifted, we can be free to enjoy eating according to our body’s natural rhythms.

What about you – do you have difficulty battling the close proximity of healthy eating and restriction? How do you cope with it? What makes it easier?