When I realized it was time to stop dieting and start eating, I was excited. It was not like the excitement you get when you find the next great diet that would change your life forever, though. It was more of an acceptance; like a relief.
I began by telling myself I could eat what I wanted and stop worrying about calories and macros.
In the past, there were many times I allowed myself to eat what I wanted. The difference was, I did it with the understanding that I would do something later to compensate for eating. I knew by allowing myself a food indulgence, I would either exercise, skip future meals, eat salad only, or purge to make up for it. The price I had to pay for eating stayed on my head. No wonder I never felt satisfied with any food! I was too worried about what I had to do to make up for the sin of eating what I wanted.
“I can eat anything I want, anytime I want, anywhere I want. If I want to eat cake for breakfast, I will. If I want to eat 10 cakes for breakfast, I will. If I want to eat one thousand cakes for breakfast, I can and I will.”
The crazier my statements were, the better I understood the principle. For a few days, I still found myself eating around foods that I used to restrict, but I did not berate myself or tell myself I was a failure. I just took note of this, ate the food I really wanted and went on with my day. I only had one mini binge in the first six months using this idea.
These ideas helped me, but your journey is unique to you. You can do this your way.
1. No food is restricted. There is no ‘bad‘ food. Try to eat what you think is nutritious, but make all meals substantial and don’t worry if you want sweets, eat them too.
2. Don’t “eat around” any food. Don’t eat an apple to try to satisfy your craving for a piece of cake. If you want a piece of cake, eat a piece of cake.
3. Tell yourself, “I am allowed to eat anything I want, anytime I want, anywhere I want… I can eat now, later today, tomorrow, and for the rest of my life. I will never restrict food again regardless of what I eat now.” Tell this to yourself every few minutes, write it on your mirror, put this as a reminder on your phone. Keep saying this until you absolutely believe this deep down in your soul.
4. Figure out what you really like to eat. At first it may be sweets or ice cream. It doesn’t really matter. As you get used to not restricting, your tastes will change. After a couple of months, I desired tuna and asparagus. Remember, since you don’t have to restrict, you don’t need to eat fat free or sugar free foods.
5. If you see something you want and begin to feel anxious, like you could binge on it, tell yourself you can eat ten or a hundred of those. Try to picture yourself surrounded by a hundred cakes or a thousand donuts and give yourself complete permission to eat them. The crazier your picture, the better.
6. While trying to decide what to eat, check to see if you are having thoughts of losing weight or doing something later to compensate for what you are about to eat. If so, tell yourself, you NEVER have to diet again, you will NEVER have to restrict food again. Say this out loud, “I will never have to restrict any food again, not today, tomorrow, next week, next month or next year or in the rest of my life.” Let it sink into your psyche that the food you want and need will always be available.
7. Do not judge or berate yourself. If you ended up eating something you didn’t want, or overate or even had a binge, just take a note of it and go on. You may feel guilty at first, but once you recognize this, you can change it. No matter what you eat, it is OKAY. You can stop feeling guilty for eating. It is doable and it is imperative when learning how to eat normally.
8. If you want more food before the next meal time – eat. That’s Okay. Fix another full blown second meal and don’t feel guilty or wrong. It will take your body a little while to get it right. This will not last forever. The more you honor your hunger signal, the shorter time it will take for your body to space out meals to about 3 times a day. It may take a couple of weeks.
9. Stop worrying about portion control. You may think this is crazy talk, but portion control is food restriction and the more you tell yourself you should only eat a certain amount of something, the more your body lashes out and says, “Hey, give me more!” Tell yourself you can get seconds or thirds or fourths and fifths, or you can pile the food as high as you want on your plate. The more you practice this, the more you will know when the amount you put on your plate is about right for you. Your body has a built in portion control mechanism and it will begin to work if you let it!
10. When you are not sure what you want or how much you might want to eat, prepare one thing that you think you will like and tell yourself that you will re-evaluate after you try this food you have prepared. You will be surprised at how often the first item you fix will satisfy you. But if it doesn’t, don’t fret, eat something else.
11. Don’t feel bad about wasting food. I used to put every scrap of leftovers in the fridge and then eat them before they went bad, just so they wouldn’t get thrown away. But I now realize that eating something my body does not want or need is damaging for me and is more wasteful than throwing the food in the trash. I do not have to be a human garbage can. Don’t feel bad about throwing food in the trash if you don’t want it. As time goes by, you will naturally learn how to cook with less waste.
12. Do not beat yourself up, no matter what! The KEY to success is to not beat yourself up or feel guilty; no matter what you eat or don’t eat. Even if you lapse into a binge because of thoughts of later restriction, don’t talk trash to yourself. Guilt is not helpful. A determination to not diet and to not worry about the amount of food you consume will take you further than you ever could imagine. Give yourself permission to eat and not be perfect. You will overeat sometimes, but normal people overeat from time to time. As time goes by it will get less and less and the food you choose will be healthier without you having to force it.
13. Be open and prepared to learn something new about yourself everyday.
Working though eating issues? See Nourishing Advice for thoughts on how to cope with common advice people may give you.
“It didn’t come natural to me, but when I learned to treat myself better, I found my whole life changing for the better.” MD