When I tell people that I follow the “eat whatever you want” diet, they do not understand what I mean.
When I tell my clients that they can eat whatever they want too, they look terrified. They are scared they are going to eat every single thing they have deprived themselves of since 1986… Snickers, Diet Dr. Pepper, Nerds, a bloomin onion, pepperoni pizza with garlic dipping sauce, nachos and cheese sauce, Betty Crocker icing straight from the jar and a side of the short-lived McDonald’s Arch Deluxe. In other words, they are scared they are going to eat like a half-baked University student with a hefty meal card to burn through.
If you choose to eat everything, that’s cool too! Sometimes after years of restriction you need to do that.
However, once your body and mind know that the restriction is over, eating what you want generally doesn’t mean eating everything in sight.
‘Eating whatever you want’ is a mindset shift that eliminates fears about food, restrictions, guilt and over-analysis. I thought I would clear up the confusion and put together a list that describes how I eat whatever I want.
Here are the basic principles that enable me to “eat whatever I want:”
#1) I understand the way that different foods feel in my body so I am empowered to make choices that are best for me. I know how different foods impact my mood, energy and digestion. This means I generally don’t choose the foods that make me feel not so great physically. Not because I’m trying to lose weight or restrict, but because I would prefer to not feel like shit run over twice. And if I eat those foods, I accept the consequences and move on. I also apologize in advance to anyone who is around me after I’ve had a blood sugar crash.
Untangling the physical reaction versus the emotional guilt-ridden reaction from a food is a game-changer!
#2) I don’t set rules or restrictions or timelines on myself. Ever. EVEEERRR. That means I never commit to “avoiding X for Y days.” That has only led to eating-all-the-things-times-a-gazillion.
#3) I see food as food. Food is neutral and I never call foods “good” or “bad” or “evil.” I can have them anytime I want…that’s the great thing about being a grown-ass adult.
#4) I don’t attach judgment or guilt to my food choices. If I eat 3 cupcakes, I accept it and I move on. Sure, I might think “geez, that third cupcake feels a little rotten in my stomach right now,” but I don’t beat myself up or feel a sense of panic that I’ve done something horribly wrong. I never restrict myself, “earn my indulgences” or try to “work it off” afterwards.
#5) I accept that I’m going to eat to numb my feelings sometimes and that’s OK. Newsflash: Everyone does it. When it happens, I don’t feel guilt or plan the 4 extra hours of working out I’ll need to cram in this week to “undo my sins.” I learn from the circumstances, move forward and know that it will likely happen again because I’m human.
#6) I go with the flow and never plan indulges… if my best friend brings her buttery, sugary, gluten-coma inducing homemade chocolate chip cookies to our lunch date, then you’re damn right I’m going to eat them! If she doesn’t, then I unfriend her on Facebook immediately.
#7) I understand the difference between desire and true hunger. Sometimes I eat solely for the sake of desire, but usually I eat because I’m hungry. To get to this point, I had to give myself permission to eat what I wanted, when I wanted. Food had to become neutral and abundant in my mind and body. And sometimes I just say f-it… life is good and so is this Skor Blizzard.
#8) I sometimes overeat. I always move the hell on.
Sidenote: I actually discourage clients from using the word ‘overeat’ because it implies some magical amount of fullness that we need to achieve.
#9) I take it day by day and accept that sometimes I’m going to eat a lot more take-out and greasy food and other times I’m going to want to eat a lot more homemade foods and vegetables.
#10) I tune into my body and give it what it needs on a day-to-day basis as much as I can. That means I don’t use a meal template and I go through phases where I eat different amounts of carbs, fruits, fats, sweets etc. By doing this, I rarely have cravings.
#11) I trust myself around food and I never over-analyze my choices.
#12) I never attach guilt or judgment to my food choices.
#13) I sometimes eat: when I’m not hungry, past comfortable fullness, when watching TV (make that always), standing up and mindlessly. Oh yeah, I break all the rules…even the mindful eating ones!
#14) I accept that my body is going to do what it wants to do (from a weight perspective) and I have stopped fighting against it.
#15) I prioritize working on self-worth and compassion so that my choices are no longer dictated by a desire to manipulate or control my body.
The biggest thing that I did to facilitate this change was by changing the way that I think about food: By having compassion and forgiveness for myself, by ending my obsession with wanting to lose weight and for accepting my body for what it is right now.
Life is so much more fun when you are not obsessing over food or your body. Trust me.