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Breaking free from diet culture to food freedom

Food: we can’t live without it, but sometimes living with it feels like living under the rule of a dictator. Whether it’s the unrealistic expectations of diet culture, our obsession with counting calories, or addictions and cravings that determine what and when we eat, food can rule over us in a variety of ways.

But what if instead of bowing to some of the more unhealthy demands of food culture, we freed ourselves from the power food has over us? This is where the concept of “food freedom” was born. Obviously, abolishing food from our lives isn’t an option, but changing our relationship with food can free us from some of its harmful effects of diet culture.

The real-life impact of food tyranny

Let’s address the elephant in the room first. In today’s society, it’s hard to escape the relentless pursuit of the “perfect” body, which is how a lot of us fall into unhealthy food practices—including restrictive diets—in the first place.

But the thing is, most diets aren’t sustainable long term, and many of them aren’t even good for us, even if we’re consuming fewer calories.

Furthermore, the food rules we impose on ourselves often get in the way of social engagements with friends, make travel inconvenient (or just less fun), and can impact our mental health.

Food, in short, is more than fuel that keeps our bodies going. It’s more than something that affects our appearance. It’s tied to our emotions, too. We tend to eat differently when we’re stressed or sad, and it’s part of many important experiences and memories.

How food freedom helps us reclaim the joy in food

Food freedom is more than simply eating whatever you want without boundaries. It’s about having a positive relationship with the food you do eat. Food freedom means you have the ability to enjoy a wide variety of foods without guilt or anxiety, while still prioritizing your health and well-being. Many people find food freedom naturally through lifestyle practices like intermittent fasting, which supports overall health without requiring us to sacrifice the foods we love.

In short, food freedom empowers you to make your own choices about what you eat so you can find a good balance between enjoying the foods you love and nourishing your body with wholesome foods. Food freedom looks different for everyone, but in some cases it can be life-changing:

  • Freedom from cravings

  • Not having to stick to a strict diet or count calories

  • The ability to grow your own food, or have access to the foods you want

  • Being able to participate in social functions without worrying about your food options

  • Freedom to enjoy your favorite foods without guilt

How to embrace food freedom

Your path to food freedom might look different from someone else’s, but here are some good general tips to help you develop a food-freedom way of life.

Ditch diet culture. Seriously. Society tells us that we must diet to have what we want, but in reality, diets rarely lead to long-lasting change. So recuse yourself from the pressures of diet culture before you do anything else.

Listen to your body. Our bodies have a lot to tell us if we take the time to listen. Pay attention to signs of hunger and fullness. Trust that your body knows what you need, and do your best to answer the cues it’s giving you.

Take morality out of it. You are not “good” because you eat salad for lunch and “bad” because you like cake. Food is just food and shouldn’t determine how you feel about yourself or certain foods. Instead, focus on the purpose each food serves, even if that purpose is merely to bring you joy and delight your taste buds. All foods have their place in a varied and balanced diet.

Don’t focus on the numbers. The number on the scale or the amount of calories you eat can be an effective way to track your progress, but it’s all too easy to start caring more about the numbers than what you’re eating. So instead, focus on how you feel rather than an arbitrary number, and you’ll reduce food’s control on your life.

Build a supportive network. Surround yourself with people who support your goals and who won’t be bombarding you with harmful food messages. Don’t forget to be kind to yourself, too.

Be patient with yourself. Attaining food freedom is a lifelong journey for most people, not a sprint to a final destination. Don’t expect perfection from yourself right away—because where’s the freedom in that? As long as you’re continually working to stay away from negative food talk and expectations, you’ll be in a good place.

Take back the power

Breaking free from diet culture and embracing food freedom is a transformative journey toward self-acceptance, body positivity, and overall well-being. It means more joy in your life. It means the chance to fully participate in new experiences, both at home and when you’re visiting new places. It means being fully in the moment and banishing what can be a big source of guilt from your life.

Try some of these tips to bring food freedom into your life. Let us know in the comments what has worked for you!

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