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A friend and I were recently discussing obsessive thinking about food. As you are probably aware, new words are always evolving and now some people are talking about “Food Freedom”. Let me explain.

We all know people who pay lots of attention to food labels and ingredients and judge what they eat and what we eat (or anyone else!). Some people make a list of everything they ate during the day and feel “I was good or bad”, kind of like worthy or unworthy as a person, based on how healthy those things are. (I was that person once, myself. Glad I am no longer there!)

FOOD FREEDOM means being free from that kind of excessive thinking and behavior related to food. Being in a place where food/eating is just one thing in your life, something that is important and ought to be enjoyable, but NOT something that takes up a HUGE amount of your time and energy and certainly NOT something that’s linked to feelings of self-doubt, guilt, shame, and frustration.  

Why are so many people stuck in the Over-thinking Food Trap and are in a sense, living life as “food slaves”? It could be for a number of reasons.

1. Behavior Modeling / Environment Growing Up

Some people may have been brought up in an environment where that is the norm. Their parents or siblings display over-thinking and analytical behaviors toward food, including constant judgment and finger-pointing, such as “you shouldn’t be eating that, should you? You’ll need an extra hour on the treadmill to make up for that donut!” Research suggests that the number one reason for poor eating habits is behavior modeled by parents and caretakers. I believe it is also the number one reason for people getting caught in the over-thinking food trap. And unfortunately, this pattern of thought and behavior is also linked to body shaming.

2. An Urgent Need to be in Control 

Other times, a person’s obsession with eating healthy and over-thinking food could stem from their need to be in control. If someone has very dominant parents or lives in an environment where most decisions are made for her, she might find that deciding what to eat is the one way in which she can manifest her autonomy.

Sadly, this often means eating way too much, too much unhealthy food, or even eating too little. When she faces others’ disapproval or feels they are controlling her life, at least in this one area she can stick to her guns and do exactly as she pleases (for example, if she’s eating very little, others cannot force-feed her, right?) She has finally found her weapon for being in control of her life.

If only these I’m-making-my-own-decisions situations meant smart choices in nutrition and self-care! But alas, most often they do not.

3. Poor Self-Esteem

A third common cause of the over-thinking food trap is low self-esteem. Some parents tend to compare their children’s body shape and size even from toddler ages, which can trigger feelings of inadequacy. In addition, as we all know social media has exacerbated body comparison and this adversely affects 95% of the population without a “supermodel body” (I’ve heard it also affects the 5% with a supermodel body). Finally, many popular diets and even nutrition experts describe foods as good or bad, and articles on nutrition often contain pictures of very thin people, which may create an unrealistic yet generalized expectation that healthy eating always = a thin body.

Is it Possible to Escape the Over-thinking Food Trap and Achieve “Food Freedom”?
Yes, it is possible!  Achieving food freedom can be achieved and for some people, a coach or mentor may be instrumental because when that inner critic’s voice has been taking up a lot of air-time, it can be challenging to defeat it.  
Instead of trying to ignore the inner critic, bring in a new, positive voice, or if it’s always been there, give this voice Power!  Make sure it speaks loudly for it is speaking Truth. You will substitute false, limiting beliefs with true, empowering beliefs, and this is how you silence the inner critic.
The secret to overcoming the over-thinking food trap and enjoying food freedom is to create a new vision of yourself where eating healthy is stress-free and natural.
No amount of meal plans, counting macros, vitamins, or workout programs – though important elements in health and fitness – can take the place of replacing limiting beliefs with empowering ones. In fact, this new Mindset is what will allow you to leverage all of the other tools and resources and truly achieve Food Freedom.
It feels wonderful to both eat healthily and enjoy Food Freedom, and if you aren’t there yet, I invite you to consider that you ARE deserving of this and that you CAN achieve it.