Heather Bray, RD
How many times have you heard something along the lines of, “I don't keep [enter favourite food here] in my house because then I'll eat it all" or “get that away from me I’m going to eat it all”? Well for me, a dietitian working with clients every single day, I hear this at least once a day and I get why.
A lot of us are conditioned to think that our kitchen's should always be stocked with ONLY foods that we deem as "healthy".
As a non-diet dietitian, I want to help you break down that thought process by challenging it. People who are entrenched in diet culture will say “well if it’s not there I wont eat it”. In this day and age with access to food at our fingertips or a short walk or drive for most, I find it hard to believe that not having that food in the house is the only barrier you need to “avoid something entirely”.
In all practicality, cookies, chips, fries and ice cream aren’t going anywhere, they will always be available and one way, or another, you’re going to find them, you’re going to get them get them get them… okay sorry I got carried away painting the picture here. But what I’m trying to say is that even if you swear yourself off these foods, there will come a time, perhaps a holiday, celebration, company potluck etc. where you and that food will come face to face again and what will happen? You’ve told yourself that if it’s in the same room as you, you’ll lose control and eat it all right? So what’s stopping you now?
But what if you could see that food, enjoy one or two helpings of it, and I mean really enjoy it, and move on? Or even choose NOT *gasp* to have that food and not regret it later?
This can happen when you’ve healed your relationship with food, when food is no longer the enemy and that’s where I come in.
For clients who cannot trust themselves around food I will often say, "it sounds to me like you can't trust yourself around that food, how can we build that trust back?".
Guess what the answer is... yep that’s right to keep that food available to you at all times until the novelty and excitement wears off. Here's why, when you forbid yourself from a
certain food, it makes you want it more. This forms something called a "scarcity complex" which is basically "you want what you cant have". Remember the beginning of the pandemic when panic buying wreaked havoc on our grocery stores and left shelves bare? Well that’s because everyone was worried that they weren’t going to have access to things they need (i.e. toilet paper, which to this day I still don’t understand). This is a large-scale example of what happens when you put yourself on a restrictive diet or forbid yourself from having your favourite foods in your household.
I used to be this way too. I have a sweet tooth and was a self proclaimed “chocaholic”. I wouldn’t allow myself to have it around because I thought I wouldn’t be able to stop eating it. When I did allow myself to have chocolate I would eat excessive amounts to the point where it wasn’t even tasting good anymore (more on this phenomenon on a later date). It wasn’t until I gave up that restrictive mindset that everything changed. Don’t get me wrong, I still love chocolate and I enjoy it several times per week. But now when I enjoy chocolate, I really enjoy it. I know that it’s one of my favourite things and I choose not to deprive myself of that kind of joy. I keep it stocked at home and in my office so that I can enjoy it whenever I like. But I can go days, even weeks without having it, because it no longer has a hold on me. I don’t view it as a “bad” or forbidden food. I know that I can enjoy it whenever I want, which results in me not wanting it all the time.
Learning about intuitive eating is what changed this for me. It’s changed these thought processes and behaviours for so many people around the world. If trusting yourself around food is something you’re struggling with, I’d love to help. Check out my Bookings page to book a chat with me now!
Acknowledgement: this post may not be relevant for or resonate with those living with food insecurity. I am conscious of the fact that this post addresses those living WITH food security and that there are many people (4.4 MILLION as per the 2017 CCHS) who are unable to have their favourite foods because of financial constraints and not because of diet culture rules.