The Food Freedom Journey

What you can expect from each phase of the process.

Cheese and fruit plate. Unsplash - Luisa Brimble

You have tried everything and no food plan, physical training or miracle diet has made you happy or successful in the long run. So you decide that once and for all, you will leave it all behind. Congratulations in advance! It’s your first step on the right path!

Diets are those false shortcuts that we take in an attempt to quickly reach the goal of feeling better in our bodies. But, in fact, they are like a road in the opposite direction of happiness, which only keeps us away from our self-knowledge, dictating external rules that make us believe that we are not able to manage our bodies.

Only you will know what foods you need, how much you need, what time you should eat, how your hunger behaves, and what are the triggers that make you look for food when you are not hungry. No one will be able to do this for you! But you won’t learn it overnight, especially if you’ve lived on a diet for many years.

To learn how to walk, everyone needs to start crawling, holding on to some things, and taking a few falls until you could walk with your own legs. Likewise, you can also expect this from your process of freedom from diets. It takes patience to go through each phase of the journey. But the result is invaluable: your autonomy to decide what you want (and what you don’t want) to put into your body.

Here’s what you can expect when you leave the prison of diets for food freedom.

PHASE 1 — I’m done with this shit

When you accept that diets don’t work, you initially commit to never starting another one in your life. Your perception that the problem is beyond food and weight is heightened and you recognize the importance of changing your relationship with yourself and your body.

Girl eating meal with chopsticks. Unsplash - Nate Johnston

The main challenge of this phase is the fear of what will happen to your body if you eat freely. The rules kept you safe and made you feel in control, so you may feel like going back to that known place of restriction. The commitment to creating a new relationship with food needs to be renewed every day. Worth it!

PHASE 2 — Taking the belly out of misery

Here you start to reintroduce the foods that have been banned for so long in your routine. Permission to eat what you want is scary but exciting. You gradually reconnect with your body and feel the signs of hunger and satiety it sends you. However, it feels very difficult to know when it is time to start or stop eating, and you may be overly concerned about it. Still, eating becomes more pleasurable because you are eating what you really like and cherishing the taste of things — not the minimum of calories.

The great challenge of this phase is the natural tendency to rebel against all the years of deprivation, an enormous desire to compensate for the restrictions of the past. This can lead you to overdo the food — especially with foods banned for a long time, and these exaggerations can lead to weight gain. In addition, your body is going out of survival mode, which can increase your perception of hunger and facilitate the accumulation of fat for metabolic safety. Remember that this will pass!

PHASE 3 — Brocolis and Nutella

The more you adapt to the unconditional permission to eat, eating with moderation becomes easier and easier. The compulsions and impulses finally cease and you are more confident to eat. When you realize that you really don’t have to blame yourself for what you ate or like to eat, your food intake becomes more varied, delicious, and nutritious. Your weight tends to stabilize.

You feel more relaxed about your choices, and understand which foods you really like and which you only wanted to eat because they were forbidden. Eating when you are hungry is easier, but it is not always easy to stop eating when you are full.

Donuts at doughnut shop. Unsplash - Viktor Forgacs

The biggest challenge of this phase is that, most likely, your head still wants to eat more than your body needs, and it is difficult to understand why. It is becoming increasingly clear that you will have to work on other spheres of life that needed attention that was being drowned out by food and weight problems. Emotional hunger must be widely explored and worked on for this phase to be complete.

PHASE 4 — Living Freedom

Now you are able to eat what you want and stop when you are slightly sated, without feeling deprived. Your palate has become more acute and you are more discerning in terms of taste and quality of what you eat. You realize that you don’t think about food when you’re not hungry, so you have more time and energy to put into other things.

If there is weight to lose, it is more likely to be eliminated now because your food intake has stabilized. Anyway, this is no longer so important, since you accept your body more, even with its imperfections. Your perception of personal value expands to other areas so that you feel more confident and empowered.

Clearly, you still experience emotional discomfort, but you have learned more effective ways to deal with your emotions and discomfort than with food. You understand your triggers easily and you already know that you are strong enough to embrace and deal with them.

Mexican meal with guacamole. Unsplash - Ella Olsson

The challenges of this phase include the crystallization of your new way of thinking about food and your body. We still need to be careful not to go back to autopilot in food and make present and conscious choices — forever.

Always remember that it is normal to eat a little bit more sometimes, and this is not a sign of weakness or failure, nor that you have returned to the old patterns of overeating. Also, remember that even a stable body oscillates slightly in relation to weight and hunger — that is part of being human.

You are also not free from bad days of self-image and you may not feel confident, beautiful, or courageous at times, but now you recognize that you don’t have to act against it. Just as the sky has cloudy and sunny days, you will have better days and others not so much, but now you no longer blame your weight for that.

Can you identify which stage you are in?

I wish you the courage to walk towards your freedom, your desires in relation to food, self-care, and life.

I am a Brazilian girl (living in Sao Paulo with my fiancé — and other 20 million people). I love coffee, books, and good food. I also really enjoy studying and learning new things that allow me to further develop myself both professionally and personally. I have a degree in Food Science and hold a Ph.D. in Agri-food Marketing. In addition, I am a Certified Nutrition Coach and an enthusiastic Nutrition student.

After 15 years of living in war with my body and with food, I found freedom through mindfulness and intuitive eating, practices that allowed me to overcome yo-yo dieting and binge eating.

I’m passionate about helping women rewrite their food and body histories so they feel free and confident to live their lives to the fullest.

There is a power that comes alive when women free themselves from the food prison in which they have learned to live, when they realize that they are capable and deserving of feeling fantastic in their own bodies, and that confidence is a state of mind — not a body lotion which you get the right to use when you reach a weight-loss goal.

My work is dedicated to nurturing, celebrating and sharing this message.

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