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What is food freedom?  Getting started, weight loss and tips

What is food freedom? Getting started, weight loss and tips

“Food freedom”: is a complex term, with definitions ranging from abandoning food culture and restrictive diets to achieving good health and food security through growing your own food.

It is marketed as an approach to addressing eating disorders for some and as a way to promote intentional weight loss for others.

However, in the field of health and wellness, it is an emerging and revolutionary concept that challenges social norms around diet and the thin ideal.

It is supported by passionate and revolutionary healthcare professionals, such as Shana Spence (@thenutritiontea). Spence is a registered dietitian who takes a non-diet, weight-inclusive approach to health.

She uses her platform to redefine the meaning of “health,” distinct from the often unattainable standards of the diet industry.

Another powerful and passionate advocate for food freedom is Dr. Monkey Nyemb-Diop (@black.nutritionist), who has created a space that emphasizes respect for the body, eating without guilt and the recovery of food cultural heritage as an integral part of one’s healthy lifestyle.

In this article we explore food freedom, explain what intuitive eating and mindful eating are, and discuss what roles – if any – they might have in the pursuit of intentional weight loss.

The food freedom framework has various definitions and applications, including but not limited to (1, 2):

  • freedom from industrial food production
  • an approach to strengthen food sovereignty
  • gastronomy – the science of understanding historical-cultural foods and their impact on human health
  • a spiritual journey to overcome “food addiction”
  • a liberating part of weight loss programs such as Whole30

In other contexts, food freedom refers to abandoning diet culture and restrictive diets by giving yourself permission to enjoy all foods in moderation (unless allergies or medical needs prevent you from eating certain foods).

In this application of food freedom, professionals see food as more than just fuel. They seek to build a positive, non-judgmental relationship with all foods, where guilt is not considered an ingredient in the eating experience.

This vision of food freedom includes intuitive eating and mindful eating, two philosophies that cultivate self-confidence in food choices and reject unnecessary restrictions.

Intuitive and mindful eating is often used to support recovery from eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, chronic mental illnesses that negatively affect nutritional status and relationship with food (3, 4, 5).

Overall, food freedom can help people overcome diet culture or introduce flexibility for intentional weight loss.

Because the varied and overlapping marketing of the term “food freedom” can be confusing, context matters. This article will focus on food freedom as a non-dietary approach to health and nutrition.

Summary

The term “food freedom” has various definitions, including abandoning diet culture and cultivating self-confidence in food choices. The food freedom approach has been used to support both recovery from eating disorders and some intentional weight loss programs.

Food freedom as a therapeutic approach to eating disorder recovery arose from the need for non-pharmaceutical treatments that emphasize behavioral changes, such as positive body image and healthy eating attitudes.3, 6).

A 2017 study showed that dieting, accompanied by body dissatisfaction and the pursuit of thinness, increases the risk of developing bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and purging disorder (7).

Dieting among intrinsically thin individuals also increases the risk of developing anorexia nervosa (7).

The multibillion-dollar diet industry promotes the “skinny ideal” with unhealthy weight management behaviors, potentially encouraging disordered eating patterns that can contribute to the development of eating disorders (7, 8).

There is evidence that dieting doesn’t even help those seeking long-term weight loss.

Weight regain within 1 to 5 years is common among chronic dieters, and approximately 33% of dieters regain more weight than they initially lost (8).

Dietary restrictions contribute to disordered eating. Food freedom, however, tries to combat this (5).

Eating freedom as a mindfulness-based practice can address eating disorders, including emotional eating and binge eating disorder. It can also help you avoid eating in response to external cues, such as the sight or smell of foods, when you are not physically hungry (6, 9).

In particular, intuitive eating is associated with improved psychological well-being and physical health and fewer dietary restrictions (5, 10).

Summary

Food freedom arose from the need for behavior change approaches that emphasized positive body image and healthy eating attitudes instead of dietary restrictions. It can support people in recovery from eating disorders or clinical eating disorders.

Although these three terms are often used interchangeably, you may wonder if they are essentially the same thing. There are small distinctions between their presiding principles.

For example, eat mindfully is rooted in the Buddhist practice of mindfulness and living with awareness and intention (11, 12).

It’s a meditative practice that builds on the mind-body connection and promotes a state of non-judgmental awareness that engages your senses – sight, smell, taste and touch – during a meal (11, 12).

Mindful Eating is the art of being present while you eat.

Likewise, intuitive eating cultivates a mind-body connection, but is typically rooted in a weight-inclusive approach to health that serves as the core of Health in every dimension paradigm (10).

Intuitive eating is guided by 10 principles, including respecting your body, rejecting diet culture, making peace with food, and respecting your health through gentle eating.

Food freedom, however, is not as well defined. It can represent true forms of intuitive or conscious eating, or it can attempt to bridge the gap between intentional weight loss, calorie restriction and greater flexibility with food.

Despite these differences, there is a common thread between the three terms: they all seek to reduce unnecessary dietary restrictions and improve your relationship with food.

They aim to remove the prospects of guilt, shame and negative emotions associated with consuming “forbidden” or “bad” foods.

Summary

The terms “freedom eating,” “intuitive eating,” and “mindful eating” can be used interchangeably, but there are differences between these practices. However, everyone is looking to reduce dietary restrictions and increase flexibility.

Food freedom, when used as a non-dietary approach to health, seeks to free you from the thin ideal and diet culture, unsafe weight loss or weight management behaviors, and yo-yo dieting.

Whether you choose to take a meditative approach with mindful eating or work through the 10 principles of intuitive eating, freedom from restrictions and judgment is possible.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Work with a registered dietitian who is certified in intuitive eating or who implements mindful eating techniques to guide you.
  • Work to unlearn the idea that foods are “good” or “bad.” Instead, focus on the purpose the food serves at any given moment (such as pleasure, energy, or nourishment).
  • Likewise, remove the idea of ​​morality from foods. Understand that you are not a bad person because you eat enjoyable food and that your food choices should not make you feel inferior or superior to others.
  • Give yourself permission to enjoy enjoyable foods on a regular basis. This way, you won’t feel out of control around certain foods.
  • Focus on health-promoting habits, such as staying hydrated and engaging in fun physical activities. Health is much more than just a number on the scale.
  • Tune into your internal cues, such as emotions and feelings of satiety and hunger, rather than simply external cues about eating (such as eating because it’s a specific time of day or because you feel like you have to finish all the food on your plate).
  • Eat slowly, without distractions and savor your food.
  • Focus on how a food makes you feel and choose more foods that make you feel good.

Summary

Food freedom as a non-dietary approach to nutrition involves tuning into your internal signals of satiety and hunger, removing morality from foods, and focusing on health-promoting behaviors rather than scale.

Intentional weight loss is the active attempt to change your body weight, with the goal of lowering the number on the scale.

Although studies show that intuitive eating is associated with weight loss and a lower body mass index (BMI), in essence intuitive eating is not a weight loss method (10).

A true intuitive eating program would not advertise weight loss as an outcome, as some people might lose weight while others might gain or maintain weight.

Intuitive eating allows your body to find its “happy weight,” or biologically determined target weight.

Likewise, the core principles of mindful eating do not focus on weight loss, although some weight loss programs have co-opted its mindfulness messages (11).

Other programs work to close the gap by focusing on health-promoting habits and establishing small calorie deficits that promote slow-paced weight loss without completely avoiding enjoyable foods that may not be nutrient-dense or calorie-poor.

Summary

The principles of intuitive eating and mindful eating do not focus on intentional weight loss, although weight loss, gain, or maintenance may occur when you adopt them. Instead, they focus on allowing the body to reach its natural “happy” weight.

“Food freedom” is a term widely marketed with various definitions, ranging from overcoming food culture and restrictive diets to a commitment to food sovereignty. Therefore, context matters.

As a non-dietary approach to nutrition, food freedom involves tuning into your internal signals of satiety and hunger, decoupling foods and morality, and focusing on behaviors that promote health, not just the scale.

Fundamentally, the principles of intuitive and mindful eating do not focus on or promote intentional weight loss. Rather, they help you discover and adopt health-promoting habits that can lead to weight loss, gain, or maintenance.

These frameworks help people foster positive relationships with food and their bodies, built on self-confidence and self-compassion rather than a thin ideal.

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