People often ask me how to get “control” of their eating.
I've come to the conclusion that humans are exceptionally drawn to the idea of control – much like wide-eyed Dorothy and her entourage on their pilgrimage to see the Wizard. There’s got to be an answer, and maybe, just maybe... I am the one that can pull the strings behind the curtain for them.
But we are already intently controlling our eating and white knuckling any diet we can get our hands on without success.
Perhaps the answer is in letting go of the control.
If I told you “you can eat anything you want and still be healthy”… that’s just crazy talk, right?
Pizza? Macaroni and Cheese? Chocolate? Nachos?
Those snowballs at the gas station with the colored coconut? Yes.
One of the principles of undieting is NOTHING off limits.
We have been told food has personality, a morality… it is “good or bad or indulgent or tempting or sinful or naughty."
But food is just food.
It is a pile of chemical nutrient molecules put together in a certain way, double bonds and all.
No more personified than a tabletop or a pencil or a sock.
We are the perpetrators of projecting the morality onto food.
Even worse than that – we project the morality on the food and then project the morality on ourselves if we eat the food… WE are bad, WE are being overindulgent, WE are sinful.
Food does not have an agenda for you. It’s not a being. It is just food.
What a relief, right?
You can eat anything you want. There are no foods eliminated or excluded. You don’t have to expend all that energy stressing about the things you “can’t have” any longer.
Cookies is equal to cheese is equal to chicken is equal to an $11 smoothie made with organic microgreens.
If this is uncomfortable for you to believe, that is a sign you are deep in diet culture. It’s ok, if we lived through the last 40 years, we have all been there.
But the more and more time you continue to be preoccupied with things you “can’t” have… judging people who are eating the “things you can’t have”… feeling emotionally and socially isolated from everything fun about food… and looking for things to wrap in lettuce… you will continue to have a miserable relationship with eating.
If I can get a client to hear the message that all foods are equal – it is usually followed up very quickly with the following concerns:
Does any of that sound like you? My response to you (as it is to anyone who asks) is why do you not trust yourself?
You have been primed to believe that you can’t trust your body or your own mind… someone else has to tell you what you need to eat and if you have any other feelings about that – you are wrong.
You have been told when dieting fails you over and over that you are not serious, committed, you’re not trying hard enough, you don’t have enough willpower.
Let’s see what handing over the ownership of our eating to diet culture has amounted to?
Restriction, shame, guilt, anxiety, frustration, jealousy, anger, isolation…
Sounds really great. *eye roll*
Are those feelings making you healthy? Not a chance.
Willingly short selling your eating autonomy to the diet culture machine is not only crippling to your self-esteem, but it is both mentally and physically damaging to the body. From your attitude all the way down to your cells.
I’ve got lots of scientific evidence to back this up, and I won’t bore you with the details of that here, but suffice it to say there are very few situations in life when someone else controlling us with manipulation and shame produces favorable physiologic results.
The only way you will start to heal your relationship with food is to take ownership away from the diet people who are enslaving you.
How could we start to do this?
We need to transfer ownership of the decision making to the best health coach in the universe - your body. Yes, even yours.
The body knows best, and even more so than your mind – because your mind is still influenced and recovering from all the diet brainwash garbage.
Your body is programmed at a cellular level to protect health and life and survive in optimal condition. All that programming is still in there and so desperately trying to work for you. But you’ve worked for decades like it was a full-time job silencing your body’s inner wisdom with 21-day fixes and keto fat bombs and WW points and cauliflower rice.
So do you still wonder how you won’t just eat like crazy when you stop dieting?
You are going to start hearing the feedback from your own body. You are going to start listening to your inner coach.
Your physical body isn’t invested in what other people think about your eating or what the label says or whatever other arbitrary criteria your mind applies to the situation.
It does what coaches do. Watch. Give feedback. Adjust. Repeat.
All you have to do is eat food and listen to your inner coach.
It WILL be honest. It WILL be timely. It will give you positive and negative feedback. Its messaging is obvious, not subtle. And the coach never clocks out. It is always accessible to you just like it always has been.
What does this look like? Let’s work through an example.
In your old diet brain, no candy. It’s empty calories. Too much sugar.
Now you constantly think about candy all the time and have chaotic thoughts about it (because the body has a reflex to scan the environment for anything restricted).
You are ashamed you can’t trust yourself with candy because you know a single piece probably “isn’t that bad,” but you don’t trust yourself to be able to stop.
Other people get to eat candy. That’s so unfair. Resentment and isolation build.
Maybe when I have enough willpower to finish this diet and lose weight, then I will be able to eat candy like those lucky people.
You spend so much mental energy avoiding the “bad candy” there is a sense of anxiety and dread for when you are going to have to say no to being faced with candy.
In a non-diet thinking... it goes like this.
You keep candy. In fact, you even buy the kind you really LOVE.
You are going to allow yourself to have it, and you want it to be GREAT when you have it.
We are not settling for any old crummy candy like those free sugar-free suckers they used to give out at the bank in the 80s.
When you are really hungry and feeling like candy… you have it. The good stuff.
You enjoy it.
You will actually be satisfied with a very reasonable portion because it tastes good, it feels good, it makes you happy – it is a satisfying experience.
You don’t have to deal with the anxiety and dread and guilt of violating the “rules” about eating candy.
That’s it. It’s over. You’re not thinking about it incessantly.
No obsession. No anxiety. No guilt.
Someone else eats candy – who cares? You can have it too when you want it.
Someone else gives you candy – who cares? If it’s something you LOVE, you might have some. If not… you’ll give it away or throw it out. Remember: food doesn’t have any feelings.
You can trust yourself. That trust will build when the restricting ends.
But the first step is to make the restrictions end or your body cannot ever trust you.
You need to stop dieting, and you need to do it to improve your health.
The body knows what it needs better than you. Pinky promise.
Better than Oprah or Richard Simmons or Jillian Michaels or your mom or the Queen of England. It is a far better nutrition coach than whoever the best money can buy.
Our problem is only one thing – we aren’t listening because we have handed over our autonomy to the diet culture.
Let’s work together to get that back.
Eat right. And eat right now.
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Honesty. Reality. And lots of good food!