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March 20, 2023

Dear Melissa: Is Your Food Freedom Really Free?

Melissa, a long-haired smiling woman, and text that says Dear Melissa

The definition I crafted for Food Freedom in 2015 was “feeling in control* of food, instead of food controlling you.” The kind of control I envisioned wasn’t in an overly restrictive, punishing way, but came from a place of confidence, self-care, and self-awareness. In finding food freedom, you can have anything you want when you want it. The key is staying connected to those two little questions: “Is it worth it?” and “Do I want it?,” and based on those honest answers, adjusting your dietary plan to serve your highest interest.

*Note: I’d define it differently today, because the word “control” isn’t the right vibe in retrospect… but that’s a discussion for another time.

You might have your own definition of Food Freedom, but I’m betting it sounds something like this: “Maintaining my own sustainable healthy eating plan based on what I know serves me best.” 

Nothing is off-limits, but that doesn’t mean you eat it all, all the time. You know certain foods just aren’t worth it. You know sometimes you’d be just as happy (if not happier) if you skipped it. And you’ve learned other ways to manage stress and negative feelings that don’t involve food or drink. 

As a result, you’re discriminating in your choices, making deliberate decisions to honor what you want and need in each moment—whether that’s no cake, or a sliver of cake, or a giant hunk of cake with extra frosting, please.

This is what I consider the mature version of finding Food Freedom, born from a commitment to introspection and conscientious decision-making. But I’m seeing evidence of a second kind of Food Freedom on social media … and it smells a lot like teen spirit.

Teenage Food Freedom

This second kind of Food Freedom is born from a strong desire to rebel against “the man.” In this case, it’s diet culture, the media, societal pressures, and perhaps what we’ve been telling ourselves we should and shouldn’t eat all these years. It sounds like this: “Oh, I shouldn’t eat sugar, carbs, lots of fat, or junk food? WATCH ME.”

It’s a dietary Rumspringa, where you consume what you want, when you want, as much as you want, without any thought or consideration of whether it’s in your highest interest or not (or if you even really want it). “Food Freedom!” you proclaim as you eat half a sleeve of cookies, open another bottle of wine, or finish that bag of chips for the fifth day in a row.

But is this really freedom?

Some of us have been obedient to the status quo for decades. We’ve made food choices based on weight-loss goals, our body composition, what we’re told is worthy or desirable, and what we believe about “good” and “bad” foods. For most of us, “the man” (the diet industry) has controlled our food our entire lives. And we can see now how toxic and destructive that system has been. 

Weight loss at all costs, skinny equals healthy, making ourselves smaller to feel accepted, our worth and value being measured by the scale—we’ve bought into it for far too long. Now that you’ve done a Whole30, your eyes have been opened, and you realize more than ever how this framework has not been serving you. 

You want OUT!

However—and I’m going to quote Glennon Doyle here—rebellion is just as much of a cage as obedience. Rebellion is still creating your actions, life, and attitude in response to the status quo and the forces in power—in this case, the diet industry. In other words, if you are creating your entire being in opposition to The Man, you are still fully controlled by the man.

The Man doesn’t want me to eat carbs. Watch me!

The Man says I need to skip dessert? Watch me!

The Man says I need to control my portions. Watch me!

And THAT’S your teenage Food Freedom. Performed in opposition to the system … and therefore, still obedient to and controlled by the system. What you think is an outrageous act of defiance is just as much the diet industry pulling your strings as weight-loss dieting. Whether you’re will-powering your way through not eating any of those foods in compliance, or mindlessly overeating all of those foods in defiance… in neither of those instances are you actually FREE.

Opt Out of a Rebellious Food Freedom

The idea behind Food Freedom isn’t rebellion. The idea is to create your own perfect, sustainable plan from scratch. You’re finding Food Freedom to live in a way that isn’t in reaction or obedience to diet culture. It’s building something entirely new, relying on the one thing you can trust above anything else to steer you in the right direction—YOURSELF.

Use the Whole30 to figure out how foods work for you, create new healthy habits, and restore a healthy emotional relationship with food. Then, take what you’ve learned and build your own perfect, sustainable plan from scratch. Is it worth it? Do I want it? These questions are outside of any system, and outside of what you have been taught, learned, or self-imposed.

Ours is an entirely new framework. It is TRUE FREEDOM. But breaking free from any system doesn’t come easy. True freedom has to be earned, and takes time, patience, effort, and grace to cultivate. Trust me, as someone who has been working on it for the past 10 years… it’s worth it.

Don’t settle for teenage, rebellious Food Freedom. In your heart, you know it isn’t serving you. Is it worth it? Do I want it? The two questions that will help you transform your rebellious Food Freedom into a truly unique, sustainable, no-strings-attached plan that will work for you, if you work it.

XO Melissa


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