Finding Food Freedom and Embracing my Chocolate Addiction
We all just want the freedom to eat what we want and when we want while still looking the way we want to. Let me tell you that it is possible to create a life for yourself where it feels this way. It may take some time and adjustments to what you are currently doing, but eventually, you can reach a point of food freedom.
To be honest, I do not want to live in a world where I cannot indulge and enjoy delicious food. Fortunately, I love healthy food too. I just have difficulty restricting the amount of food that I eat.
I suppose the goal of food freedom, for me, is so significant because I have struggled with disordered eating for most of my life. I have been binge eating since I can remember. I would do things like hide food, eat in secret, and eat to the point where I could not breathe, and I have also exercised excessively on multiple occasions to try and burn the excess calories consumed.
I am a full-blown food addict and sweet snack smuggler. There is no denying that. That is why I have so much sympathy for people with addictions, regardless of what they are addicted to. My addiction just turned out to be to food, and you have to eat to survive, so it is not like you can stop eating food like an alcoholic can stop drinking.
When it comes to binge eating, the psychological torture is the worst part for me. When I was a kid and well into my early twenties, I would binge on unhealthy foods that were filled with sugar, trans fats, and processed carbohydrates and would hate myself for it. At the time, I thought that when I was older and had moved out of my parents’ house, I would be free of my food struggles and would have the perfect body.
I promised myself that when I grew up, I would only purchase healthy food. In my mid-twenties, I was only buying healthy food, cut out all processed food, and was on a very low sugar diet, but I still binged and overate. I felt like a failure because I still wasn’t free of my food addiction and I still didn’t have a flat stomach.
I first started thinking about food freedom when Jonathan and I were on holiday in Mozambique a few years ago. While dancing around alone on the beach one evening, I decided that my main goals should no longer be becoming thin and getting a flat stomach, which was what I wanted most since I was ten years old, but to be as healthy as possible and to have a healthy relationship with food.
At that moment, I realised that what I really wanted was food freedom — to no longer ride this emotional rollercoaster around food and to enjoy food fully again. The realisation brought me to tears, and even though food freedom was further away than I thought at the time, it is such a worthy goal.
I used to feel a lot of shame about the fact that I like eating a lot and have a chocolate addiction, but who decided that those are bad things? So my brain is wired to overindulge and want sweet things, but instead of changing that behaviour, I am choosing to leverage it instead.
What Does it Mean to Have Food Freedom?
To not be controlled by intense cravings
To feel satisfied after meals and not become obsessed with eating more
Not feeling like a bad person after eating something unhealthy
Not hating yourself when you eat too much
To eat the way that you truly want to eat
Luckily, the way I really want to eat is healthily. I am obsessed with health, so I am happy to eliminate processed food and sugar 90% of the time.
My overindulging used to be something I viewed as negative, but then I started seeing it as an opportunity to be creative and experiment with my diet to find ways of eating a lot of food without gaining fat. I did. There are many low-calorie and low-sugar desserts that you can make which allow you to eat more without damaging your diet. You will be surprised if you realise just how often you can have dessert when you switch to guilt-free treats and enjoy them without feeling bad about yourself.
Food Freedom Like the French
Having food freedom means that food and diet do not control your life. For me, the best example of this is the French paradox. If you look at a lot of people in France, they do not seem to be obsessed with what they eat, and they are considered to be quite a healthy nation. In France, people indulge in cheese, wine, pastries, croissants, etc. They enjoy Nutella with breakfast and treat themselves to crêpes and scones, and yet, these are all things we feel we can never have.
The main difference, I believe, is their attitude towards food (and high-quality ingredients). The French:
Practice portion control because they do not need to overindulge
Have a healthy respect for food
Take time to eat and enjoy their meal
Do not eat on the run, but sit down to enjoy their food
Do not eat behind their desks, but make lunchtime an event
Do not deny themselves what they really want
This, to me, sounds like food freedom. Imagine eating a chocolate croissant on holiday without feeling guilty about it afterwards? The way you think about food actually matters.
Acceptance is key. I have accepted the fact that I love food a little too much, and at least I do eat healthily. Instead of torturing myself mentally about the fact that I tend to overindulge, I chose to embrace my love of sweet things and decided to work with it instead of against it by choosing to indulge in healthier options.
Excess consumption is still a problem for me at times, but I have learned to stress a lot less if I do eat more calories than I intended to. The impulse to lose control is still there, but I can let it go a lot quicker now.
I wanted to start living more like the French, so that perhaps I too could develop a healthy relationship with food and see it as a source of pleasure and nourishment and not something to punish myself over. I wanted a diet that was good for me but included a lot of desserts.
A lot of people do not realise how difficult it can be when you have disordered behaviour when it comes to food. The lessons I have learned have helped so much in getting closer to food freedom, and I wanted to share them with others who have had similar experiences.
If food freedom is something you want to aim for, here are some questions that will help you to start your roadmap:
What is holding you back from food freedom?
What is it that you really want when it comes to your diet? Perhaps you want to lose fat, promote longevity, or just improve your overall health.
How do you truly want to eat? I am sure you want to eat in a way that promotes your health, but I am also sure that you do still want to indulge.