When I first started this blog back in 2014, I created it to be a paleo diet blog. I first discovered the paleo diet in 2012, and upon implementation, I thought it was THE WAY everyone needed to eat. I was completely obsessed and completely dogmatic about all things paleo. I truly believed that if it wasn’t paleo, it wasn’t healthy. In reality, paleo is a very restrictive diet.
When I got certified as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner in 2015, I began to loosen the reigns on my diet. I still ate mostly paleo, but I wasn’t super strict anymore. However, it’s taken me years to finally learn how to eat in moderation. Eating in moderation is so mentally freeing and I no longer struggle with overeating like I did in my past.
Growing up, I lived off mostly fast food and processed foods. These foods are hyper palatable, which means they taste really good and are designed to make you overeat them. These foods tend to be high in both carbs and fat, which signals to your brain to keep eating. I struggled with ups and downs in my weight all throughout high school and college. I was envious of people who could eat whatever they wanted and not gain any weight. For me, if I wasn’t tightly monitoring every morsel of food that went in my mouth, I was gaining weight.
Throughout these years, I was always yo-yo dieting. I’d go on a restrictive diet, lose weight, end the diet, gain weight back and repeat. These diets always felt hard and restrictive, which led to overeating all the “bad” foods on either allowed “cheat days” or when the diet ended. Holidays and cheat days were all out binge fests to me because I was finally “allowed” to eat the foods I’d been restricting. I knew that the next day, I could no longer eat them, so I’d shove down as much as I could in that one day. I would eat until the point that I was unbearably full and felt physically ill.
These eating behaviors went on for YEARS. Even when I found paleo, I continued to eat in this way. I’d eat strict paleo 6 days out of the week, then on Sunday, I’d have a junk food binge fest. Same with holidays. I thought this was fine because I was able to stay slim eating this way.
When I added in exercise, and started working a stressful full time job, shit hit the fan. My restrict/binge eating behaviors, plus intermittent fasting and high caffeine intake, led to the downfall of my health, which led me into a hole that has taken years to climb out of. I spoke about my experience with this in this post and in this post, if you want to read those for more context.
Since the development of multiple chronic health issues, I finally learned how to eat in moderation.
Since implementing a moderation approach, instead of a restriction approach, I no longer overeat. Now, when I am craving something, I eat enough to feel satisfied and move on. I no longer wait until Sunday or holidays to eat what I want. I eat what I want all the time! Since I don’t feel deprived anymore, I don’t have the urge or desire to overeat. I don’t feel overly full or physically ill when I eat, ever. I enjoy my food fully and thoroughly. I stop eating when I’m satisfied, knowing that I can eat the food again tomorrow and the next day if I desire to. I now feel free and confident around food. I still prioritize my health and nutrition, but I don’t deny myself something that I really want.
I never thought I would be able to eat normally, but now I’ve been doing it for the past few years and my weight has been maintained as well – no more ups and downs. I now feel confident to lose the excess fat that I gained during my healing journey, in a slow, sustainable way, without gaining back weight like I did in the past.
Restriction Leads to Binge Eating
Eating a restrictive diet causes feelings of deprivation and may be devoid of nutrients your body needs. This leads to binge eating when your body’s needs override your willpower. Food is more than just fuel. Food is for your soul as well and brings people together in social settings. When you’re constantly in a restriction mindset, telling yourself you can’t eat certain foods, those foods become all you think about. The forbidden fruit becomes even more appealing and over time becomes harder to avoid it. When you finally allow it, it’s hard to control intake and you end up eating way more than you would’ve if you weren’t trying so hard to avoid it.
Restriction Leads to Weight Gain
Each time you go through the restrict/binge cycle, it becomes harder and harder to lose weight as your metabolism adapts. Most women end up with more body fat then they started with. You’ll either end up under-eating and down regulating your metabolism, thereby burning less calories, thus gaining weight when your calories eventually increase. Or, you’ll end up binge eating when the restriction becomes unbearable, thereby overeating.
Restriction Causes Stress
Restrictive diets physically stress the body due to lack of fuel and nutrients. They also cause mental stress due to constant worrying about adhering to food rules. Fun social outings can become a source of stress. These types of diets can lead to full on obsession and orthorexia. It can take over your life with constant thoughts of food and inability to be relaxed in social settings that involve food.
Restriction Ignores Body’s Needs
Restrictive diets encourage ignoring cravings in favor of food rules. However, cravings are your body’s way of telling you that it needs more of the nutrients contained in that food. Following a restrictive diet long term can lead to nutrient deficiencies and have negative impacts on your health.
Moderation Prevents Overeating
When you allow yourself to eat any food you want, it takes away the power from the food. Knowing you can eat the food again tomorrow (or later) prevents eating past the point of fullness. When no food is off limits and you have free access to eat whatever you want, you’ll actually find yourself craving less of the “bad” foods that make you feel unwell. These foods are no longer the “forbidden fruit” and your desire to eat them diminishes.
Moderation Leads to Maintaining Weight
When you eat what you want, to the point of satisfaction, not fullness, it becomes much easier to maintain your weight. You’ll no longer be in a cycle of under-eating then over-eating. You’ll eat according to your body’s hunger and fullness queues, thereby eating just the right amount for your body’s needs. When you’re eating the right amount of food for your body, it’s much easier to stay at homeostasis.
Moderation is Mentally Freeing
When you eat what you want, food is no longer a source of stress. You become confident around food and your ability to choose what to eat. You can go into any social setting without food anxiety. You no longer have to worry “will there be something for me to eat?” or feel the need to eat beforehand or bring your own food to events.
Moderation Encourages Tuning in to Your Body’s Needs
Moderation encourages listening to your own body rather than someone else’s food rules. You make food choices based off how the food makes you feel, mentally and physically. If you’re craving a specific food, you’ll eat it, just enough to be satisfied, and move on. You make food choices based off what sounds good to you, not what someone else says you should be eating. If certain foods make you feel sick, you’ll avoid those foods based on how they make you feel, rather than avoiding foods just because someone said they’re “bad.”