Why There Are No “Off-Limit” Foods with Intuitive Eating
Do you have “off-limit” foods? In other words, foods that you avoid, even though you enjoy them?
Unless you have an allergy or intolerance, it’s not necessary to label food as “off-limits.”
Labeling food as “bad” or “off-limits” creates a fear-based mindset around food, which can trigger overeating, binge eating, or unnecessary food restrictions. In this article, I’ll walk you through why there are no “off-limit” foods with Intuitive Eating and 3 mindset shifts to adopt the “all foods fit” mentality.
A Counter Culture Approach to Health
Having no “off-limit” foods is counter-culture. We live in a society where diets run rampant. Diet culture trickles down into our social media feeds, conversations with friends, and food advertisements. Just the other week I saw “guilt-free” on a package label for pretzels! Tell me if you’ve seen something like this, too.
However, just because we live in a society that promotes dieting, doesn’t mean we have to follow it ourselves. Intuitive Eating is an alternative to experience food freedom and abundance, without diets or restrictions.
I want you to honestly ask yourself: Are you tired of trying to maintain “perfect” eating habits? Do you feel limited by your food restrictions? Do you feel out-of-control around “off-limit” foods?
No matter where you fall right now, I want to help you find peace with food, so you no longer have to experience guilt with eating or feel “out-of-control” around food.
Why There Are No “Off-Limit” Foods
Food restrictions lead to increased food cravings. I repeat this all the time to my clients who blame lack of “will-power” for overeating. Upon digging deeper, we find that there is usually some type of restriction around that food, which triggered the binge eating.
Think about it for yourself: when you tell yourself that you can’t have “x” food, do you end up thinking about it more? When “x” food is on the buffet table, does it make you feel anxious?
Maybe you’re nodding your head, yes, but feel like some foods are healthier than others. While it’s true that some foods are more nutritious than others, it doesn’t mean that the less nutritious foods need to be off-limits.
Food serves multiple purposes. One: it provides the necessary fuel and nutrients we need to function and thrive. Two: it’s communal, bringing us together around the table. Three: it’s emotional, connecting us to our roots, heritage, traditions, etc. Four: It’s fun! You’re allowed to eat food for satisfaction and pleasure. It’s your birthright! There’s room for both nutrition and fun!
Typically, when I work with clients who only view food as food, the rigidity and rules that they’ve created have hindered their emotional health and robbed them of the joy of eating.
3 Mindset Shifts to Adopt the “All Foods Fit” Mentality
1. Change the language around food.
Instead of using terms like “never,” “bad,” or “off-limits,” try using the words “may,” “fun,” and “permission” to eat all foods. For example:
- I can never eat donuts → I may eat donuts when I crave them.
- Donuts are a bad food → Donuts are a fun food.
- Donuts are off-limits → I give myself unconditional permission to eat the foods I love.
Notice the difference? When we change the way we talk about food and let go of the “all-or-none” mentality, food loses its power and we can enjoy eating in a way that actually feels sustainable.
2. Rewrite your definition of health.
Does your definition of health include emotional and mental well-being in addition to physical health? Imagine if eating well did not have to be at the expense of mental health? It is so possible to eat well for the mind, body, and spirit. It starts with writing your own definition of health.
Prompts to assist with this:
Imagine yourself 3 – 6 mo from now in your ideal state of health and well-being. What does this look like to you? What does this feel like to you? How do you want to show up as the best version of yourself?
Review your responses to create a compelling statement of who you are and what health-promoting and life-giving behaviors you want to do consistently. I assist all of my 1:1 clients with this step, which we call creating a “wellness vision.”
3. Look at the bigger picture.
Your food choices over a week, month, and years worth of time matter more than one food choice. Zoom out and look at the big picture to take the pressure of tracking every single morsel of food. Recognize all the ways that you take care of yourself, even outside of food choices. The Intuitive Eating book summarizes this by saying, “Remember that you don’t have to eat perfectly to be healthy. You will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or become unhealthy, from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters.”
What is one mindset shift that you can adopt over the next 7 days?
Food doesn’t have to be “all-or-none”. When we let go of food labels, rewrite our definition of health, and look at big picture wellness, it improves our relationship with food and body.