What is food restriction?
Restriction is sneaky! You will be surprised at the different ways you might be restricting your food. Don’t feel dismayed if the following list is overwhelming. We don’t need to tackle each restriction individually, what is more common is that by tacking one form of restriction, we eliminate another in the process. Restriction begets restriction, but the reverse is also true. When we challenge one layer of restriction, we challenge the food rules that sprouts from it. I’ve often had clients feel surprised that something has stopped without them consciously challenging it. Food restriction is tiring. Once you build your toolbox of coping tools, you’ll find that the need to restrict no longer serves a purpose. Food restriction takes up a lot of brain space and effort and the real kicker is that it doesn’t solve anything in the long-term.
So, go through this list with compassion for yourself. You didn’t restrict for the hell of it. You restricted because this was the only way you felt you could cope. That was before you had the strength and knowledge to find a healthier alternative. In the short-term, it probably did make you feel better too and maybe in the short-term it still does. But that cycle continues and that’s what makes you feel stuck. True freedom comes from challenging restriction. I mean going all in. Okay, ready? Let’s start chipping away at it.
Challenging food restriction
- Identify what types of restriction you are currently doing
- What circumstances increase your tendency to use this form of restriction? What emotional and environments trigger this behaviour?
- What healthy thought, mantra, affirmation, image helps you to challenge the urge to use this unhelpful behaviour?
- What healthy coping mechanism or positive distraction can you use to support you in challenging this behaviour?
- How are you tracking your progress and celebrating your wins?
|Restriction type||What it might look like for you|
|Playing it safe||Always choosing the “safer” option. That includes choosing “free-from” or the “lighter” regardless of your authentic gastronomic preference and medical needs.|
|Limiting food groups||Cutting out food groups regardless of your authentic gastronomic preference and medical needs.|
|Liming energy intake and macronutrients||Putting limits on calories and macros.|
|Pre-event restriction||Eating less before an event (e.g. holidays, birthday parties etc).|
|Living by the meal plan||Only eating as per meal plan regardless of hunger levels.|
|Food window of opportunity||Saving food for later in the day or having time restrictions around food.|
|Intake copy and paste||After skipping a meal or snack on one day and therefore doing the same the day after regardless of hunger levels. Eating the same meals as the day before regardless of gastronomic preference and practical needs.|
|Meal of the day||Having the same foods on a given day of the week (e.g. porridge every Wednesday). Regardless of gastronomic preference and practical needs.|
|No repeats||Only allowed a certain amount of a particular food in a 24-hr period (e.g. bread at one meal a day).|
|Filling for fake fullness||Filling up on water, diet drinks, vegetables, fibrous foods.|
|Minimising meals||Eating with small cutlery or small bowls/plates.|
|Food waste guilt avoidance||Avoiding a particular food altogether because of fears that you won’t be able to eat it all and will feel guilty for wasting it.|
|Restrained food budget||Not wanting to spend money on the foods you truly want.|
|Food stretching||Eating meals slowly in the hope that you will not want to eat more than the portion you have.|
Take a few moments to think of how life will be once you’re recovered. Here are a few questions that will guide you.
What does recovery look like for you?
How will you make your food choices?
How will you handle social situations?
Would you have different hobbies?
Would you do different activities?
How would your energy levels feel?
How will you handle stressful situations?
How would your self talk change?
Take 3 deep breaths. Full inhalation and exhalation.
Write a journal entry or draw a picture that captures your recovery vision.