Finding Food Freedom: Ditching Diet Culture and Learning to Trust Your Body’s Cues.

“Food freedom” — it’s a complex term, with definitions ranging from ditching diet culture and restrictive diets to attaining good health and food security through growing your own foods.

It’s marketed as an approach to address eating disorders for some and as a way to promote intentional weight loss for others.

However, in the health and wellness space, it’s an emerging, revolutionary concept that challenges societal norms of dieting and the thin ideal.

It is championed by passionate health professionals and game-changers, such as Shana Spence (@thenutritiontea). Spence is a registered dietitian who takes a non-diet, weight-inclusive approach to health.

She uses her platform to redefine what “health” means — distinct from the diet industry’s often-unattainable standards.

Another powerful and passionate food freedom champion is Dr. Kera Nyemb-Diop (@black.nutritionist), who has created a space that emphasizes body respect, eating without guilt, and reclaiming your cultural food heritage as an integral part of your healthy lifestyle.

In this article, we explore food freedom, explain what intuitive eating and mindful eating are, and discuss what roles — if any — they may have in the pursuit of intentional weight loss.

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What is food freedom?

The food freedom framework has various definitions and applications, including but not limited to (1Trusted Source2Trusted Source):

  • freedom from industrial food production
  • an approach to strengthening food sovereignty
  • gastronomy — the science of understanding historical-cultural foods and their impact on human health
  • a spiritual journey to overcome “food addiction”
  • a liberating part of weight loss programs such as Whole30

In other contexts, food freedom refers to ditching dieting culture and restrictive diets by giving yourself permission to enjoy all foods in moderation (unless allergies or medical needs prevent you from eating certain foods).

In that application of food freedom, practitioners see food as more than just fuel. They seek to build a positive and judgment-free relationship with all foods, where guilt is not considered an ingredient in the eating experience.

This view of food freedom encompasses intuitive eating and mindful eating, two philosophies that cultivate self-trust around food choices and reject unnecessary restrictions.

Intuitive eating and mindful eating are often used to support recovery from eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, chronic mental illnesses that negatively affect nutritional status and your relationship with food (3Trusted Source4Trusted Source5Trusted Source).

Overall, food freedom can help people overcome diet culture or introduce flexibility for intentional weight loss.

Because the varied and overlapping marketing of the term “food freedom” may lead to some confusion, context matters. This article will focus on food freedom as a non-diet approach to health and nutrition.

Heads-up

Disordered eating and eating disorders can affect anyone, regardless of gender identity, race, age, socioeconomic status, or other identities.

They can be caused by any combination of biological, social, cultural, and environmental factors — not just by exposure to diet culture.

If you feel like you may be overly concerned with your weight or preoccupied with food, or if you get overwhelmed when you think about maintaining a healthful, guilt-free eating pattern, feel empowered to talk with a qualified healthcare professional.

A registered dietitian or therapist can help you work through feelings of guilt or anxiety and build eating patterns that support your health, both physical and mental.

You can also chat, call, or text anonymously with trained volunteers at the National Eating Disorders Association helpline for free, or explore the organization’s free and low-cost resources.

Summary

The term “food freedom” has various definitions, including ditching diet culture and cultivating self-trust around food choices. The food freedom approach has been used to support both eating disorder recovery and some intentional weight loss programs.

 By:
Written by Amber Charles Alexis, MSPH, RDN.

Medically reviewed by Kim Rose RDN, CDCES, CNSC, LD, Nutrition