It can feel difficult for us to define what exactly restrictive eating should mean.
Some define it as continuously putting limits on one’s caloric intake.
Others think of it as not allowing themselves to eat what their body wants at the time.
Regardless of how you define it, there’s no question it has become inherently negative in our society.
I’m here to shed light as to how we can redefine restrictive eating for ourselves.
I think we can learn a great deal by redefining things in life that we view as negative (failure, discomfort, etc) and turn it into something more positive and manageable.
In the health industry, viewing the term “restrictive eating” as negative can put us on a slippery slope.
This method of thinking can cause women to foolishly think that it should be acceptable to eat anything they wish and still see the results they want.
We’ve failed to put a cap on what is actually restrictive versus what is truly necessary to achieve the relationship with food that we want.
The reality is…to care for our bodies in the best possible way, we should be setting certain restrictions on our food.
And before you close this article and run, don’t worry.
What I’m about to teach you here will make you feel better, and more in control of your eating habits.
The key is to know what type of restrictive eating is destructive and what type is beneficial to our health.
As mentioned, it can be harmful to our mindset when we view restrictions on food as 100% negative.
This causes us to misunderstand what eating healthy and caring for our bodies actually entails.
I used to do this all the time.
For years, I would justify eating ANYTHING I wanted since “restricting” food was unhealthy.
Or at least that’s what the health community portrayed.
I convinced myself that I should always listen to what my body needs and not cut any foods out that it deems worthy at the time.
The problem is…my body didn’t know what foods it currently needed.
What it thought it really needed to be “healthy” is curly fries and nachos.
It’s obvious that this mindset never allowed me to achieve the results I wanted with my body.
Which is ultimately because I identified as a victim.
Setting restrictions on my eating habits legitimately felt UNFAIR to myself and my body.
Needless to say, this method of thinking will NOT get you the results you want.
This is where it gets confusing…
Here are some examples of what we view as restrictive eating:
Want to know what’s fascinating about this list?
It’s that there are both positive and negative versions of restrictive eating listed here.
Which is exactly why the topic of restrictive eating has become a confusing one.
We’ve lost sight as to what restrictions are necessary for us to become healthier and which are actually negative.
This distinction is insanely important to developing a nourishing relationship with food that lasts.
Once we can distinguish between unhealthy and healthy restrictions, we can take the steps we need to actually change our relationship with healthy food for the better.
Here’s an easy way to do so:
Set distinctions between food restrictions and food limitations in your life.
For example, there’s no question that following a strict diet will fail because it’s too restrictive for the long-term.
Your body can’t possibly stick to the diet for your entire life and you’re setting yourself up to bounce back to unhealthy eating habits.
This can be defined as an unhealthy restriction.
On the other hand…
Making the decision to cut out sugar can be extremely beneficial to your health.
If you’ve decided that cutting out sugar is how your body will feel best, then this can be considered a healthy limitation.
See the difference?
To some, both would be considered “restrictive”.
The difference is that one is rooted in a place of self-punishment and one is coming from a place of self-love.
This is how you should distinguish unhealthy restriction vs. healthy limitation.
A helpful practice is to really envision what you would consider a loving, nourishing relationship with healthy food.
Explore what this really means to you.
Does this mean that you only eat sugar on special occasions?
Or that you cut it out completely?
It doesn’t matter.
What would make you feel fulfilled and healthy when it comes to food for the rest of your life?
Write this down.
Then list side by side what changes your body would consider restrictive (negative) and what your body would view as healthy limitations (positive).
It’s important to remember that everyone’s will be unique and different.
You will need to dive deep into what your body needs on an individual basis.
If you do this practice, this new viewpoint on “restrictive eating” will broaden your mindset and allow you to better make healthy eating decisions that are in tune with YOUR needs.
When you start defining for yourself what you consider to be unhealthy restrictions vs. healthy limitations, you will need to be painfully honest with yourself.
The key is to remember that just because a change to your diet doesn’t feel pleasant or natural yet, doesn’t mean it’s not necessary for your health.
For example, when you first cut out excess amounts of caffeine from your diet, do you really think it’s going to feel good?
Hell to the no!
You’re going to likely get caffeine headaches out the wazoo. Topped with cravings.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that feeling these negative side effects means you’re undergoing a “restrictive diet”.
These are conscious, healthy limitations you’re placing on your life.
Remember that restriction is based in self-punishment, while limitations are rooted in self-care.
So, toughen up, be brutally honest with yourself, and consciously set limits on your eating habits from a place of LOVE.
This will allow you to change your relationship with food in a way that nourishes and serves you long-term.
Not just create more barriers, make up excuses, and then wonder why you’re not creating the results you deserve.??
While this view on “restrictive eating” isn’t one you’ll see often in the health community, I really feel it carries massive weight.
99% of eating healthy comes down to mindset and the way we view healthy food.
In order to gain healthy habits, it’s absolutely necessary to rethink the way you approach eating healthy.
There’s no way around it. No exceptions to this rule.
Setting a clear distinction on restrictive eating vs. setting healthy limitations is a massive first step to gaining that nourishing relationship with food we all desire.
And that’s all I want for you.
Hey there! I'm Kat Rentas. I’m a certified eating psychology coach for women who believes that eating healthy should feel simple and sustainable. I teach hundreds of high-performing women to change their eating habits without the overwhelm. Want to change your eating habits in a way that is aligned with your needs, preferences, and goals? You’re in the right place. You can read my full story here.