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Yet More on Legalizing Food

  • Eating

If you’re still struggling with food legalization, I hope you’ve read my blogs on the subject. This one builds on the previous two. Frankly, I’ve found that the concept works for some people but not for others, and it’s difficult to know in which category you fall. Finding the best path for you is yet another facet of healing from eating problems.

A reminder that legalization is a concept: food is neither good nor bad and there is no imperative that one food is morally better than another. Nutritiously better, yes; morally, no. That perspective frees you up to make choices based on food preference (enjoyment) and health. However, and it’s a big caveat, you need a healthy belief system to use the concept of food legalization effectively. You have to believe 100% that there are no good or bad foods—no uncertainties allowed! Most people who jump into legalizing food still hold a diet mentality even if they don’t want to or don’t want to admit it. Changing your thinking takes time, but is entirely doable. Too many folks rush out and gobble up all the foods they haven’t been eating rather than first revamping their belief system and keeping at it until it’s sound and “normal” eating oriented.

Legalizing foods is not a command to eat everything that heretofore has been off limits, but a mindset enabling you to expand food options. Be sure your definition of the term is not “a food free for all” and that it incorporates hunger, craving, choice, awareness, enjoyment, satisfaction and fullness. Becoming comfy around challenging foods takes many months to a few years and is arduous work. At times, you may overeat because you’re trying to make up for all the times you didn’t allow yourself to eat certain foods in the past, are out of touch with what you really crave, or need time for “normal” eating beliefs to take hold. Legalization is a process of making a concept real and true to you.

However, if you no longer hold a diet mentality, don’t consider foods good or bad, and have tried unsuccessfully for years to legalize foods and still overeat them, then go with your experience. If you know in your heart it’s not about being good or bad but about your body’s reaction to sugar/fats/salt that says you have trouble stopping eating, honor that feeling. If you don’t feel deprived avoiding certain foods and can live without them (but not with them), let them go. The whole point of the non-diet approach to eating is to to trust your appetite and yourself, not blindly follow what some expert (including me) tells you, or to insist on eating the way others do. Because we are unique, there is no one way to eat. It’s a long, difficult, trial-and-error process, but learning to trust yourself and think rationally about food will help you figure out what’s best for you.