Society teaches us that certain foods are bad for us. They are judged as unhealthy, fattening, or having no nutritional value. Our parents teach us moral judgments about food, too, and our friends, television ads and shows, social media, and of course, fad diets. Sometimes, there is more judging of foods taking place than eating foods.
What Is Food Restriction?
Food restriction happens when moral judgment is placed upon our foods and body image. “That food will make me fat.” “If I eat that, I won’t be able to fit into my dress for the party.” As a result, we restrict ourselves from eating the food available to us, and our body craves. Then we proceed to place other moral judgments on our foods and bodies, which becomes a vicious cycle and can severely impact our health.
Another consequence of food restriction is that not allowing ourselves to eat food that is available or that we want creates cravings for those foods, such as those high in fats and sugars. We restrict and restrict, then suddenly we find ourselves binge eating those foods because we limited ourselves.
For example, if you denied yourself eating those donuts you craved for 12 weeks, then suddenly bought a dozen donuts and ate them all, that is not healthy for your body. You could instead eat one donut per week for 12 weeks and not have the same consequences, despite eating the same amount of donuts over the same period.
What Is the Moral Judgment of Food?
All food is food. According to Justine Lichtenstern, a certified nutritionist who works for The Ho Tai Way – Recovery For Women, all food has some nutritional value. There is no good or bad food or healthy or unhealthy food. Those are moral judgments that we place on foods that impact our diet and cause us to restrict our choices and ultimately our caloric intake needed to function, leading to poor health outcomes.
Where Do Moral Judgments of Food Come From?
Moral judgments of food come from everywhere. Companies try to sell products based on whether or not they are “good” for you. Government programs, which are constantly changing, tell us that certain foods are bad or good for you, and even certain portions. Your parents and families likely taught you about foods that they deemed healthy or unhealthy.
Justine uses the example of being stranded on an island. You could have celery every day for the rest of your life, or you could have ice cream. Which would you choose? We are taught to go for the celery because it is deemed “healthy.” However, the ice cream actually has far more nutritional value and is more likely to keep you alive. The celery has minimal nutrients and some water, that’s all. These embedded judgments lead us to restrict ourselves from certain foods.
Why Is Food Restriction So Common in Women?
Women more commonly restrict food because our society dictates that we all look a certain way, no matter our body type. The reality is that if you are 6 feet tall and have a prominent bone structure, you need to weigh more than someone who is 5 feet tall and small-boned. Our culture is so obsessed with dieting and body image that we have lost sight of the plot—your body is your body, and taking care of it by giving it the food it needs—regardless of size, shape, or weight—is the most important aspect of nutrition.
Embracing your body and giving it the nutrition it needs by eating three meals and three snacks per day—without judging your food—is a vital aspect of being healthy. Ultimately, you have more control over what you think about food and your relationship with food than you control your body size, shape, and weight. Healthy eating involves healthy beliefs about what you eat.
Is Exercise Healthy in Recovery?
Something that will impact your health more than what you eat is whether or not you exercise. You can exercise too much, which is dangerous because you can overwork your muscles, joints, and cardiovascular system. However, doing yoga regularly can be very healthy for any body type.
Taking a walk every day for at least ten minutes will do more to extend your life than all of the so-called “healthy” foods you can eat. Rather than focus on what you are eating, focus on moving a little bit every day for actual health benefits.
What is food restriction, and why is it so common in women? Food restriction happens when you place moral judgments on the foods you eat and then deny yourself what your body wants and needs. Women suffer from food restriction more because of the overwhelming stereotyping of what our bodies should look like, regardless of natural size, shape, or weight. By taking away judgments about food and exercising a little every day, your body will be healthy at any size. The Ho Tai Way – Recovery For Women understands the disordered eating that comes from food restriction. Our goal is to help you learn to eat without judgment and accept your body exactly as it is. You are beautiful exactly the way you are, and the food choices you make have more to do with your mind than your body. Call us at (714) 581-3974 and let us help you learn to stop restricting and start living your best life.