What Food Freedom Tastes Like

With the Fourth of July upon us, I’ve been reflecting on what Independence Day was like for me as a kid.

Naturally, the fireworks were the highlight of the holiday. However, I also have very fond memories of the food.

I recall kicking off the festivities with a pancake breakfast at our local pool. I happily gobbled up syrup-soaked flapjacks topped with strawberries, blueberries and whipped cream in honor of the occasion.

After hours of swimming and playing with my neighborhood friends, the day would end with a big block party. What a thrill it was to be able to ride my banana-seat bike down the middle of our street!

Picnic tables were hauled from backyards and covered with an array of homemade summer dishes, while a couple of grills smoked away on the sidelines.

Food-Fueled Fun
My nighttime fun was fueled by ketchup-covered hot dogs, honey baked beans, buttery corn-on-the-cob, crisp watermelon wedges, salty chips and dip, and very patriotic Jell-O salads. All of this was washed down with thirst-quenching cups of lemonade.

No matter what I ate, I always had room for a fudgy brownie or strawberry shortcake topped with rapidly melting vanilla ice cream.

I ate what looked good, sounded good and felt good in my body. Sometimes I ate it all, and sometimes I left some behind.

I ate freely and intuitively.

Not Yet Tainted
My young mind hadn’t been tainted yet by diet culture—an oppressive system full of food rules, eating restrictions, good/bad food lists, careful counting (e.g., calories, points, macros, etc.), weight stigma and false promises.

I hadn’t been taught yet that I should be hyper-vigilant with food and micro-manage every morsel.

No one had told me yet that my body couldn’t be trusted and that I needed to rely on a plan or program to tell me how to eat.

I hadn’t learned to abhor my belly, demonize certain foods, feel ashamed about my eating and compensate for my food “sins.”

I didn't worry about others judging my choices nor did I play Hide & Eat to keep myself safe from scrutiny.

Do I Want It?
While I loved all that food, I had more exciting and important things to focus on, like water-balloon tosses, sparklers and bottle rockets.

As an Intuitive Eater, I just ate and moved on.

Eating was simply a matter of: I can have it. Do I want it?

Diet Mentality Takes Over
Unfortunately, all of this changed as I entered my teenage years and began adopting the diet mentality powered by salads, rice cakes and diet sodas (hello, Tab!).

My desire to achieve the “thin ideal” led to decades of disordered eating.

Thankfully, with help from some very wise guides, I eventually broke free from diet culture and made peace with food and my body.

The healing process wasn’t easy or fast. Some days, I feel like I'm still a work-in-progress. But, it’s all been worth it.

Ending the war I was waging against myself enabled me to return to the food freedom and body liberation I experienced as a young girl.   

It’s Still Within You
I’m sharing this story as a reminder that we all came into this world as Intuitive Eaters—that is, we ate based on our instincts, inner cues and desires. We ate without worry, guilt, fear or shame.  

Sadly, we’re losing touch with our ability to eat intuitively at a younger and younger age. Shockingly, an estimated 80 percent of 10-year-old girls have been on a diet.

I’m also sharing my experience to assure you that if you’ve become disconnected from the Intuitive Eater within you, you can reconnect with it.

It hasn’t gone away. It’s just buried under layers of diet-culture gunk, which today, is often packaged under the guise of “wellness.”

Magical Powers Not Required
I don’t have any magical powers. My clients don’t either. If we can relearn how to listen to and trust our bodies, so can you.

“I’m no longer searching for the ‘answer’ to the perfect way to eat. I don’t stress about how I eat because it isn’t that big of a deal anymore. I no longer believe those food guilt thoughts and that is F-R-E-E-D-O-M!”
–Client Molly

What I Do When I'm Not Digging My Body...

Even though I’ve been on my body acceptance journey for many years now, I still have days when I’m not digging the skin I’m in.

In the past, a challenging body day would easily turn into weeks, if not months. Like a dark cloud, it would loom over me contaminating my every action and interaction.

I’d hide from the world. Push away my boyfriend. And go into fix-it mode—that is, create a plan for changing my body.

Naturally, my plans backfired. They weren’t sustainable or pleasurable. They did more harm than good.

My Most Powerful Tool
These days, I have an extensive tool kit for navigating a challenging body day with greater ease, from doubling down on self-care, body kindness and gratitude, to repeating a supportive mantra, like “this too shall pass,” “I am enough” or “every ounce of me is sacred.”

One of my most powerful tools is remembering that I came into this world loving my body and that I was taught, without my consent, to see it as flawed (and fixable) by our pervasive diet culture.

As writer and activist Lindy West says:

“Fight to remember that you are living inside of a cruel, toxic system, and when you hate yourself for gaining five pounds it’s because a billion-dollar industry conditioned you to feel that way for profit.”

Reclaiming My Power
When negative feelings toward my body creep in, I remind myself that I can reclaim my power by understanding that my body is neutral and the only reason I feel bad about it is because I have been brainwashed to do so from a very young age.

I no longer blame myself for failing to shrink myself. Instead, I blame the systems of oppression that want me to believe my body is a problem to solve.

I now give the middle finger to our insidious diet culture that relentlessly tries to convince me that if I just played my cards right, I’d finally have a flat stomach, cellulite-free thighs and a small, perky butt—and thus finally be worthy, acceptable, happy and healthy.

I no longer stand for this oppressive BS.

I see clearly now that it’s our weight-stigmatizing culture that needs to change, not my body!

And that every single ounce of me is—and always will be—sacred.

Try this at the Grocery Store...

Do you embrace and celebrate diversity?

Many of us like to think we do.

Yet, when it comes to body sizes and shapes, it’s not uncommon to have a very limited view regarding what’s acceptable.

Our intolerance is fueled by the relentless “thin ideal” messaging we’re hammered with every day.

We’ve internalized these messages and convinced ourselves that a thin body is a good body, a healthy body, the right body.

If we’re unable to conform to the thin ideal, we believe both our body and our character are flawed.

We go searching for a plan, pill or potion that will shape-shift our body, ultimately erasing its uniqueness. Mistakenly, understandably and sadly, we believe doing so will increase our value and worth.

Wake Up to Reality

What if, instead of trying to change our bodies, we opened our eyes and minds?

What if we stepped outside the oppressive, toxic bubble that’s given us a very narrow view of what our body is supposed to look like and instead woke up to reality?

When you wake up to reality, you will see so very clearly that bodies come in an incredible range of shapes and sizes.


You will also quickly realize that about 99.9 percent of the bodies around you don’t look anything like the “perfect body” we’re conditioned to aspire to have.

We all have our own genetic blueprint. And fighting it is a waste of our time, money and life force.

Spend Time in a Crowded Place

To help you recognize and embrace body diversity, spend time people-watching in a crowded place, like a grocery store, shopping mall, park or airport.

Observe the myriad of bodies around you—without making any comparisons, judgments or assumptions. Simply witness how distinctively different each body is.

If you’re like me, you’ll soon be in awe of all the various forms your fellow human beings come in.

As you continue this practice, you’ll start to expand your definition of beauty to one that’s more authentic and inclusive, to one that’s based on your own direct experience and terms—and not the terms of an industry that profits greatly from you feeling bad about your body.

Eventually, you’ll change your expectations of your body, cultivate a more accepting attitude toward all bodies, and celebrate our divine diversity in all its many forms.