How Can You Find "Food Freedom" & Still Stay "On Track"? -
Written by Carm Bozzo (@upandlifting)

For as long as I can remember I have played with food. I have called it names. I have overused it. I have under-used it. I have hated it, loved it, worried about it and obsessed about it. My relationship with food created a bad relationship with myself and in 2021 it was time to break up and find another way to work together. I was 46.

As I prepped for a photoshoot, I slowly worked my way into allowing myself free meals (aka cheat meals) without the guilt AND without the binge. I allowed myself to stop resenting those who could eat whatever they wanted without the baggage or the weight gain. I stopped – with time – associating consuming it with how I looked or what others would perceive me as.

None of this was – is – easy, but I did it; I worked on it for over a year. I shared some photo shoot pictures with my social media world and I talked openly about my body image struggles and my new found food freedom!

Yet there was still a question: what happens when you want food freedom BUT you still need to watch you eat? See, I am all but 5 feet tall and even 3-5lb weight gain is noticeable – and that is when my clothes fit tight and I feel uncomfortable.

So how does one find balance? How do I find balance? Summer will be coming and when it does, I don’t want to restrict my food so much that I am afraid of going out with friends or enjoying patio dinners and ice cream treats with my teen boys. YET I can’t throw caution to the wind, either. I did that this past Christmas holiday and to be honest, I didn’t like how I felt. I was unmotivated, moody, sleepy and my pants started fitting tighter than I liked! I need a balance and am learning what that means to me. Here are some lessons learned:

When on any type of vacation or holiday – Christmas, summer, etc. - I still need to plan out my week – prep my meals for the most part and see where I want to add in a free meal instead of winging it. Winging it doesn’t work for me.

I still need to prioritize protein in my free meals – so if it is pizza, I can still enjoy a couple of slices without binging and also remember my big salad and some lean protein on the side. It fills me up and I don’t feel left out because I STILL ate the pizza!

I DON’T NEED anything sweet after a free meal. I CAN try something without eating all of it. It is enough.

I will continue to drink my water and bring my water bottle with me. I usually drink between 3 and 4 liters of water a day, so this is now just a habit and does help with hunger. Similarity, I am not a drinker but when others are drinking around me, sometimes I like to put my Zevia or Diet Coke in a big wine glass with ice. Keeping it fancy!

I calendar plot! Yup, I look ahead and see where meals out of my control may be scheduled so I know in advance. If I know that there may be meals where I can’t plan too much, I look at all the other meals that week that CAN be on plan. Then I enjoy that off plan meal with no guilt – and no binging!

I continue to strength train as I normally would and will not add any extra cardio as punishment for eating more than usual. Exercise is for strength building and my own mental therapy (it’s my happy place!) and it is not to burn calories or try to out-train a bad meal.

One of the biggest things to remember is that I HAVE NOT ruined anything if I do go off plan, which would then result in continuing to go off plan. One road bump is not a plan ruined – I’ll keep going.

Having time off at any time of the year can be stressful for those of us who are still navigating their relationship with food, but it can be done! We can enjoy ALL foods without guilt – but a little planning is necessary.

Diet planDisordered eatingEating disorderFood freedomGood eatingGuideHealthy eatingMental healthNutritionNutritious eatingPositivityStrengthWeight controlWeight loss

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