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3 questions you need to ask yourself about your diet


There are many reasons why many health professionals do not want you to follow a restrictive diet.

Restrictive diets are a way of eating that reduces calories below a person’s energy needs and/or limits the macronutrients or food groups a person consumes, said Jennifer Rollin, founder of the Eating Disorder Center in Rockville, Maryland.

Such diets are unsustainable, Rollin said. You might not meet your calorie or nutrient needs, or it might encourage binge behaviors and lead to unhealthy relationships with food and your body, she said.

But how do you know if a diet is restrictive or if you’re simply making choices with health or longevity in mind?

There are good rules of thumb. If you find that you’re basing your choices on the hope of losing weight or if your diet excludes entire food groups, you’re probably following a restrictive diet, said Natalie Mokari, a registered dietitian based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

In cases that aren’t as clear cut, here are three questions to ask yourself about your diet, Rollin and Mokari said.

How often do you think about food?

One way to evaluate your diet is to examine how much you think about food.

With a health-conscious lifestyle, you may be able to eat what your body needs and move forward. But when on a restrictive diet, people tend to obsess about what they’ve eaten, what they’re going to eat and the shame they feel after eating, Mokari said.

Restrictions can make social gatherings less fun and meals less satisfying, and knowing how to eat can become a full-time job.

“It starts to be kind of over-consuming for someone in their everyday life, and it inhibits their enjoyment,” she said. “This can create a lot of obsessive behaviors. …Food isn’t supposed to be looked at that way.

How rigid are you?

Another good indicator is your flexibility in the eating style you follow, Rollin said.

“There’s a difference between a preference for eating or a way of eating that makes someone feel good and a set of rigid rules that must be followed,” she said, adding that these mandates come with often of guilt and shame.

There are certain health conditions in which a food should be eliminated entirely, but otherwise, you can allow yourself to approach the food in question in a more balanced way, Rollin asked.

For example, if you’re trying to limit cheese, tell yourself you’ll never eat it again, or can you be comfortable adding fruits, vegetables, and nuts to the charcuterie board next to the cheese, in order to eat less of it?

“Instead of looking at what you can remove,” Rollin said, “look at what you can add.”

Can you have just a little bit?

With her clients, Mokari likes to use the 80/20 rule: 80% of the time they focus on eating all the foods needed for a particular diet or health issue, and 20% of the time they do proof of more indulgence, she declared. .

And it’s not just to make room for pleasure. This approach also allows you to move away from a restrictive mindset.

“If you impose all these rules around certain foods, you’re going to feel like you’re either feast or famine for that food,” she said.

Feeling like you can’t control yourself around certain foods can be a sign that you’re too restrictive in your diet, Rollin said. And it can be physically restrictive by not allowing you to eat the food or mentally restrictive by shaming you into eating it and afterward, she said.

The desire to eat foods that aren’t always available is evolutionary, Rollin said. Human bodies are primed for periods of starvation to consume as much as possible when we encounter our next food source, she said.

Getting away from restrictions

If you want to make diet decisions with health in mind but want to remove restrictions, Rollin and Mokari recommend working with medical professionals to determine exactly what that means.

Some people, both online and offline, claim to have a secret diet to treat health problems. So it’s important to work with your doctor, a dietitian, and/or an eating disorder therapist to determine what’s healthy for you and what’s healthy for you. diet culture, Rollin said.

It may also be helpful to consult weight-neutral doctors or use a health-at-every-size approach, Mokari added. This type of medicine considers health as a whole and does not focus on height or body mass index as the primary measure of a person’s well-being, according to the Association for Size Diversity and Health.

And if you’re on a restrictive diet in which it’s hard to stop once you start eating a particular food that you deem unhealthy, the answer may be to give yourself permission, Rollin said.

“At the start of the pandemic, when toilet paper was limited, what did everyone do? They ran out and ordered toilet paper, didn’t they? she says.

The goal is to take the mystery out of demonized foods so you can make choices based on what your body needs rather than what your brain is afraid it can no longer get.

Nonetheless, there are health conditions such as allergies in which foods must be removed entirely. Be sure to follow your doctor’s advice in these cases, Rollin said.


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