“Food Freedom” – a complex term, with definitions ranging from abandoning diet culture and restrictive diets to achieving good health and food security by growing your own foods.
It is marketed as an approach to treating eating disorders for some and as a way to promote intentional weight loss for others.
However, in the field of health and wellness, it is an emerging revolutionary concept that is challenging societal norms of dieting and the slim ideal.
It is supported by passionate health professionals and game creators, such as Shana Spence (thenutritiontea). Spence is a registered dietitian who takes a healthy, unrelated approach to an all-weight diet.
She’s using her platform to redefine what “health” means – distinct from the diet industry’s often hard-to-reach standards.
A strong and passionate advocate for food freedom, Dr. Kira Nimb Diop (@black.nutritionist) has created a space that emphasizes respecting the body, eating without guilt, and reclaiming your cultural nutritional heritage as an integral part of your healthy lifestyle.
In this article, we explore food freedom, explain what intuitive eating and mindful eating are, and discuss the roles—if any—that they may play in the pursuit of intentional weight loss.
The Food Freedom Framework has various definitions and applications, including but not limited to (
- Freedom from industrial food production
- An approach to promoting food sovereignty
- Gastronomy – the science of understanding historical cultural foods and their impact on human health
- Spiritual Journey to Overcome “Food Addiction”
- Editing part of weight loss programs like Whole30
In other contexts, food freedom refers to abandoning the culture of restrictive diets and diets by giving you permission to enjoy all foods in moderation (unless allergies or medical needs prevent you from eating certain foods).
In this application of food freedom, practitioners see food as more than just fuel. They seek to build a positive, judgment-free relationship with all foods, as guilt is not considered a component of the eating experience.
This view of food freedom includes intuitive eating and mindful eating, two philosophies that cultivate self-confidence around food choices and reject unnecessary restrictions.
Intuitive eating and mindful eating are often used to support recovery from eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, and chronic mental illnesses that negatively affect nutritional status and your relationship with food (
In general, dietary freedom can help people overcome diet culture or provide the flexibility to intentionally lose weight.
Since the varied and overlapping marketing of the term “food freedom” may lead to some confusion, context matters. This article will focus on dietary freedom as a non-systemic approach to health and nutrition.
The term “food freedom” has different definitions, including letting go of diet culture and cultivating self-confidence around food choices. The Dietary Freedom approach has been used to support both recovery from eating disorders and some intentional weight loss programs.
Food freedom as a therapeutic approach to recovery from eating disorders has grown out of the need for non-pharmaceutical therapies that emphasize behavioral changes, such as positive body image and healthy eating behaviors (
A 2017 study showed that dieting — combined with body dissatisfaction and the pursuit of thinness — increases the risk of bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and purging disorder (
Even dieting among individuals who are naturally thin increases the risk of developing anorexia nervosa (
The multibillion-dollar diet industry promotes the “thin model” with unhealthy weight management behaviors, which may encourage disordered eating patterns that can contribute to the development of eating disorders (
There is evidence that dieting does not help those seeking long-term weight loss, either.
Weight regain within 1-5 years is common among chronic dieters, and approximately 33% of dieters regain more weight than they initially lost (
Diet restrictions contribute to an eating disorder. Food freedom, on the other hand, seeks to combat this (
Food freedom as a mindfulness-based practice may address disordered eating, including emotional eating and binge eating disorder. It can also help you avoid eating in response to external cues, such as seeing or smelling foods, when you are not physically hungry (
In particular, intuitive eating is associated with improved psychological well-being, physical health and reduced dietary restrictions (
Dietary freedom has arisen from the need for behavior change approaches that emphasize positive body image and healthy eating trends rather than diet restrictions. It can support people in recovering from eating disorders or clinical eating disorders.
Although these three terms are often used interchangeably, you may be wondering if they are essentially the same. There are slight differences between their presidential principles.
for example, mindful eating Rooted in the Buddhist practice of mindfulness and living with awareness and intention (
It is a meditative practice that builds on the mind-body connection and promotes a state of non-judgmental awareness that engages your senses – sight, smell, taste and feeling – during a meal (
Conscious eating is the art of being present while eating.
similarly, Intuitive eating It nurtures the mind-body relationship, but is distinctively rooted in a holistic approach to weight-to-health and serves as the core of the Health at Every Size Model (
Intuitive eating is guided by ten principles, including respecting your body, rejecting diet culture, making peace with food, and respecting health through gentle nutrition.
food freedomHowever, it is not well defined. It may represent true forms of intuitive eating or mindful eating, or it may attempt to bridge the gaps between intentional weight loss, calorie restriction, and increased flexibility with food.
Despite these differences, the three terms have one thing in common: they all seek to reduce unnecessary dietary restrictions and improve your relationship with food.
It aims to remove the potential for guilt, shame, and negative feelings associated with eating “forbidden” or “bad” foods.
The terms freedom of food, intuitive eating, and mindful eating can be used interchangeably, but there are differences between these practices. However, they all strive to reduce diet restrictions and increase flexibility.
Food freedom, when used as a non-food approach to health, seeks to free you from the culture of dieting and skinny idealism, unsafe weight loss or weight management behaviors, and yo-yo dieting.
Whether you choose to take a meditative approach with mindful eating or work through the ten principles of intuitive eating, freedom from restrictions and judgment is possible.
Here are some tips:
- Work with a registered dietitian who is certified in intuitive eating or who applies mindful eating techniques to guide you.
- Work to get rid of the idea that foods are “good” or “bad.” Instead, focus on the purpose the food serves at a given moment (such as pleasure, energy, or nourishment).
- Likewise, remove the idea of morality from foods. Understand that you are not a bad person because you eat pleasurable food and that your food choices should not make you feel inferior or superior to others.
- Give yourself permission to enjoy delicious foods regularly. This way, you won’t feel out of control around certain foods.
- Focus on health-promoting habits such as staying hydrated and engaging in enjoyable physical activity. Health is more than just a number on the scale.
- Pay attention to your internal cues, such as feelings and feelings of satiety and hunger, rather than just external cues for eating (such as eating because it’s a specific time of day or because you feel like you have to finish all the food on your plate).
- Eat slowly, without getting distracted, and savor your food.
- Focus on what food makes you feel, and choose more foods that make you feel satisfied.
Dietary freedom as a non-systemic approach to nutrition involves adjusting internal cues of satiety and hunger, removing morals from foods, and focusing on health-promoting behaviors rather than scale.
Intentional weight loss is an active attempt to change your body weight, with the goal of lowering the number on the scale.
Although studies show that intuitive eating is associated with weight loss and lower body mass index (BMI), in essence, intuitive eating is not a method for weight loss (
A true, intuitive eating program will not advertise weight loss as a result, because some people may lose weight while others may gain or maintain weight.
Intuitive eating allows your body to find its “happy weight,” or biologically determined weight.
Likewise, the core principles of mindful eating do not focus on weight loss – although some weight loss programs have opted for mindfulness messages (
Other programs bridge the gap by focusing on health-promoting habits while creating a small calorie deficit that promotes slow weight loss without avoiding enjoyable foods that may not be nutrient dense or low in calories.
The principles of intuitive eating and mindful eating do not focus on intentional weight loss, although weight loss, gain, or maintenance may occur when adopted. Instead, they focus on allowing your body to reach its normal “happy” weight.
“Food freedom” is a heavily marketed term with various definitions, ranging from overcoming diet culture and restrictive diets to engaging in food sovereignty. Therefore, context is important.
As a non-systemic approach to nutrition, dietary freedom involves adjusting internal cues of satiety and hunger, separating foods from morals, and focusing on health-promoting behaviors—not just scale.
In essence, the principles of intuitive eating and mindful eating do not focus on or promote intentional weight loss. Instead, they help you discover and engage in health-promoting habits that may lead to weight loss, gain, or maintenance.
These frameworks help people foster positive relationships with foods and their bodies based on self-confidence and self-compassion rather than soft idealism.