When you first start a new diet you’re hoping so hard that this will finally be the thing that sticks. But sometimes that hope can make you blind to what’s really going on with you…
Then, one day, you look around and notice that the way you’re eating is A LOT different from everyone else.
In my health coaching practice, I’ve worked with women who’ve struggled with restrictive dieting — some, to the point of having an eating disorder like anorexia or orthorexia.
There is nothing healthy about this type of restriction. Not eating enough healthy food can lead to muscle loss, a slowed metabolism, gastrointestinal complications, brain fog, sleep apnea, lowered sex hormones, and many other serious health issues.
But you don’t have to be in a full-blown eating disorder to experience negative impact to your mental and physical health by being too restrictive with food.
That’s why it’s important to check in and ask, are you actually eating healthy or is your diet too restrictive?
So today, I’m laying out exactly how to determine if you’re on the right track with your diet or if it’s time to pump the brakes.
Ready to learn? Let’s get started…
What does “restrictive” mean to you?
When you think about restriction, what comes to mind?
Maybe you think about being put on restrictions by your parents as punishment for getting in trouble as a child? Or, maybe you think about the crazy fad diets you put yourself on in the past?
Technically speaking, restriction is defined as “the limitation or control of something”.
That’s not necessarily good or bad — in fact, it’s pretty neutral. The control of something could be a really good thing or a bad thing. It all depends on how you’re using it.
If you’re restricting your dog so he doesn’t eat a bunch of chocolate cake off the counter and poison himself — that’s a great restriction!
If you’re restricting a human being in your basement so you can keep them prisoner for 10 years like some creepy true crime show — not such a good restriction!
The point is that a restrictive diet isn’t necessarily good or bad. Just like any other kind of restriction, it’s all about how you use it.
But for most of us, when we think about restriction with food we immediately think, BAD RESTRICTION. It’s important to ask…Why is that?
Most people would answer something to the effect of, it’s not normal.
Should you try to eat more “normal”?
A lot of women will say they just want to be able to lose weight and eat like a normal person. That’s a fairly standard goal. The losing weight part of that is pretty clear, but what exactly does eating like a normal person mean?
In today’s society, eating like a normal person leads to weight gain — not weight loss or maintenance.
It’s normal to eat twice as much food as you need when you’re at a restaurant.
It’s normal to drink a soda that contains three times the recommended daily intake of sugar.
It’s normal to eat food fried in toxic oils that inflame your heart and brain and damage your DNA.
It’s normal to eat artificial chemicals.
It’s normal to eat all throughout the day.
It’s normal to be obese.
When 6 out of every 10 Americans have a chronic disease (the leading causes of which are poor diet, lack of exercise, and tobacco & alcohol use), being “normal” is not a good strategy for health.
If you’re reluctant to restrict food because you want to eat like a “normal person”, you may want to re-think that goal. Eating more normal won’t help you create the healthy body you’re seeking.
So, the question becomes, how can you utilize restriction in a way that helps you get healthy and lose weight without making your diet too restrictive and using it against yourself?
Restriction vs. Constraint
Since the word restriction typically comes with a negative connotation, we can describe using restriction in a positive way as using constraint.
When we think about using constraint, it usually has a positive connotation. I like to think about constraint as holding back from doing one thing so that you can do another thing you want to do even more.
You are already using constraint in your life in many positive ways — we all are!
It could look like…
…Constraining online shopping so that you can pay the mortgage on your new home.
…Constraint from flirting with someone because you already have a husband you love.
…Constraint from eating olives because you hate the texture of olives (or is that just me?).
These are just a few ways we use constraint that don’t feel “restrictive” because we genuinely WANT to do them.
You aren’t sitting around thinking, “Ugh, I hate how restricted I am in this marriage. It sucks that I can’t hook up with whoever I want!”. No way!
You love your husband and you want to have a happy marriage so you’ll happily use constraint with other men to achieve that goal.
When you hold back from eating things considered “normal” because you love eating healthy and want to live a long, healthy life, it won’t feel like punishment.
So, the most important distinction to make to determine if you’re using restriction in a good way or in a bad way is what emotion is fueling it.
What is your emotional fuel?
To determine if you’re being too restrictive, you need to ask, “Am I being fueled by positive or negative emotion?”.
Some of the positive emotions fueling you to use constraint with food could be self-love, appreciation, caring, admiration, excitement, hopefulness, pride, respectfulness, or worthiness.
On the other hand, your desire to diet could be fueled by negative emotions like self-hate, shame, desperation, disgust, embarrassment, fear, frustration, guilt, jealousy or unworthiness.
It’s easy to see how women who take restriction to extremes, like eating disorders, are being fueled by negative emotions.
The same emotions that fuel one person to disordered eating could fuel another person who seems like the epitome of health.
You can eat SUPER healthy, workout 7 days a week and have killer abs, but if the fuel driving those actions are negative, then your actions aren’t sustainable OR healthy.
A helpful analogy is to think about treating a small child the way you are treating yourself.
If you love a child, are you going to let them give in to all their cravings and eat whatever they want? HECK NO!
You’ll do what’s best for them from a caring compassionate place. You’ll kindly re-direct them when they want to do something that isn’t in their best interest. That is what self-love looks like.
One Last thing…
The only true way to determine if your diet is too restrictive is to asses your emotional fuel.
If the emotions driving you to restrict your food are purely negative, then you are being too restrictive. You’re actions will not be sustainable or healthy in the long-run.
If the emotions you use to restrict certain foods are positive then you are on the right track my friend!
If you need help moving yourself from a place of negative emotional fuel to positive emotional fuel, then I would like to invite you to schedule a free consultation call with me today.
In my 1:1 health coaching program, I help women transform their mindset so they can learn to stop going on and off diets and learn how to love a healthy lifestyle so they can finally end their food and weight struggle for good.
I would love to help you too <3
October 13, 2021