• Emma Green

The problem with restrictive dieting

The reason I talk about the importance of a flexible approach towards eating isn’t just because I’ve experienced an eating disorder. It’s because that’s what is supported by the scientific literature. There are so many studies on the negative consequences of a rigid attitude towards food. Here are 3 of them:⠀ .⠀ 1. Experience of food guilt: When you have a rigid attitude forwards foods, you tend to have a list of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods. When you eat foods on the ‘bad’ list, you feel very guilty afterwards. In contrast, when you have a flexible approach, you don’t have these lists and if you eat some ‘junk’ food, it’s not a big deal. ⠀ 2. Less in touch with body cues: When you have strict rules around food, you become less in touch with your own body cues. This means it’s harder to tell when you are hungry and to determine the foods you like and dislike. Research has also shown that those with a a rigid attitude towards food are also more reactive towards food cues in the environment (like adverts for foods). Although it’s good to be aware of our environment, we want to be able to tap into our own cues too so that we can make food decisions that feel best for us in a given situation. ⠀ 3. More likely to binge: Research has shown that people who have a lot of rules around food are more likely to binge than those who don’t have these rules. That’s because being overly strict with food causes people to feel deprived (physically and mentally). When we have a more flexible approach to food, we are much more able to eat foods moderately because we know that those foods are always available. . Having a flexible relationship with food is hard. Mainstream and social media are continually promoting the idea of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods, telling us we need to cut out foods and have a lot of other rules around our eating. Having a structure for eating is helpful, such as focusing on eating plenty of nutrient dense foods but this should be flexible enough that we can eat foods that enjoy without feeling anxious or guilty about it.

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