Paleo and vegan diets each have their selling points. But the dark side of these diets, like most dieting plans, is the intensity of their restrictions. No diet plan considers the psychological implications of labeling food “good” or “bad”.
Newton’s third law of physics tells us: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. I’ve known self-proclaimed vegans who secretly frequent McDonald’s drive-throughs to order Big Macs. I’ve known paleo people who binge on sugar and grains all weekend, claiming the 80/20 rule.
The quest for a perfect diet is a quest for perfectionism. And perfectionism is elusive and constraining.
And underneath the desire for weight-loss, for vibrant health, is a true craving for freedom.
You want to feel free to eat a dessert without judgment – from yourself or others. You crave freedom from your exhaustion and worry about the cancer that took your Aunt. You yearn to be free of the fear of starting to date again.
Diet plans cannot give you what they don’t have. They don’t have your life partner around the corner. They don’t have a way to mend your relationship with your Mother. They can’t give you 36 hours in a day.
Binges and off-track moments, whether you are paleo, vegan or even following your own restricted plan, are your body’s way of demanding more freedom. On your plate. In your life.
Showing my clients the wisdom in their overeating is one of my favorite parts of our work together. Excessive wine on the weekends isn’t a problem, it’s a solution for relaxing after a stressful week. Eating at night isn’t the problem, it’s the solution to a tightly wound day.
Going “off-track” reflects a need for a release from restriction. It’s the body asserting its will about a desire for a lighter, freer life.
Once the craving for freedom is satiated, a relaxed way of eating follows naturally; it’s always best to bet on the wisdom of your body versus a charismatic diet guru.
Here’s an exercise to identify and administer medicinal doses of freedom:
- Get a piece of paper and at the top, write “Control Inventory”.
- List everything in your life you are trying to control. Include everything from how you look in your jeansfrom last fall to the emotional baggage of who you want to like, love and adore you.
- Identify the easiest thing to work through and surrender. For example, I’m currently nursing a hamstring injury. Rather than resisting (another form of control) the limitations of my cardio workouts, I’m doing exercises like Pilates and weight training that won’t interfere with my healing. Maybe you need to take a trip to Goodwill that will help you relinquish some things that are no longer of use to you or allow yourself the freedom to enjoy foods you’ve labeled “bad”.
Once you experience the lightness of surrendering something simple, you’ll be inspired to tackle the more difficult stuff in your life (hello long-distance marriage!).
It’s important to note that surrendering doesn’t mean weakness. If anything, the process itself transforms you into a stronger, more confident person. You receive the lightness you were genuinely after in the first place with your diet and nutritional success. What’s healthier than that?
I provide a more detailed road map for the wisdom of overeating in Truce with Food. This is the last week to sign-up and there is a spot left. Is it yours?
To non-descript diets with distinctive results,