Friday, July 4, 2014

Declare Your Freedom: Gaining independence from diets and disorders.

This stormy day, oppressed by the weather and the limits on my freedom to enjoy the outside, I find myself home, contemplating your freedom. It’s July 4, a national holiday in these united states.  Fortunate to have been born in the US, never oppressed by my government, I take for granted the freedoms that some yearn for. Yet through my day to day interaction with patients, I’m painfully aware of how enslaved many are by their own thoughts and actions—though admittedly not by their choosing. Most wish not to suffer, but feel entrapped; they are overwhelmed by the rules which dictate what’s acceptable to eat and the intrusive thoughts and judgments about their eating and activity. They irrationally fear anything from white flour and sugar to fats. Sometimes the type of foods is not the issue, but the portions are. At first glance, a food record may look impressively normal—until I probe about quantities consumed—the limited bites here and pieces there that are actually consumed.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”

While this preamble to the Declaration paves the way to addressing national independence, it’s predicated on individual rights.  Yet how many of you acknowledge these basic entitlements?

Equality. Do you feel that your needs should be considered equally with those around you? Do you consider your needs—for time for yourself, for eating when you need to and what you feel like? Do you feel deserving of pleasurable dining experiences? Or is such pleasure only for other people to experience?

Life. A full and satisfying life. Yes, you are deserving of this too. A healthy life, allowing you to engage in whatever you enjoy. A life not eaten up by self criticism.

Liberty. Freedom from food rules (barring medically critical ones, like avoidance of an allergen that causes a reaction). And liberation from mental hoops you jump through whenever you consider food and eating. Must you feel guilty if something tastes ‘too good’?

The pursuit of happiness. Can you even imagine what this is? Do you remember what you were passionate about before food and diets snatched it all away? What do you dream about when you free yourself from the bitterness of your diets, of your restrictions, of your unrealistic expectations for size?

Freedom can be scary. But independence from both diets and disorders is the sure way to support life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I don’t think it’s simple. But taking a stand for change is a valuable first step.Seek out supports--an experienced therapist, dietitian and medical provider can help. But also use your close connections--don't be afraid to ask loved ones for help. Become informed--there's a wealth of posts on this blog on nutrition realities and great links to other reputable bloggers and websites, as well as my books, drop the diet and food to eat, coauthored with ASPIRE's founder, Cate Sangster.

What steps will you take to declare your independence?


  1. I have had an eating disorder for over twenty years and it can definitely feel like the opposite of freedom.The pursuit of happiness...that is something to think about, for sure. I suppose we have to acknowledge that having an eating disorder and being happy are really not compatible. I keep thinking I can find a balance - enough food and a bit of exercise and feeling stronger and all will be ok, I just cannot seem to achieve it.

    1. Yes, they are incompatible! Do reach out for support to help yourself reach that place of freedom.