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Restricted to Free

Do you ever worry about what would happen if you allowed yourself the freedom of eating without restriction, without avoiding foods you love because you’re afraid you’ll go overboard and simply never stop eating them?

I used to feel that way, that once I started I would never be able to stop. I didn’t trust myself enough to believe I could find a moderate approach, because all the messages I got from society said that wasn’t the way to go. And I had failed so often at other attempts to lose weight and get my eating under control that I had no faith in myself – I would simply fail again.

This is the common myth pervading our society, and yet is it exactly that – a myth. Consider, for instance, another transition from restriction to freedom: growing up and leaving home. It might be going off to college, or simply moving away from your parents’ house. Either way, you likely have more freedom at that time than previously.

How much more, and how you react to it, often depends on your parents. If they were flexible, or had some reasonable boundaries, you might try new things in moderation, such as partying, drinking, sex, drugs, etc. If, on the other hand, you came from a restrictive household, you might end up doing a lot of those things, reveling in the absence of rules.

Yet we don’t expect that all young people in this situation will continue such extreme behavior forever. Most people, once they get it out of their system, figure out how to balance everything, decide when it’s okay to go a little overboard, and when it makes sense to get a good night’s sleep, or stay sober.

Why, then, do we expect food to be so much different? Yes, we do need to eat to survive, unlike consuming alcohol or going to parties, but the reality is, if you truly let yourself free of those restrictions, you probably won’t want to overdo it all the time. You’ll start noticing how it feels when you overindulge, a not very good feeling, and your body will let you know when it’s ready for something different.

At least, that’s been my experience, and that of others I know who’ve moved away from restrictive eating. The cookies and candies and pies and cakes no longer hold the appeal of the forbidden, and in some cases may not hold much appeal at all.

If you’re still not convinced, ask yourself this – has restriction made you happy and healthy and gotten you where you wanted to be? If not, it may well be worth giving freedom a try.

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