UN-Podcast 040: Is My Healthy Diet Restrictive?

What is restriction?

Restriction is a compulsive act, a desperate attempt to control a world that feels disordered by handing over your power to a disorder that pretends to be manageable. It’s the attempt to discipline a chaotic mind with the misplaced bullying of a powerless body. 

Restriction is a subconsciously malicious act, punishment for a body that refuses to act as your mind wills it. It’s a removal of the things you love for the sake of purposely leaving a hole in their place—a reminder than you do not deserve to feel full.

[image source]

In the nutrition world, restriction is practiced with the halo of health, but the intention of weight loss. In the nutrition world, less is more is always less—and it leads to the awful pendulum swing to more and more and more. Restriction and bingeing: equal and opposite reactions.

In the nutrition world, restriction is practiced and maintained through lies—to yourself and others:

“I know I’m only eating oatmeal and egg whites and protein powder and sugar-free syrup, but I feel so full all of the time. And I have so many options—I can make pancakes and mug cakes and protein pudding. That’s not restriction at all.”

“I have points/calories/macros left over today/it’s my cheat day. I’m free to eat—I’m not restricted at all.”

“Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. I’m not restricted; I’m skinny. You see the difference?”

Me neither.

But what do you do when you have to make a change to your diet for your health? When eliminating an inflammatory food means the difference between living an optimal life and dealing with crippling stomach pain, skin problems, hormonal imbalances, or more serious diseases like MS, diabetes, Alzheimer’s or cancer?


What do you do when the “unrestricted” eating has to brush past the realm of restriction? Especially if you come from a past that includes disordered eating (anything from yo-yo dieting to a full blown ED), restriction—rules, elimination, plans, goals, etc.—can be a slippery slope.

So many people choose to restrict for aesthetics. For punishment. This body I have is not the body I want, so I will chip away at it until it looks or weighs the way I desire it to be. Restriction is the attempt of a willful mind to conquer an unwilling body. Restriction for aesthetics will ultimately lead to ill health (physical and/or mental).

That’s why I have to tread carefully around the “gluten-free”/Paleo/etc. etc. world. Is my healthy diet restrictive? Are we here because we’re trying to define our bodies through rules and limitations?  Or because we’re allowing ourselves to open up our diets and nourish our bodies in a different way?

When I was a vegan, I was restricting. My ultimate goal was to be light and thin and free. Instead, I broke my hormones and found myself chained to a body worked even more poorly than when I first started punishing it.

When I first started eating Paleo, I was restricting. My ultimate goal was to heal myself from the damage I had done as a vegan—but also to get thin.

And then something snapped. My health took center stage. Thin stopped meaning. Restriction fell away. I put away the bathroom scale, let the food scale’s batteries die, removed the calorie counting apps from my phone. I went to the farmer’s market. Bought new cuts of meat. Learned to love new vegetables. Added heaps of saturated and monounsaturated fat. And I allowed my body to change–without trying to control it.

There’s a line between restricting for thinness and changing your diet for health reasons. And it’s a fine, fine, fine, fine line. But I believe it’s possible to choose health-promoting food without falling into the trap of orthorexic/restrictive thinking–or just giving up and adding twinkles to the shopping cart. It starts with choosing your body over your mind. It starts with choosing to do the scary thing of potentially gaining weight so you can get your hormones in order. With choosing to let go of your desire for a six pack to ensure your bones won’t break when you’re 30. With choosing to love your body instead of trying to force it into submission.

This week’s podcast with Jennifer Fugo from Gluten Free School attempts to parse the language of restriction. Although Jennifer didn’t come from a background of ED, she works with clients who have had to start doing the work to put their bodies first and their minds’ desire for a different body second.

The number one lesson you’ll learn is: how to TAKE CARE of YOU.


Go Listen Now!


 I’d love to hear your thoughts on where the restriction/health line begins and ends—and how you have found a way to start taking care of yourself. (But please be civil…I know this is a highly charged topic, and people tend to get a little incensed about it…)

Stay hungry,



“I’m Feeling Lucky:” The Internet is Broken, So Stop Googling For Health.


Here’s my problem: the more research I do on different nutritional recommendations for diet and lifestyle, the more I am convinced that the internet is broken.  Everyone—myself included—has an idea of what constitutes an ideal diet, fitness plan, or lifestyle, … Continue reading 

Un-Podcast 035: UNcooked (Michelle Norris)


[source] If I’ve learned nothing else in the past year and a half of this journey to health, I’ve at least learned this: You cannot change the world by yourself. You cannot change yourself by yourself. For 13 years, I … Continue reading 

UN-Podcast 030: UNbalanced (Dietitian Cassie)


[source] BALANCE: noun An even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady. (stability of one’s mind or feelings.) A condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions. verb Keep or put … Continue reading 

Why I Don’t “What I Ate Wednesday”


How many of you out there follow a blog that features “What I Ate Wednesday?” Raise your hands high, now–and then look around. I bet you see a lot of (imaginary, virtual) hands in the air. During the days of … Continue reading 

Why I’m Not a Vegan, Epilogue: Is Paleo the Right Answer?


My Disclaimer  My decision to stop being a vegan was based on a gut feeling–literally and figuratively: the blog post(s) that I’m about to provide you with are simply based on all of the research I’ve done since making the … Continue reading 

Why I’m Not a Vegan, Part 7: Veganism and Eating Disorders


My Disclaimer  My decision to stop being a vegan was based on a gut feeling–literally and figuratively: the blog post(s) that I’m about to provide you with are simply based on all of the research I’ve done since making the … Continue reading