I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concepts of “restriction” vs. “freedom.” For me, of course, the context is often around how to eat.
It is a given of RD orthodoxy (“registered dietitian,” but could perhaps also stand for “really dogmatic”) that “deprivation diets don’t work,” meaning that people won’t follow a restrictive diet, so we shouldn’t ask/advise/expect them to. People want to be free to eat whatever they want, right?
For someone like me, a food addict, the “freedom” to eat whatever I wanted was not freeing. After 30 years up and down the scale, sometimes up to sickening heights, I finally started looking at the equation in a completely different way.
Now I eat with what many would consider to be substantial restriction, but I don’t regard it that way. The twin sterling examples are that I don’t eat refined sugar and refined grain (flour). Suggest that to many people and they think those choices, especially the former, would be worse than death.
But the fact is, nobody is making me do these things. I am free to return to them at any time, and after experimenting, especially with the latter, I have chosen to avoid them.
So I’m choosing, freely, to restrict. Is that restriction or freedom? My counterintuitive experience is that my restrictions have been freeing. No, really. I have tried life with flour and refined sugar, and I’ve tried life without them, and “without” is better, on balance, for me. That doesn’t mean I don’t like floury, sugary things — I just have made the judgment that I like the absence of them in my life even more.
Sweet-tasting things are not a birthright. In nature, sweetness is a signal that a substance is not poisonous. But the sweet concoctions in processed-food America don’t occur in nature, and I suggest that macro evidence — 2 of 3 adults, 1 or 3 children in America either obese or overweight — shows that they are indeed poisonous to a fairly large subset of people, if on the slow installment plan.
As crazy as it sounds, the best nutritional advice for some people might be to try restrictive diets, if only for long enough to see if doing so brings relief. My experience strongly suggests it would be.
*Apologies to Janis Joplin, and perhaps to everyone.