July 16, 2021

Finding Food Freedom

Picture it.

You’re at a birthday party, and there is a beautiful tower of cupcakes. You love cupcakes. We’re talking real deal, like four tiers of cupcakes. All sorts of flavors — vanilla, chocolate, lemon, funfetti. The frosting looks prime. You can tell the cake looks super dense and moist and absolutely delicious.

4 tiered tower full of cupcakes of all flavors

Suddenly, you’re interrupted from admiring the cupcakes by intrusive, rapid thoughts that start bombarding you.

“Oh but wait…I’m supposed to be on a diet!” or

“I just ate ice cream 2 nights ago” or

“that probably has SO MUCH sugar. That’s so bad for you” or

“I’m going to the beach this weekend, I really shouldn’t.”

Surely, many of us can relate to being in situations like that. We make SO many decisions each day around food and drink. When should I eat, what should I eat, how much should I eat, where should I order from, where should I grocery shop? The decisions are endless.

On top of these decisions, we deal with diet culture messaging (check out this link for a good read, including Christy Harrison’s very thorough and widely referenced definition of diet culture). It can feel like there are a million competing messages and factors that are trying to influence our decisions around food. When that starts to happen, it can be difficult to listen to your own body. But truly, YOU are the ONLY one who can know what feels best for your body. Food is very personal, as we’ve touched on before.

What is Food Freedom?

picture of a burger and french fries with the words "food freedom" and a megaphone to represent the concept of finding food freedom

So, how do we break this cycle? We practice finding food freedom. We find food freedom when we are in control of our food choices, as opposed to letting food or outside messaging control us. Instead of listening to those bombarding thoughts, you learn to listen to your body and you learn what makes you feel good. You trust yourself. There is no drama.


Culinary Freedom

How freeing would it be to see a recipe that includes real butter, or full-fat yogurt, or white rice and feel free to choose to use those ingredients because you know it will yield the best-tasting recipe?! How nice would it feel to double the vegetables in a recipe because the recipe is looking a little skimpy on the veggies and you know your body needs some veggies stat?! And instead of feeling guilty for having a few meals recently that are less balanced than usual, you pat yourself on the back for thinking about what your body needs nutritionally and making it happen.

That is CULINARY FREEDOM! You take what works for you, and leave what doesn’t. YOU make those deliberate choices.

table with breakfast items spread across, like eggs, waffles, mimosas

What Does Finding Food Freedom Look Like?

When we find food freedom, we make food decisions based on pleasure, satisfaction and nourishment, and NOT based on diet plans, food rules or guilt. It means you feel safe around food, and you trust yourself and your choices.

Finding food freedom could look like indulging when it’s worth it, such as when your absolute favorite dessert appears at a party. Finding food freedom could look like passing when it’s not worth it for you, such as chips that come with your sandwich but you’re not a big chip guy so you pass. Finding food freedom could also be that you pack a big salad for lunch on Monday because you didn’t get a lot of veggies in over the weekend. In all cases, you do not feel shame or guilt because you made deliberate, conscious choices around your food.

We find food freedom when we make conscious food choices and feel at peace with our decisions, whether it is to eat something or not to eat something. There is no morality inherent in our food choices, and yet so much messaging we receive from society tells us the opposite. This means it can take some work to unlearn that messaging and start listening to yourself. But friends, it is doable and you are worth it.

5 Tips to Consider to Start Finding Your Food Freedom!

gif of Oprah with arms outstretched and happy open-mouthed expression

1) Notice how you feel when you consume social media, or maybe a “diet” cookbook that you have, a podcast, or any other influence you are exposed to on a regular basis. Like actually pause and take time to notice your thoughts and emotions. Is there an account that maybe you started out feeling inspired by, and now it kinda makes you feel bad about yourself? 

2) Now for any and all of those influences you identified that make you feel like your body is inadequate or tells you you can (subtext: should) lose 10 lbs with a freaking juice cleanse or some “detox tea” — toss it, unfollow, unsubscribe, #boybye. They are wrong on so many levels and you do NOT need that in your life. That messaging interferes with your thoughts and emotions and makes it difficult to truly listen to yourself.

3) Next time your favorite dessert comes into your life, eat it. Enjoy the hell out of it. Savor every bite. Say thank you to the nice person who gave it to you (including yourself if you gave it to yourself!), and say thank you to the food for bringing you such divine pleasure. Literally, say thank you out loud and smile. Flap your wings, do a little happy dance, show the world and yourself that you are JAZZED about this food and the experience of eating it.

4) Next time you are presented with something you feel meh about, pass on it. Say no thank you. No drama here, just making a choice that honors your satisfaction. This is when you truly begin to trust your intuition because you finally understand that no one is taking food away from you. You’re in control. You can eat that next time if you feel like it. 

5) Is there a food that’s been “off limits” for you? For many of our clients, the answer is yes. Take some time to think about if this applies to you. If it does, consider what it would be like to eat it. Maybe even actually eat it, if you’re ready for that. Remember, finding food freedom means having the control in your hands and trusting yourself to make conscious, deliberate choices around food. “Off-limit” foods are the opposite of that, so consider what it would be like to get rid of those limits.

Putting This Into Practice

Are you thinking…wow I’d love to:

  • Never feel guilty again around food
  • Know that absolutely every food is a food you can eat if you want to
  • Experience ultimate satisfaction and nourishment from your food daily
  • Have confidence in your body and your food choices

YOU CAN! Every one of us is capable of this. Honestly though quite often, it takes support, practice and consistency. That’s what we are here for. Our 1:1 nutrition counseling provides you with support, accountability and individualized recommendations to help you live your best damn life!! You deserve to feel good about your body and your food choices. You deserve to live a long, healthy and happy life. Finding food freedom is a big part of that journey, so take that first step and chat with us.


Photo by Rachel Park on Unsplash

Photo by Tai’s Captures on Unsplash

Gif “Excited Oprah Shouting” from giphy.com

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About the Author: Kelly Wagner, MS, RD, LDN

I'm a Registered Dietitian (RD) based in Chicago, IL. I have worked in both inpatient and outpatient settings, including dialysis, ICU, as well as one-on-one nutrition counseling and groups.


  1. Nikki July 19, 2021 at 1:22 pm - Reply

    Wow! Kelly, I’m really feeling like you are talking right to me! We’ll be connecting for my 1:1 soon. This is some great reading! I can’t wait to learn more.

    • Kelly Wagner, MS, RD, LDN July 19, 2021 at 10:26 pm - Reply

      Nikki, I’m so glad this resonated with you!! There’s more of where that came from :) Thanks for your feedback!

  2. Barb G July 25, 2021 at 10:16 pm - Reply

    Food freedom….this is information that will definitely help me lead my “best damn life.” You have given me so much support and new information just keeps coming via your blogs!! OUTSTANDING!!

    • Kelly Wagner, MS, RD, LDN July 27, 2021 at 6:50 pm - Reply

      Aww thanks, Barb! So so happy to hear that :)

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