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How to Stop Restricting Food and Enjoy Eating Again

You’re not alone—freedom is possible. Find compassionate guidance on how to stop restricting food and reclaim a lasting, joyful relationship with food.

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Are you wanting to lose weight but discouraged and defeated by a pattern of starting a new diet, losing weight, stopping the diet, and then regaining the weight that was lost?

I know I am! I successfully lost weight several times in the past by following different diets, but the weight never seemed to stay away, it always came back eventually.

I got tired of restrictions on what I could eat and when I could eat it, because it seemed that instead of helping me set boundaries with food, dieting made my cravings worse. I found myself binge eating the very foods I was trying to control with my diet!

After a while, I was no longer even enjoying food, because I experienced food guilt when I lost self-control, and I stopped dieting. But then I became discouraged when my weight increased once more, so I tried another diet and then the cycle happened all over again.

This kind of yo-yo dieting kept me from successful weight loss, and actually prevented me from having a healthy relationship with food.

This struggle that is experienced by so many women highlights how restrictive dieting often backfires. God desires a healthy, joyful relationship with food for us, one rooted in honoring our bodies and trusting His provision.

If you struggle with this, you’re not alone, but freedom is possible. Read on to find compassionate guidance on how to stop restricting food and reclaim a lasting, joyful relationship with food.

This article will outline a path to ditching food rules, rediscovering the joy of eating, and achieving a balanced approach to food with Christ at the center.

The Dangers of Restrictive Eating

How Restriction Backfires

An article in Scientific American on why diets don’t work gives an interesting suggestion — do not diet if you want to lose weight. The article goes on to say,

“Do not cut out groups of foods or count calories. Do not try to eat very little or deprive yourself. Such strategies backfire because of psychological effects that every dieter is all too familiar with: intense cravings for foods you have eliminated, binging on junk food after falling off the wagon, an intense preoccupation with food.”

Scientific American

One of the problems with restricting food in order to lose weight is that it can cause you to become unfamiliar with your body’s signals, so that you don’t know how to trust your hunger and fullness cues. This can be due to hormone imbalances or the stress that comes with limiting your food intake.

Restricting food can also limit you from getting important nutrients if you are taking out entire food groups in order to lose weight. Those food groups all have nutrients that are needed by the body God designed for you.

Often the act of restricting food is all it takes to really crave that food. It can encourage binge eating, because you find yourself obsessed with the food, thinking about it all the time, to the point that you just have to give in and eat.

By the time you reach that point, you will probably end up eating all the food you have been obsessing about, not just a small portion that might have been enough if you had not restricted yourself in the first place. It’s so hard, isn’t it? I know, I have struggled and succumbed in similar ways!

The Mental Toll of Restriction 

A graphic image with a text overlay that reads as: How to stop restricting food and enjoy eating again. In the left side is a photo of a woman smiling while eating her white plate full of healthy food.

Restricting your food can take a mental toll on you. It can cause you to overly focus on counting calories or eating only certain foods that are considered healthy and avoiding others that have been labeled as bad for you.

This can cause anxiety and stress as you are thinking about food all the time and assigning a kind of morality to it, so that it is either good or bad. Anytime you eat some “bad” food, you will feel guilty or ashamed of yourself, leading to low self-esteem or depression at your perceived inability to manage self-control.

This is the opposite of what God wants for you! He has provided good food in immeasurable quantities for you to enjoy. You can trust Him that what He has given is good for you. If you follow the Bible’s instruction to do everything for the glory of God, even your eating and drinking (1 Corinthians 10:31), you will be able to focus on God in gratitude and trust, instead of on your food. This will help you avoid eating (or not eating) in a wrong way or for the wrong reasons.

Restriction and Disordered Eating

Restrictive eating patterns can lead to an unhealthy focus on food, where the entire day is ruled by strict food rules, leading to mental exhaustion, physical hunger, and the likelihood of binging when you inevitably slip up and eat “bad” food. This cycle takes away all the joy that God intended you to have with His blessing of the food and the body He has given you.

My Struggle with Food Restriction

A Familiar Trap

I really believed for a long time that restrictive eating was the way to go for weight loss. I counted calories religiously, and it did help me lose weight for some time. But it was hard and stressful; hard, because I didn’t feel free to eat what I wanted, and stressful, because if I let up for a minute, I would start gaining weight again!

I would not allow myself to eat certain foods I loved because of their high calorie count. I was not “allowed” to eat any more food if I had reached my calorie count for the day, even if I was actually still truly hungry and needed to eat something.

I found myself counting on exercise to give me more calories to eat, but this backfired in that I was even more hungry, and I wasn’t losing weight because I was eating up my calories gained from exercise.

After I stopped dieting for a while, I felt happier because I was not restricting my food, but I also gained back much of the weight I was trying to lose. But when I started counting calories again, I found it even more difficult to restrict myself, and I ended up giving up repeatedly!

Seeking a Better Way

I eventually realized that being so restrictive was not in line with the peace and freedom God meant for me to have. Instead of attempting methods of weight loss that led to me feeling guilty and ashamed due to lack of self-control, I decided I needed to focus on God and learn how to eat more mindfully instead of restrictively.

I wanted to learn to hear God’s promptings through the Spirit and my body’s signals of fullness and hunger, instead of relying on restrictive calorie counting and deprivation that often led to binging.

God’s Design for Food and Our Bodies

Food as a Gift from God

According to Genesis 1:29, God has given food as a gift and a blessing, with seed-bearing plants and every tree that has fruit being given to us for food for our enjoyment.

Psalm 104:14-15 talks about wine that gladdens hearts, oil that makes faces shine, and bread that sustains hearts. Such a great variety of food has been given by God as a blessing and a source of nourishment.

Honoring Our God-Given Bodies

It is important to respect and honor the body God has given to you; you can do this by treating your body as a temple of the Holy Spirit.

Keeping your temple healthy is part of that care and respect, so eating nourishing food and getting the right amount of sleep and exercise is vital to maintaining good health.

Finding True Satisfaction in Christ

It is also important to remember that emotional eating and eating to fulfill cravings are often an attempt to fill a spiritual void in your life. That is a void that only Christ can satisfy.

Any attempt to satisfy a spiritual longing by running to the pantry will leave you feeling empty. When you honor and worship Christ, you will find total satisfaction for your heart and soul.

Practical Steps to Stop Restricting Food

Listening to Your Body Tune into Hunger and Fullness

God created your body to know when it is hungry and when it is full. When you learn to recognize those hunger cues, you will be able to differentiate between physical and emotional hunger, and respect comfortable fullness as designed by Him.

One way of recognizing hunger cues is to use a hunger scale. A hunger scale can help you decide how hungry or full you actually are — usually on a scale from one to ten — and it will also help you learn how to tell the difference between true, physical hunger and emotional hunger.

Rebuilding Trust with “Fear Foods”

If you have been restricting food for a significant amount of time, you may have learned to fear certain foods, either because you have learned to see them as bad or unhealthy, or you know that they trigger you to either crave them or binge on them if you allow yourself to eat them.

It is possible for you to break the cycle of fear and to reintroduce these foods into your diet.

  • Start by identifying the foods that cause you fear or anxiety, and try to determine what makes you fear them. Knowing what causes your strong reaction to the food can help you understand better how to counteract it.
  • It might also help to identify any food rules you have in place that are causing you to restrict your food and remind yourself to challenge them.
  • Make peace with your fear foods, reminding yourself that they are not bad or unhealthy, and asking God to help you see them without guilt, shame or fear.
  • Reincorporate these fear foods slowly back into your diet. It may help to reintroduce them in small amounts alongside foods you find safe and comfortable.

Remember that God has created all food for you and provides a vast variety for your enjoyment. With His help, you can learn to trust those foods again.

Mindful Eating for Greater Enjoyment

Sara at The Holy Mess offers some great insight into mindful eating, calling it,

“a conscious effort to slow down and pay attention to your food and body while eating. Mindful eating can help with weight loss and is also important for tuning in to learning your body’s signals. This approach increases your awareness of how you choose the foods and amounts of foods you eat.”

The Holy Mess

Eating mindfully means that you use all of your physical and emotional senses to experience and enjoy your food choices. This, in turn, will help you reconnect with food as God’s gift to you, and increase your gratitude for what He has given you.

Coping with Cravings in God’s Strength

When you are struggling with cravings for food, you can turn to God’s word and Bible verses about food for help in managing your difficult emotions. Don’t hesitate to seek God in prayer to ask for guidance and help in finding small steps you can take to protect yourself from food becoming a trap and a temptation.

1 Corinthians 10:13 is a powerful reminder of God’s provision for a way out when you are being tempted:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:13

Ask God to show you the escape route He has provided and the strength to take it. He is always close to you and will hear your cry for help:

“Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament. Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”

Psalm 5:1-3

When you lose heart because you are not seeing immediate results in your weight loss, remember that the goal is long-term results, not a fast reduction of the number on the scale. You will see results in time as you learn to eat mindfully, paying attention to your body.

God offers forgiveness, not condemnation (Romans 8:1), so be sure to seek Him for forgiveness when you yield to temptation — but remember also to give yourself grace

God has made provision in His grace for all the mistakes you will make, so you do not have to stay stuck in your feelings of shame.

The idea of trading your guilt in overeating for God’s grace is one of the key foundations in the Faithful Finish Lines Christian weight loss program. They will walk you through this in FFL 2.0.

Finding Freedom in Christ

Surrender Control to God

When you restrict your eating, you are trying to be in control, but in reality, it is ultimately God who is in control.  Surrendering control of your eating to God is the way to see progress. Ask Him for help in finding satisfaction in Him and seek His guidance in your food choices. He will help you!

Self-care Rooted in Christ

Strengthening your spiritual connection to Jesus will help you rely less on food to soothe your emotions, reducing emotional eating triggers. Instead of eating, try to engage in self-care activities that nourish your soul and reduce stress, such as Bible study, prayer, and worship.

Exercise, hobbies, spending time in nature, and engaging in creative pursuits are also good ways to care for yourself instead of relying on food for comfort.

When to Seek Additional Support

If you are seeking more guidance in your weight loss journey, a structured, faith-based approach may be the way to go. One such program is Faithful Finish Lines, a program which “keeps God at the center of your weight loss journey so that you can get to your goal weight and stay there for a lifetime.”  FFL offers a number of free weight loss challenges that are helpful as well as encouraging, in addition to their Signature Program, FFL 2.0.

Grace, Self-Compassion, and Finding Support

This is a Journey Guided by God

Healing your relationship with food will take time, so try not to become discouraged! God is walking with you all the way, and His grace will sustain you and cover you in any setbacks. God’s love for you will support you in your journey.

Loving Yourself as God Loves You

Remember that your worth is in Christ, not in your food choices. You are loved and accepted by Him and no choice you make can change that. Learn to love yourself as God loves you and allow Him to guide you towards food freedom.

Fellowship and Support

Losing weight can be challenging, especially as it is usually a slow process. It’s easy to become discouraged when faced with slow progress or setbacks. A supportive community can offer encouragement and help keep you focused on your goals. Your community can pray for you and help you keep your focus on God’s work in your life.

If you are in need of community, find support for yourself at your church or among a local body of like-minded women. You may also want to consider joining the Free Christian Weight loss Community. 

FAQ’s About Ways To Stop Restricting Food

How do I stop obsessing over food after restricting it?

A helpful word on food obsession comes from Your Latina Nutrition. She says, “The antidote to food obsession is food freedom. Food freedom means you have a good relationship with food. You allow yourself to eat a variety of foods in amounts that meet your body’s needs and satisfy you, and you do not measure your worth based on your eating habits.”

It may take some time to get used to eating foods you used to restrict, but eventually, as you let yourself have those foods, your obsession will diminish.

How to stop restricting food and still honor my weight loss goals?

When you stop restricting food because you realize it can often lead to binging and eating improperly, you can still honor your weight loss goals.  Be more lenient with your food rules and allow yourself to eat according to your body’s cues about hunger and fullness. Over time you will learn to recognize your body’s signals and find new comfort in eating mindfully.

How does a Christian approach to weight loss differ?

A Christian approach to weight loss differs from other weight loss programs because you are putting God first and trusting Him to help you with weight loss. The focus is on God’s work and not on a body image promoted by the secular world.

Becky at So Very Blessed states it very well: “Christian weight loss changes the focus from simply changing your body to transforming your soul and that lasting lifestyle change begins in your heart.”

Does this mean I can eat whatever I want?

You can eat whatever you want, as long as you are paying attention to your body’s cues and not overeating simply because you have the freedom to do so. Being mindful and practicing moderation allows you the freedom to eat without restriction, and as it becomes a habit of listening to your hunger and fullness cues, you will find you are not out of control with your eating.

If you are like me and you are experiencing struggles with restrictive dieting backfiring, remember that God desires a healthy, joyful relationship with food for us, one rooted in honoring our bodies and trusting His provision. 

You can stop following food rules and learn to eat mindfully as you listen to the Holy Spirit’s promptings and your body’s cues concerning hunger and fullness.

As you surrender control to God and seek out a community of Christian women to support you in your weight loss journey, you will rediscover the joy of eating, and achieve a balanced approach to food with Christ at the center. 

Dear God, 

I pray for myself and for my sister in Christ, that you would help us in our journey towards food freedom.

Give us the courage to let go of the rules we have made around the food we have been restricting, and help us to learn to be mindful as we trust you for guidance. 

Deepen our relationship with Christ so that we will be well in tune with His promptings and gain balance in our food choices.

Thank you for giving us food to nourish the bodies you have created; please help us to choose wisely as we enjoy the bounty you have provided for our joy and our nourishment.

A graphic image with a text overlay that reads as: How to stop restricting food and enjoy eating again. In the left side is a photo of a woman smiling while eating her white plate full of healthy food.

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