Is restricting your diet really bad?

Hearty Walnut, Kale & Goats Cheese Frittata

I believed this myth for years.

The whole idea that restricting your diet is a bad idea.

Because it leads to bingeing.

It seemed so logical.

Human nature.

Right?

But then I went on my low carb journey to manage my diabetes.

On one level I felt uneasy about ‘restricting’ my diet.

Because we’re not ‘supposed’ to restrict.

But my practical experience was that restriction helped me.

When I eat low carb my blood sugar is super easy to manage.

My appetite is in a happy balance.

My life is easier.

I don’t want to eat carbs.

Or binge on bread.

And I noticed the same thing in my coaching clients.

Which made me realize that maybe there could be such as thing as positive restriction.

It all comes down to the reason why you’re restricting.

If it’s because you hate your body and you want to punish yourself to lose weight.

You know how that ends.

BUT if your restriction is coming from a place of self love.

From wanting to take care of your health.

Then it can be a beautiful thing.

What do you think?

Do you restrict your diet in any way? And how is that working for you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

And have fun in the kitchen!

With love,
Jules x

ps. If you’d like to go deeper into this concept. And how it can possibly help you, I’d love you to join me in Stonesoup Health Coaching.

It’s an exclusive online coaching group with 1:1 mentoring.

Where I personally help you improve your health.

And find peace with food.

Without dieting.

Or all the struggle.

Click here to discover more.

___________________________

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50 Comments

  • I follow time restricted eating-eating 1-2 meals within about a 4-6 hour time frame-but no more than 8 hour time frame. It has made all the difference. Some call it Intermittent fasting. I call it magic. I don’t count calories or pay attention to anything more than having a clean fast of 18+ hours.

      • I can’t wait to read your take on IF. It’s something I’ve been experimenting with too.

        All eating plans are restrictive to some extent. The conventional “wisdom” of restricting calories and/or fat for health and weight loss is the best example. The oft-touted vegan diet also restricts food groups.

        I’ve found that when “restrictive” is used a negative sense, it’s in relation to eating plans that haven’t gained mainstream acceptance like keto/paleo/IF. When discussing vegan/vegetarianism/low-fat/low-cal, the necessary dietary restrictions get glossed over and no one talks about it as being unhealthy. At least, that’s been my observation.

    • I’ve gravitated to a variation of IF: I eat only when truly hungry. Obviously, there are exceptions, as when we go out for dinner or have friends/family over, and I’ve played with IF for a while so I know my body’s reaction sensations. Also, I don’t eat before a morning exercise to induce it to burn belly fat. Since May, I’ve lowered my weight set point from 152 to 147. Full disclosure: I’ve been a member of a wellness program run by my PCP and nutritionist in the practice for 9 years whose goal is to reduce risk factors via lifestyle changes. to learn more, Google “Wellness Campaign”.

  • I agree that your motivation impacts your experience. I follow what my friends and family call “too restrictive” eating plan – primarily ketogenic with very low carbs. This helps me manage my diabetes. Yes there are times that I have pined for the good old days when I didn’t have to make so many decisions but I like the food I’m eating and I have found low carb alternatives for most of my favorite higher carb choices. It’s this or medication and I don’t want to take medication unless I really have to. Your many suggestions, Jules, have improved my cooking choices and skills. I love your KISS principle – keep it simple sweetheart!

  • I have chosen to restrict my carbs somewhat, to control my blood sugar. I find out tomorrow morning how it’s working for that. But it is also allowing me to take off some of my excess weight. Slowly but steadily, and that’s even with eating more fat, including nuts. Its just amazing to me. I’ve spent a good part of my life on diets, trying to lose weight, and I always gained most of it back (I seem always to stop the gain 10 pounds short of my prior weight). I hate diets and have given up on them. Even things like the last program I did which was supposed to be not a diet, but was. Making the choice to eat less and/or differently for positive reasons is turning out to be very rewarding. I feel really good about what I’ve been able to do. Depending on my A1c results tomorrow, I may restrict carbs further, though I’m hoping not to have to do that. However, if it’s necessary, I would be doing so for positive reasons.

      • Jules, unfortunately it went back up to 5.9. My doctor assured me that it could hang in that area for years without becoming actual diabetes, but that doesn’t make me feel any better about it. I am starting to restrict carbs more, in hopes that it helps, but I’m thinking that given my heritage, my body may be headed for diabetes no matter what I do. At least I can try, and I am still happy with how my weight is going down. I have follow-up tests in 4 months.

        • Sorry to hear that Susan. But hang in there – by restricting carbs further you’re totally doing the right thing. You can turn it around and you definitely don’t have to be destined for diabetes – changing your diet really will make a difference! The exercise piece is also really beneficial – so thinking about what you can do to increase that area might be helpful

  • I just started using an app to be more mindful of my macros, something I’ve never paid any attention to or really understood. I’m plant based, pretty much dairy free and have fish occasionally just because this has evolved into how I feel like my best self. I have also tried IF and it’s all a work in progress, just experimenting and finding what works for you. I LOVE food so it’s a delicious journey!

  • As a participant in a diabetes prevention class, I accepted the challenge to restrict my fats to about 40 grams a day as part of an otherwise balanced diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. We also committed to increasing our physical activity. I lost 15% of my body weight and my feet stopped hurting so much.

    Previously when I restricted my diet, I knew it was temporary and I felt deprived. This is a new lifestyle. I can eat anything, but choose to restrict fat so that I’ll maintain my weight loss and be more likely to stay diabetes-free. As a life-time “fatty,” I still feel fat even though my BMI is about 25. But because I did this for my health and not my appearance, I know that I’m successful.

    • Nice one Jan – and love how you are seeing it at a new lifestyle that you’re choosing. Maybe it’s time to change how you think of yourself as well?

  • As a vegetarian with a recent high cholesterol count I cut out the chips/cheese/most dairy and managed to lose 10kg over months putting me down to 55kg … still aim to lose another 3kgs but so hard in winter and with so many parties .. and please note.. the occasional social cheese platter and the occasional nicking of chip from someone else’s plate have not hindered my overall health goals BB

  • We evolved in such a way as to overeat when food is available in order to have fat stores to draw upon in times of food shortage. In modern developed countries, most people never run smack-dab up against a food shortage, so they never draw upon the fat stores they’ve accumulated. The only solution is to eat less than what our nature tells us to eat (“Eat as much as you can now, while food is available, because tomorrow the hunting and gathering may yield mighty slim pickin’s”).

    I’m weary of reading opinions about the horrors of diets (that they don’t work, that they show an unhealthy inability to accept our bodies as they are, that it’s possible to be “fat and fit” and on and on). I have restricted my food intake for years (I am almost 88 years old) because I am convinced that overweight and obesity are not compatible with good health. Is it sometimes difficult? Yes. MOST WORTHWHILE THINGS ARE.

  • I started my change of diet because of my type 2 diabetes. I did 3 months with Jules’s programme and it has changed my life. I now am on low carbs, no sugar and can’t believe how good I feel. My doctor says I am her model patient and I am now pre diabetic but still have to watch what I eat. Can’t thank you enough Jules your programme certainly kick started me and I have not looked back. Lost weight feel great and sugar levels great.

  • I am lactose and gluten intolerant. The restriction has been great for me. I eat very few non vegetable carbs, rarely eat fruit and am no longer challenged by cookies and other super sweet foods. My craving for them has changed with the restrictions of my diet- something I couldn’t have imagined in my 20’s. I eat simply, my weight is good and I feel better than when I was eating everything. Have been eating this way over 12 years. So I say, more power to you Jules for taking the time to find out what foods work with your body and respecting that.

  • Restriction & limits are part of life. When we raise children, we teach them to enjoy their bodies & their minds, but we also teach them to set limits, to not throw tantrums (gradually they learn!) & that they can’t have everything right in the moment they want it. A child (or an adult for that matter) who just follows all their urges right at the moment they occur is a very unhappy person indeed.

    This is why I’ve always struggled hugely with the idea of intuitive eating. There is nothing ‘good’ about nature and our urges & hungers that means we have to follow them at every single moment, nor is there anything ‘bad’ about nature & our urges & hungers, if that makes sense. Our body & nature ‘just are’; at times they play tricks on us eg if we eat too much sugar our bodies want more, just for hormonal reasons. We don’t need to say yes to that.

    Our bodies & physical urges need to be accepted, thought about and yes sometimes restricted. I cannot see anything good with obesity & I’ve had the experience of family members being destroyed by it, so no I don’t agree with the idea of ‘health at every size’. I think that idea idealises ‘nature’ and the idea of the ‘body knows it all’ which is simply not true: the body does many good things but also produces illness (that is also natural).

    Of course I don’t need to say (I take it as a given) that a stigma-based, all or nothing, excessive diet mentality is negative & won’t work. But an interest in improvement, weight loss, healthier food & more balanced eating is a pleasure & an ongoing goal, similar to exercise, improving our work habits etc.

    • Love the idea of comparing dietary restriction to setting limits for children Maria!

      Brilliant – in fact I think I’m going to think about my dietary restriction as dietary ‘boundaries’ from now on. All of the positives without the negative side of restriction. Thank you for this different terminology :)

  • I love fasting when possible.
    Regarding a specific diet, I like to follow “rules” that I know is good for me. In that case, I call it a “health life style” rather than a “restrictive diet”.
    “Restrictive” brings a negative connotation this is why I liked reading your explanation.
    Thanks for sharing ?

  • The only diets I have had any success with have been what I call yes/no diets, diets that have lists of food I can and cannot eat. I’ve attributed that to not being able to cope with counting AND denying myself, two things I’m not good at, at the same time. But maybe it’s because I do better with avoiding something than I do with limiting how much I have of it.

    • Interesting Cheryl. There certinaily is somethin to be said for the clarity and specificity of the ‘yes/no’ approach. I’m really curious if this has worked for you for the long term. And I’m wondering what would happen if you created your own list of foods that you choose to eat / avoid. Rather than being told?

  • Restriction in diet is a challenging topic for me.

    I grew up with a mother with disordered eating, and through my teens & twenties, my best friend developed severe eating disorders that saw her institutionalized several times. They both talked endlessly about Good & Bad foods, & restricted constantly, often to extremes.

    I knew what they were saying was wrong, & fought with them both endlessly about it. But it was also an extreme amplification of messages from our society regarding weight, especially for women, and I felt constantly barraged.

    For most of my life, I mostly avoided restriction, which I associate with their disorders, but tried to keep my overall food volume down.

    I’m not heavy, but neither am I particularly thin. When I did break down under the pressure & diet, it did literally nothing. I know I didn’t “cheat”. The diets just literally did nothing.

    I have been eating less & less for years, and switched to a whole foods, high nutrient diet. And I gained weight.

    This was a constant with exercise as well. It makes me feel a lot better, but I rarely lose weight.

    In my mind, this means either weight loss doesn’t work the way they tell me it does, or my body had it’s own rules. The difference is moot, really.

    So I am exploring different options. I have never been a sweet tooth, but eat only a very small amount of processed sugar at all now. I feel much better, and have maintained this for a few years now.

    I am constantly reducing my wheat intake. This is brutal. I love bread. But I feel much better.

    Both the Mr. & I have turned out to be pretty sensitive to preservatives, so we eat pretty chemical-free.

    I am now working with intermittent fasting. This would have been impossible before the high nutrient eating (blood sugar issues, borderline hypoglycemic), but my blood sugar is so much more level now.

    I find I do best with reduction, rather than restriction. I successfully reduced my refined sugar (all kinds, including HFCS) down to about 2 squares of dark chocolate a day, with the occasional dessert if it’s really good quality & I really want it. My wheat and simple card consumption is way down, but if I want a slice of good pizza, I can have it. It doesn’t open the floodgates. I just keep minimizing wheat.

    I do work very hard to deal with any unhealthy voices from the past as they come up, as well as my own backlash to them. I’m doing this to feel my best, and I do. While I would like to lose weight, it’d not the focus. It can’t be, for me. I would lose all hope & motivation.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience of living with people so close to you with disordered eating Katherine. Interesting that you noticed them food moralizing. And I think that raises an important point that I didn’t cover.

      Just because I choose to limit my carb intake doesn’t mean carbs are ‘bad’.

      And if I ever really want a slice of pizza, like you I can have it. Without any guilt or shame (and with lots of enjoyment!).

      I’m a huge believer that there aren’t any good or bad food.

      I’m curious how are you finding intermittent fasting?

  • After battling with food and theories for over 40 years, I totally agree with you. Guardrails keep us safe and free to enjoy life.

  • I really needed to read this as I have struggled with disordered eating throughout my life. I lost a lot of weight last year with a nutritionist but as soon as I hit my goal weight, I had a burnout and put it all back on and another 10kg…
    Since then I have been “dancing” with intuitive eating but I do have to lose weight again as I have a fatty liver, so I can’t just eat whatever I fancy.
    I think you are absolutely right that there are restrictions we need to it in place for our own wellbeing. A huge thank you for this post. It has really helped me think through some difficult concepts.

    • I’m so glad you found it helpful Kate.

      And after reading some of the comments here maybe thinking of whatever you decide to do as dietary boundaries or guardrails might be a more gentle way to approach whatever you decide to do.

      I have a friend with fatty liver who has been losing weight and improving their health markers by following a low(ish) carb approach. You might find it helpful if you can find a gentle way to approach it.

      Another way to think about it. If you were coeliac it would be a no-brainer to restrict gluten.

      Jx

  • Thanks for asking Jules. I hugely restrict my diet, eliminating to the best of my ability wheat and sugar. I’m not celiac, but something in any kind of wheat, whether it’s bread, pasta, white rice, or white potato drives my system nuts. Maybe it’s the starch. I also do intermittent fasting. My stomach is not ready for food before noon or sometimes 2:00. I feel so good when I stick to this. It’s very hard when I’m invited to someone else’s home and they think they’re treating me to a lovely dessert. I don’t want to be rude, so I eat some and then pay the price.
    I’m finding keto recipes to be very helpful with my digestion. I really appreciate your veg and meat recipes.

    • Glad you’ve found something that works for you Barb :)

      Being a guest is a tricky situation.

      If I know the hosts well, I generally say before hand don’t make dessert for me because of my diabetes. And it’s not a problem. But if I don’t know the hosts well it is harder to navigate.

  • I have been following a low carb diet for close on 4 years. I started with IF in January of this year – because …. It is good for me. I do not eat carbs, because it isn’t good for me, I do IF because it is not good for me to be overfed. I try not to think about good foods and bad foods, just what I think is good for me personally.

    • Thanks, Jules! I have never felt that you moralized about food, which is probably why I enjoy your blog & your recipes so much.

      I do eat carbs, but mostly whole grains & rice. So I do serve your delicious stirfries over rice; they’re pretty much my ideal food for my bod.

      As for intermittent fasting, I have only been doing it for about a month. It’s going well, actually. It’s helping me re-learn what hunger signals mean. Growing up, low blood sugar lead to hideous headaches & the chance of passing out, so hunger meant to immediately eat something.

      Now that my diet suits my body a lot better, I don’t get those crashing lows, so hunger doesn’t have to be an emergency. This is literally brand new to me at 44.

      It’s also letting me work on the disordered programming from my past in small doses. Deliberately restricting & being hungry is a little triggering, but I’m working through it.

      I can’t really say much more, it hasn’t been long enough. It feels right. I’ve never liked eating first thing in the AM, but had to for my blood sugar.

      I think it’s also helped me keep my weight steady over a tough month with a lot of mediocre food choices, which I appreciate.

      • Sorry, this posted in a funny place, it was in response to Jules’ comment on my comment… Technology!

        Thanks, too, Laetitia. I like that you keep it to “good for me” or “not good for me”. That works for me, too!

      • Thanks for sharing your experience Katherine. Sounds like you are doing some great work :)

        And glad to hear you’re finding fasting helpful. I love it.

  • Guardrails sound like Bright Line Eating, a hugely successful program by Susan Pearce Thompson. Have any of you tried that? Her book and videos explain the biochemistry of why it’s better to remove sugar and flour completely, rather than reduce. I have had success with this approach, except when it comes to alcohol (a sugar) – my guardrails tend to crumble if I allow it, but struggling with not wanting to give up my glass of wine or beer with friends on the weekend.

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