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What Food Freedom Is and Isn’t

Finding true food freedom is a nuanced discussion that has roots in many important conversations. The patriarchy, race, gender, body autonomy, and diet culture are just a few of the systems involved in bringing awareness to the food you are eating and how you are treating your body.

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Listening To Your Body’s Signals

I want you to feel the freedom to question what we have been taught about the ‘right way to eat’. Mindful eating is a great place to start, and it can help you relearn how to connect with yourself and what you enjoy. Nutrition from a non-diet perspective may seem like a strange concept, but it is only by raising your awareness and opening the door that you can stop pursuing perfection and start listening to your body’s signals.

What Is Food Freedom?

Food freedom does not mean restricting yourself, going back to eating ‘regularly’, and then if you begin to feel yourself ‘falling off the wagon’ or ‘losing control’, that the solution is to go back to the restriction. 

Food freedom is embracing the freedom to eat foods that make you feel good, that are enjoyable and satisfying, and are without unnecessary restriction. Food freedom means eating in a way that enhances your life, and that is helpful to your mind, and body, and emotions, and spirit, and culture.

Health Over Perfection

Young girls should not be growing up in a diet culture, fatphobic world. You are inherently worthy and valuable no matter what, and we deserve better than a lifetime of hating our bodies and thinking we are worthless because we don’t fit the mold. 

Instead of focusing on intentional weight loss, I challenge you to focus on embracing health-promoting behaviors. The pursuit of perfection isn’t getting you anywhere, and it is time to stop denying our own magic just because we don’t fit the mold diet culture has laid out for us.

What conversations are you excited to have in 2021? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below.

In This Episode

  • Defining what I mean by ‘food freedom’ and the importance of nuance when discussing it (6:31)
  • The role of intuitive eating and mindful eating when incorporating food freedom (10:37)
  • Why food freedom is not an individualist pursuit and instead is about the larger community (14:50)
  • Breaking down the reason why I do this work and why I feel it is so important (19:25)
  • The problem with intentional weight loss and the complex world of body autonomy (27:15)


“The freedom to eat foods that make you feel good, foods that are enjoyable and satisfying, the freedom to eat without extremes, the freedom to eat without unnecessary restriction, the freedom to eat in a way that is enhancing to your life and not detracting from your life, the freedom to eat in a way that is helpful to your mind and your body and your emotions and your spirit and your culture, the freedom to eat foods that are important from your culture… that’s what I mean by food freedom.” (9:31)

“No matter what body you are in, no matter your health status, no matter your size, no matter your ability or disability, you f*cking deserve respect, and you need to give other people respect in return.” (12:25)

“Can we individually think about our food behaviors and practices and what we eat, while also holding that there is also a larger context? That is going to be really important going forward.” (15:18)

“We only get one shot at this life, as we are right now, and to live with such dissatisfaction of our own magic, and our own gifts and talents and worthiness because we don’t have perfect bodies, crushed me. And at that moment I said, ‘you know what, this has to change’.” (25:52)

“If I am critical on this podcast of diet culture and the influence of the patriarchy on how we live our lives, especially as women, it is not a criticism of you as an individual.” (29:53)

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What Food Freedom Is and Isn’t FULL TRANSCRIPT

Steph Gaudreau

On Episode 316 of the Listen To Your Body podcast, I’m digging into how you can find true food freedom, what it is, and what it isn’t. Let’s do this.

The Listen To Your Body podcast has one bold mission, to help change-making women like you give themselves radical permission to listen to their bodies get free with food and fitness, and channel their energy, and to be a force for good in the world. I’m a certified intuitive eating counselor, nutritional therapy practitioner, and strength coach Steph Gaudreau. This weekly show brings you discussions around dropping diet and exercise extremes, letting your inner wisdom lead, and taking up space from inclusive body neutrality, health at every size, non-diet nutrition perspective, we’ll examine how diet culture and the patriarchy keep women busy and distracted by the quest for body perfection, and how we can break free to live life on our own terms. It’s bound to be fiery, and ultimately, to make you think hit subscribe on your favorite podcast app. And let’s dive in.

Welcome to a brand new season of the Listen To Your Body podcast. I’m so excited about this new season this new direction new content and where we’re going to be going in this season. So we didn’t take a season break or anything like that. But what you’re going to see in the new season of the podcast is a story arc, if you will, of content and where we’re going to really talk about how to lean into your body’s wisdom how to give yourself permission to shake off diet and exercise extremes. What is true food freedom, true fitness freedom, really through a feminist lens, and so much more. And we’re going to be starting this week with this episode. So to give you a little bit of the backstory on this particular season, I’ve now been doing this podcast for five and a half years, plus three and a half plus million downloads. The show used to be called Harder To Kill Radio, it was coming from a much different place, I had a different brand at the time. And many of you have been with me through that entire evolution that entire change that entire process. And you have changed as well. You have gone through strict dieting and restrictive exercise and extremes when it comes to food and fitness. You realize that it doesn’t serve you in your life and that you are spending so much precious time and energy, trying to perfect your body and all of this stuff. And much like myself, you have taken this journey to kind of get to this point in saying I don’t want to do that anymore. But what else is there? So I really wanted to be intentional with moving forward with the next phase of this podcast. And I met last year with the wonderful Angie Jordan, who is a podcast strategist shout out to Angie, she really helped me sit down and get all of this out of my head and put it down into kind of a story arc. So you’re gonna see this season, a story arc of kind of setting the stage and talking about the issues that are so important with things like intuitive eating versus intentional weight loss, what really is food freedom? How are we going to find this in a world that continuously pulls us back because of diet, culture, everything that’s underneath all of that, from the patriarchy to racism and white supremacy and how this shakes out for us as individuals and also on a larger collective basis. When I was meeting with Angie, she said, Steph, you need to blow shit up. You need to let people know who you are and why you care about this. And so in this first episode, I’m going to be sharing what is food freedom and intuitive eating. Why does this stuff matter? Why I do this work and talking more about why it’s important to make this shift if you’re ready. So that’s what we’re going to be covering in this episode.

Going forward, I’m really going to be bringing you an examination and investigation into different topics that really take a look at food and fitness through a feminist lens. And when I say feminist, I mean intersectional feminist. That term was coined by Kimberly Williams Crenshaw, but really an inclusive type of feminism. So one where we recognize that trans women are women, that all bodies deserve respect, that Black Lives Matter, and that we’re coming at this from my goal to continue building an anti-racist business. So when I say feminist, that’s what I’m talking about. But really taking a look at how does the patriarchy specifically influences us, as women to play very small, and stay very distracted with the quest for body perfection, and how that plays out through food and fitness. Now, food freedom is not a term that I invented, I don’t know where it came from, it really popped up on the scene a few years ago. And I wanted just to take a moment to define what I mean by food freedom because if you know anything about me, you will know that nuance is important to me, in terms of exploring these topics, with you, and that the labels that we use to describe certain ways of eating can easily get twisted, and take on their own meaning in a bit of a Pandora’s Box situation.

And or be purposely co-opted by the diet industry. To make people think that they’re not going on a fad diet or being very restrictive with their food. It’s that whole idea of, it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle, and then you look at the app, and they’re recommending 1200 calories or less a day, and you’re like, this is definitely a diet, right. So when I’m talking about food, freedom, I don’t mean go on a restrictive plan, see how that food affects you. Go back to eating regularly. And I’m using air quotes, whatever that means, but remove the restriction. And then if you begin to feel yourself falling off the wagon, losing control, eating badly, all you’ll recognize these terms, and I’m using heavy air quotes here that the solution would be to get back on the food reset. That is not what I am talking about with regards to food freedom. What I really mean is the freedom to eat. Foods that make you feel good foods that are enjoyable and satisfying.

The freedom to eat without extremes, the freedom to eat without unnecessary restriction, the freedom to eat in a way that is enhancing your life and not detracting from your life. The freedom to eat in a way that is helpful to your mind, and your body and your emotions, and your spirit and your culture. The freedom to eat foods that are important from your culture, especially if you did not you’re not from a just sort of white American background. Because food often gets very whitewashed in the wellness industry. That’s what I mean by food freedom. It’s the freedom to listen and incorporate your body signals. It’s the freedom to question what we’ve been learning what we’ve always been told what we’ve always been taught about the right way to eat good foods and bad foods healthy and unhealthy, etc, etc. That’s what food freedom is. It is not to restrict all these foods, then go back to living your, “normal life”. And then if you start to feel out of control, then you go back on the restrictive diet that is fucking nonsense.

And yes, I will probably swear a lot in this season, because it makes me so riled up. So shades of food freedom might be things like mindful eating. mindful eating is all about bringing awareness to the food you’re eating to how your body is feeling, before a meal and during a meal and getting gratitude and just being more present. And honestly, for a lot of people, mindful eating is a great place to start. Because intuitive eating, which I’m also a huge proponent of goes so far beyond that it is such a deep and rich framework of principles. It is so, so broad and so encompassing, and so empowering. But when you’re coming from a diet, background, or a restrictive eating background, or a food extreme background, or a fad, diet background, intuitive eating as a framework can just seem like a lot, because it is a lot.

But intuitive eating, for me is is one of those things that’s incorporated into food freedom, right? It’s really learning how to connect with yourself and what you enjoy and your beliefs about the foods that you eat, and why you eat them, and how you learn to question the voices of the food beliefs and race, how you respect your body and how you incorporate gentle nutrition. Right? Food freedom might also include things like a Health at Every Size lens, which is okay, not saying healthy at Every Size as not the same thing. And we’ll talk about that later in this season. But Health at Every Size basically says people of all sizes of bodies deserve respect. I mean, fucking hello, it’s 2021, can we all please agree that no matter what body you’re in, no matter your health status, no matter your size, no matter your ability or disability, you fucking deserve respect. And you need to give other people respect in return.

So that’s one facet of health at every size. But the other facet is this, this concept of people at every size of body, and on the complete scale of body diversity, really deserve health-promoting habits that make them feel good, like health-promoting habits for people of all sizes, advice, who would disagree with that?

A lot of people because they don’t take the time to really understand what it’s saying. Food freedom might incorporate things like non-diet, nutrition, Hello, yes. Like there are nutrition principles that can be really helpful for people. And it is one of the things that is included in intuitive eating as a framework is a gentle nutrition. It’s just not the first thing we usually talk about when we’re going through intuitive eating principles like in my membership, because so many of you already and myself included, were our brains are running, ravaged with nutrition, do’s and don’ts, and rules and this and that, and inflammation and biohacker stuff and all of this stuff. We’re so confused. So non-diet, nutrition, or nutrition from a non-diet perspective, is, to me, included in this concept of food freedom, but it’s usually not the first thing that we talk about. So I felt it really, really important to frame this season with that discussion, and then of course, yes, it looks at a broader point of view, things like food availability, food deserts, food accessibility, it could include food justice, it can include the larger discussion of diet culture as an oppressive system that’s rooted in racist white supremacy, and fatphobia. There are definitely social justice and justice issues that are related to things like food freedom.

My goal this season is to bring in some folks to help us with those discussions who are really leading the way on those topics. But just know it’s not only about an individualistic pursuit. Food freedom is also about the larger community. It’s about things like where nutrition slots into the social determinants of health because food is only one of those. So can we individually think about our food behaviors and practices and what we eat, while also holding that there is a both and there’s also a larger context, that’s going to be really important going forward.

Bring it in for a minute, if you are ready to get free with food and fitness, and I mean true freedom, not just going back on another reset, if you fall off the wagon, if you’re ready to explore radical permission to listen to your body and to live life on your terms, the tune in membership is ready for you. inside of this monthly membership, we learn how to drop extremes when it comes to diet and exercise. You’ll learn how to let your inner wisdom lead, how to take up more space, and ultimately to take the energy that you were spending on the endless quest for body perfection, thanks to the patriarchy, and channel that into being a force for good. All of that happens in a supportive judgment-free community via mobile app, not on Facebook, and the doors are open for you. So if this sounds like you, please head over to StephGaudreau.com/Insider, we would love to welcome you to the Tune In Membership.

Restrictive dieting, weight, the stigma of fatphobia continue to persist at such alarming rates. And despite the efforts of so many people to quote, eat healthier and the wellness community and all of these things some very well-meaning we are seeing increased rates of things like disordered eating, eating disorders. And really people struggling with this idea like feeling trapped by healthy eating, being trapped by the pursuit of now body perfection and eating the healthiest we can possibly eat and over-exercising, and finding no joy in any of it and having it occupy an incredible amount of our time, our energy, our resources, and our finances, such that it is not enhancing our life, it is detracting from our life.

As women and women identify individuals, when I say women here, that’s what I mean. But as women, we are particularly vulnerable to this because we live in a patriarchal society that tells us that our worth is measured by how we look. And if we can just mold and control how we look, we will therefore have more value we will be more worthy. And what we end up doing as being on this endless cycle of trying to control our bodies and mold and shape our bodies without any regard for what health really means. And our society has completely confused what is health and how does weight factors into that. How does body size factor into that? We’ll be exploring that more on some upcoming episodes. But suffice to say, despite all of this access to information and programs that are out there and all of it, I don’t think we are getting any healthier as a result or we are only focusing on the physical body at the detriment of ourselves as whole people and it’s not okay to me.

So we’re going to be talking a lot more about that stuff this season. The next thing I wanted to discuss is why I do this work. And that is a complicated thing to answer but I’ll do my best to explain it. At the very minimum, I recognize that I am in an interesting position. I am a woman who has experienced decades of restrictive dieting, fad diet or exercise, low body image, hating myself trying to have a perfect body, and so on and so forth. And it occupied so much of my time and so much of my energy that I had no time and energy left to do anything else, I was trapped by this way of thinking and feeling never enough and not good enough. And at the same time, I realized that I have an intense amount of privilege. I am someone in a thin, or thin privileged body, I can walk into any store and buy clothes that fit me and I don’t get automatically judged for what I put in my shopping cart. And doctors, by and large, don’t treat me much differently because of my body size or make assumptions about my health. I am a white woman. So I have racial privilege. I am still a relatively young woman, I’m almost 42. But I haven’t yet really started to experience ageism. In that way, I’m able-bodied, I do not have any kind of neurodiversity. So I have, I have a lot of privileges.

And I also recognize that there are a lot of women in my community who are very, very similar. So how do I use these privileges to raise awareness? How do I raise these privileges that I benefit from, to help other people move forward and say, you know, what, how can I start rejecting the patriarchy at a personal level, but also work towards something greater work toward more justice work to change oppressive systems? In a community? How do I do these things? How do I take this energy that I am spending hating my body and be a force for good in the world while also taking care of myself? It’s both. And so right now, the best I can see that my work is here to do is to raise awareness and help open the door. So that if you want to learn more about things like how racism impacts that phobia, that you can then go learn from the amazing teachers and authors, and experts who do those things. So that if you want to learn how you can start to deconstruct this for yourself, and start to question that you can find communities and places that help you do those things that you can learn from a wider diversity of voices.

And I think that that right now is my best role is to raise the awareness and open the door for you to say, you know what, this pursuit of perfection with my body isn’t getting me anywhere. And yes, I can care for myself. I can respect myself, I can work on acceptance of who I am, while also wanting to do things differently and wanting to change. But why am I doing those things? Am I trying to make the world better for others as well, especially if I have some of those social privileges? So that’s one reason why I do this work.

Another reason why I do this work is really pretty personal. And aside from being somebody who had died on and off and hated my body for years and years, when I was growing up, my grandmother was gonna choke me up, my grandmother was always dieting and doing things like Weight Watchers. And to me, she was one of the most amazing people. And I miss her so much. And I could never quite parse why…what was the problem? What was the problem? Why, why should she do this? And a few years ago, I was doing a talk in New Zealand. And I was doing a lot of research around body image. And of course, there’s so much research coming out about young girls and young women and teen girls and young college women and even women my age. But when I stumbled upon the research about women in older age, and what I mean by that is 50s 60s 70s and beyond, and their rates of body dissatisfaction, how much they didn’t like themselves, how much they continued to try for body perfection.

It broke me, it broke my heart because there are, we only get one shot at this life as we are right now, and to live with such dissatisfaction of our own magic and our own gifts and talents and worthiness, because we don’t have perfect bodies, crushed me. And at that moment, I said, You know what? This has to change, this has to change it, we can’t go on like this. And that, at that moment, really caused a shift in me. And the way I thought about my business, and this podcast, and my brand, and it really affected me. And that’s why I do this work. Because yes, I want young girls to not have to grow up in a diet culture, fatphobic world, but also on the other side of the coin, for women in as they go through their lives to realize you have so much to give you have so much you are inherently worthy and valuable no matter what.

And that we fucking deserve better than a lifetime of hating our bodies and pinching our thighs and thinking that we’re just worthless because we don’t fit the mold. That is why I do this work. Okay, that was intense. So what is food freedom? What does it mean to me? Why is this important? Why do I do this work? And the last, the last point I wanted to bring up is about intentional weight loss. This is super complicated. Because I do believe in body autonomy, You get to do with your body, what you want to do with your body, period, end of the story. And I also recognize that if you are in a larger body, you may not feel that the world is a safe place for you.

At the very least mentally and emotionally because of things like weight stigma and fatphobia, and just existing in the body that you exist in. So I understand that intentional weight loss might be something that you pursue, and I have no say about whether that’s right or wrong. What I do know is that weight loss is not a behavior. Healthy habits or health-promoting behaviors, or the motivation to change behaviors could potentially improve our health, and may, by some side effect cause our bodies to change in size. So I am supportive. If you’re listening to this, and you say you know what, for me right now, intentional weight loss is the answer and I’m going to pursue it. My only thing I would say is, please do it with the help of somebody who is going to assist in making it something you can mean maintain something that’s sustainable, and something that will not further damage your relationship with food and your body.

That being said, I don’t focus on this podcast on intentional weight loss because of the multitude of downsides. And again, because the thing that we can change, the thing that we can focus on no matter what our body size is, would be those health-promoting habits and health-promoting behaviors. So we come back to this over and over and over again. But please don’t mistake this. If you are somebody who believes that intentional weight loss is the right answer for you at the moment. If I’m critical on this podcast of diet, culture, and the influence of the patriarchy, on how we live our lives, especially as women, it is not a criticism of you as an individual. I think that’s so nuanced and yet so important. We saw this happening in late 2020 with Lizzo always in the news, especially when it comes to her size and her health and the things that she chooses to do, right? Anybody else could have done this and nobody would have given two shits.

Nevertheless, there was a lot of criticism about Lizzo and is she setting the right example. And we could go on another tangent about known people and like what their quote-unquote responsibilities are. But suffice to say some of the criticism that came out about her completely missed the mark, not only because it was, by and large, white woman criticizing her or thinner women criticizing her but because we missed the point entirely of that we can be critical of diet culture as an oppressive system without criticizing the person. And that’s a really important distinction to make, as we go on through this entire season and beyond, is to hold the distinguishment, is that a word, to describe or to hold the ability to distinguish between being critical of diet culture, as a system, versus criticizing the person who doesn’t either doesn’t know what they don’t know or still makes that choice because they believe that’s what’s best for them. If you are someone who’s looking for other ways of approaching food and fitness in a way that’s less restrictive, and it sounds like that’s what you need right now in your life. That’s what I’m here for. That’s what I’m here to do. That’s who I’m here to really help and provide perspective for in this podcast and in the tune in membership and in all of the other things that I’m doing in the world.

So there we go. That’s the first episode. This was so exciting. And I am so pumped to bring you the rest of this season to keep blowing this up to keep introducing you to the things that are really on my mind to paint the rest of the sort of story arc for you, and to continue seeing how we all grow together. As always, please share this show out. Share it on social media, tag me on Instagram, it’s @Steph_Gaudreau. Just start typing ga and it should probably pop up and I want to hear what you think. Send me a direct message, post it in your stories, and let’s keep the conversation going. I cannot wait for episode two. I will catch you next time. Until then, be well.

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Hi, I'm Steph!

Lord of the Rings nerd, cold brew drinker, and depending on who you ask, crazy cat lady. My mission is to help you fuel for more, not less: bigger muscles, strength, energy, and possibilities. We’ll do it with my signature blend of science, strategy…and a little bit of sass.


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