Ep. #89: The Layers of Food Restriction with Sarah Berneche

Layers of Food Restriction with Sarah Berneche posing in front of a post with colorful graffiti.

For this week’s interview I met with Sarah Berneche. We had an amazing conversation, and were able to really go deep on the layers of food restriction! No matter where you are in your journey, it’s always worth considered how restrictions might be popping up in your life! (Not too long ago, I shared about my own process of needing to let go of restrictions again as well!)

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Meet Sarah!

Sarah Berneche is an intuitive eating counselor and registered holistic nutritionist. She considers herself a nutrition therapist, and most of her clientele consists of women dealing with disordered eating and body image.

She shares that in her early years, she had a “normal” relationship with food. Post-puberty, however, she began getting bullied for her new, larger body. At that point, she began to feel that she no longer wanted this body. Shortly after, she learned about the WW points system.

This led her down the rabbit hole of diets. Sarah spent years trying to manage how she felt about her body by controlling it with food restrictions. Over the years, her diets morphed into disordered eating. In the midst of her unhealthy food relationships, she completed her dietary training and began working as a nutritionist.

During a corporate nutrition training, someone asked if they were allowed to eat yogurt with fruit in the bottom. That question struck her — Sarah realized that pushing people to eat only certain “good” foods and to restrict themselves from the pleasure or joy of food wasn’t in line with her values.

Healing Food Relationships

As she studied and grew in her own understanding, Sarah learned more about intuitive eating, health at every size, and the body positive movement. Having healed her own food relationship, she became passionate about helping other women have the same experience.

One thing Sarah notices is that many women want intuitive eating to be a clear journey with a specific destination. There is a desire to “arrive”! With intuitive eating, however, there are many phases to the journey. Rather than trying to finish the journey, it will likely feel better to enjoy each step along the way.

Another important point: many women have a relationship with dieting built on years of practice. Transitioning to intuitive eating is a practice as well. You should plan to invest in it, just like you would with any new relationship! Along the way, you’ll likely notice that sometimes that old dieting relationships tries to get back into your life! That’s normal – and you have the ability to choose, each and every time, which relationship you would rather invest in for the long run!

The Layers of Food Restrictions

Even when you’ve been eating intuitively for years, you may find restrictions popping up in your life!

Sarah shares that the layers of food restrictions can be like the 100 layer crepe cakes. Every time you peel one back, it seems like there is another one ready to take its place!

You may notice this happening physically — whether that’s the temptations to calorie count, control portion sizes, or restrict specific items. At some point, we start to move into more mental and psychologic concerns as well. For example, being a “better person” if you eat clean or maintain a smaller size. We also tend to have a lot of fear around things like carbs, fat, or other foods we may have demonized during our dieting journey.

Many women tend to think that if they stop dieting, their food will be different. Sarah notes that this is true, but it’s not the only change! You’ll be a different person too!

Your dieting came about for a reason, often a much deeper reason than we tend to acknowledge. You may have been managing anxiety, stress, or old traumas with your previous restriction/binging cycles. You may have used dieting to bond or connect with other women or people you care about. Dieting may have helped you cope with feeling inadequate.

When you STOP restricting, a lot can come up!

Dieting Makes us Feel Safe

Diets have served a purpose in our lives! Because of that, they have a certain amount of security attached.

When we start intuitive eating and release diets, we need to reconsider the coping mechanisms and tools we use to allow ourselves to still feel safe. After addressing the physical food restrictions connected to her diets, Sarah had to dive deep on the emotional needs that she had been using diets to manage!

From romantic relationships to personal connections to inadequacies and other core wounds — Sarah found that when she stopped restricting, she was faced with many old feelings and hurts she had never truly addressed.

Dieting had never been about “just” losing weight. When we talk about food and body, we are never just talking about food and body. There are so many deep, core needs connected to what we eat! There are so many layers of food restriction that we’ll need to be willing to pass through!

Life Gets Better Without Diets

The diet industry creates a problem (making us feel inadequate and broken) and then offering a solution (start dieting!). In the process of ending that relationship, we get to start rebuilding our core beliefs about who we are.

Intuitive eating allows us to peel back all of the layers and messaging and become our truest, most authentic selves.

Sarah shares that the more she does this work, the fuller her life becomes. With less restriction, she experiences more abundance. She’s found herself more conscious of connections, wholeness, and gratitude in many areas of her life.

Rather than trying to get to the smallest size (and then intending to treat herself well at that later point), she’s able to treasure and value herself today, just as she is. She’s also seen an increase in the strength of her friendships and connections. Intuitive eating has enabled her to open herself to body positivity, social justice, and more care and concern for others and for the world around us.

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