The Daily Beet

20 Mar Redefining Restriction.

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I despise the word restriction. Absolutely despise it. I have since I started making healthy changes. The word restriction carries this heavy weight. A weight to me that is judgmental in nature, and does not give me (or anyone else for that matter) nearly enough credit for their ability to overcome certain obstacles and figure things out.

When I first started eating this way I was really sick. After about a month I was nearly off all of my insulin for T2 diabetes, had lost weight, had begun the healing process of a major infection in my leg. Right before I started I was severely depressed, had no hope at all.

When I went to the Doctor and he saw my improved numbers and learned that I was on hardly any insulin he asked what I was doing. When I told him that I was on a low fat, plant-based diet, his reply was “that makes sense” and then went on to tell me the reason he hadn’t mentioned it before was because it’s just not practical. Just too hard, too many restrictions.

I was in my early 30’s, deciding how to end my life, had out of control T2 diabetes, could barely walk, was morbidly obese, yet changing my diet was just not practical? Too restrictive?

And it didn’t stop there. Even today people will tell me that the way I choose to eat is too restrictive. What is restrictive? Let’s look at this a bit deeper.

I eat all the food that I could want.
I get all the calories I need.
I enjoy the food that I eat, not just enjoy, I really love the way the food tastes.
I can shop at any grocery store, anywhere, almost 24 hours a day.
I can go into most restaurants and get a decent, healthy meal.
I can get my food frozen, prepped, chopped, diced, ready made  if I want.
I can go to a farmers market every week if I want to do that.
I can have groceries or produce DELIVERED TO MY FRONT DOOR.

How is that restrictive?

I don’t think about my food very much anymore. I know the foods that are most healing for my body, and I eat them. I continue to have success with my health.

Let me tell you what is restrictive.

Eating in a way that restricts my body from knowing what to do with insulin.
Not being able to see because of nerve damage caused by high blood sugar, that is restrictive.
Not being able to walk more than a few 100 feet because of severe pain from nerve damage, that is restrictive.
Having severe, debilitating depression because you have no hope, that is restrictive.
Having blood pressure so high that it makes daily tasks dangerous and potentially life threatening, that is restrictive.
Being so morbidly obese that you can’t wear a seatbelt, fit into any airplane seat, theater seat, or feel anything remotely close to comfortable? That is restrictive.
Your joints hurting so badly you sneak away to cry at a party? Restrictive.
Eating in a way that restricts blood flow, causes heart disease, causes strokes, causes many cancers? That is far more restrictive to the quality of my life.

Are you seeing where I’m going with this?

Let’s change our description of what restriction is. 

Before you think that restriction is all about food, think about the other areas of your life that are or could become restricted because of what you feed your body.

We have this collective idea as a nation that if we restrict our food choice, to just picking the healthiest food on the planet, that somehow that is wrong, and somehow that will just make us all spiral into something worse. We haven’t done well with moderation, clearly. Yet as soon as you mention the way you choose to eat, many will jump on the restrictive bandwagon.

Why is that?

I believe it has a lot more to do with the pleasure trap than it has to do with anything else. Once you mention taking away things that cause people a lot of pleasure (salt/oil/sugar) they get defensive. Admittedly, I did. Many times. I wanted to be told that a little of X won’t kill me. That it was ok if I indulged. For me that just doesn’t work. I would love to say that I can have X a few times a week, but I can’t. And the truth is, a lot of people can’t. If they could, we wouldn’t have the health crisis we do in this country. We’d be walking around amongst tons of  healthy people.

So when you tell someone about your healthy, low-fat plant-based diet and they respond in shock and start throwing out words like “restriction” or “limited” or “not practical” what it really is, is an observation on what they do not think they could do. It should not be a prediction for you of what you can and cannot do.

You are stronger than you know. We’ve all had to give things up in life, be it food or something else. For some it was a relationship, or it was alcohol, or it was working too much. For others it is sugar or fast food. And though, the letting go of those things might have been difficult, was the end worth it?

That is how I see how I eat. Yes, when I started it wasn’t the easiest thing. Yes, it might have felt restrictive.  But look at what I’ve gained because of that said, restriction. My life is in no way restricted now. My life is full and vibrant. Why would I ever want to lose that?

Your tastes will change, just like other things change as well. Those other things that you’ve let go of in life that make your life more full, the sting gets less and less the more time that goes by. Same thing with our food choices. One day it won’t even cross your mind. You won’t think twice about the choice between a burger and fries and a big plate of steamed veggies, beans and quinoa. You won’t see the way you eat as restrictive at all.

What you gain from a healthy way of eating is so much more than a temporary taste could ever bring you. Now my pleasure is in living life, not being trapped in a viscous way of eating that was truly restrictive.

Before I was barely surviving, now I am truly living. It doesn’t get much better than that. I’ve redefined restrictive, and I hope you will consider doing so as well.

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Natala Constantine
  • Jana

    You nailed it again!!! I love this post. I’m almost there with not seeing eating like this as restrictive, but you are right what I gained is so much more! I no longer need assistance to walk, which means I can go play with my son and not have to sit and watch. That was a much more devastating restriction. Thank you for writing this!

  • Heather

    Thank you for writing this, it puts a lot into perspective for me. I have heart disease and diabetes and my life is falling apart because of it. I am already a vegan, but I haven’t made the switch to whole foods and plant-based because I have thought it’s too hard.

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  • Mary

    Amen!!!! I love this!!! Go Natala!

  • Daryl

    Not to mention there are 1000’s of plant-based and oil free recipes out there, you are right it’s not restrictive at all, it’s our perception thats way off.

  • Leah

    Great!!! Wonderful, passionate post! Thank you Natala!

  • Jill

    Wish I could like this a million times. Thank you. I’m tired of my friends saying I am too restricitive in my diet, I was a pre-diabetic before E2, I’mnot anymore, that’s all I need to know.

  • Veghead

    Bravo…..

  • Heidi

    I wish you’d write a book already. I love everything you write.

  • Jill S

    Thank you so much for this post!! Natala, you are a true inspiration to me!! Although we all live our own journey, I can relate with a bit of what you said. Love, Love, Love your post!!!

  • Kathy Caldwell

    Inspiring and helpful post, Natala. Living a WFPB lifestyle is all about freedoms, not restrictions. Brava! (Can’t wait to see you again in August in Claverack, NY!)

  • frodo

    Natala I agree with Heidi! I really look forward to your posts. You are very wise beyond your years and always share wonderful ideas and perspectives!!

  • AJ

    Thanks for the reminder. It really is about our perception. What is restricting me physically because I choose not to change my eating habits. This has been one of the biggest challenges for me.

  • Terri Cole

    Ditto on writing a book! Thank you for the wise words!

  • Beth Ann

    Not just a book, you need an entire movement. You are the one sane voice in a sea of insanity, and you are real, you struggle, you are honest, I can actually relate to you.

  • Leah

    By the way, this quote “So when you tell someone about your healthy, low-fat plant-based diet and they respond in shock and start throwing out words like “restriction” or “limited” or “not practical” what it really is, is an observation on what they do not think they could do. It should not be a prediction for you of what you can and cannot do.”
    is absolutely right on!!!

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