What Is Restrictive Eating?


Restrictive eating means you rigidly control your food and your eating activity.


You may be in a restrictive eating cycle if you:


  • Are preoccupied with food and your weight
  • See food as good or bad
  • See yourself as good or bad depending on what you ate or what you weigh
  • Exercise rigidly.


Before we examine restrictive eating in detail, let’s revisit the Mindful Eating Cycle.



Basics of the Mindful Eating Cycle


The Mindful Eating Cycle is a model of understanding cycles of eating. It provides the necessary structure for us to work on making gradual changes in our lifestyle.


The Mindful Eating Cycle was developed by Dr. Michelle May as a way to understand the way we eat.  I use this powerful model with my clients who wish to change the way they eat in my 1:1 health coaching sessions and my mindful eating group workshops.


Once you apply the mindful eating cycle to your food habits, you will have a rich understanding of why you’re reaching for (or avoiding) certain foods, at certain times, even though you might not want to.


In the Mindful Eating Cycle, we ask these questions:




This is the major underlying purpose or motivation driving the eating cycle. In other words, what is driving your cycle at any given time?



When do you feel like eating? What causes an urge to eat?



What food do you choose to eat from all the possible options?



How does food get from the plate or container into your body?



How much fuel do I give my body?



Once I have chosen and eaten the food to fuel my body, where do I spend that energy (includes physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual energy).



Applying The Mindful Eating Cycle to Restrictive Eating Patterns


Remember, no matter how you’re currently eating, this pattern is not permanent or definitive. If it works for you, keep going! If you wish to change the way you eat, becoming mindful of your eating style is the first, most powerful step.


WHY Do People Eat in a Restrictive Eating Cycle?


In a restrictive eating pattern, you eat according to the “rules”—the latest expert’s rules or your own rules. If you’ve ever followed a diet, you’ll be familiar with restrictive eating.


WHEN Do People Eat in a Restrictive Eating Cycle?


You eat when the “rules” of the current diet tell you to eat (for example, 6 small meals per day, nothing after 7 pm).


WHAT Do People Eat in a Restrictive Eating Cycle?


The what is what most diets focus on.


You eat what the “rules” of the current diet tell you to eat (for example, no carbohydrates, only fruit before noon, always preceded by a glass of grapefruit juice).


Your prescribed food may be based on calories, grams, exchanges, points, or other ways of limiting your intake.


Your food on any given day may also be influenced by your weight results on the scale, or how well you followed your “diet” the day before.


HOW Do People Eat in a Restrictive Eating Cycle?


Your food is prepared and consumed in a controlled, rigid manner. You have to weigh, measure, and count your food and write it down to keep track (there’s an app for that!).


HOW MUCH Do People Eat in a Restrictive Eating Cycle?


Once again, how much you eat is determined by how much the rules allow, such as one ounce of cheese, twelve grapes, four grams of carbs.


WHERE Does the Energy Go in a Restrictive Eating Cycle?


Sticking to a diet requires a lot of mental, emotional, and sometimes physical energy.


Exercise is often used to “earn the right” to eat or pay penance for eating something “bad.” If you’re in a restrictive eating cycle, you may also exercise in a hyper-disciplined way. This can have the effect of making you resent or even hate exercise.



What Are The Other Eating Styles?


You can learn all about Overeating and Instinctive Eating [COMING SOON] on my blog.



Quit Restrictive Eating By Eating Mindfully


How can mindful eating reduce your need to rigidly restrict your food?


If you’re like many dieters, you restrict your food in response to overeating. As I outlined in this post about the Overeating Cycle, eating more food than you need is a response to a trigger, such as an external situation or an emotional state. Reaching for food in these situations is a mindless response.


Your first step is to become conscious of the why, when , what, how, how much and where of the food you are choosing to eat. This is imperative!


Once you have brought compassionate awareness to your eating habits, you can use the Mindful Eating Cycle to restore balance. This means you’ll stop overeating, therefore you’ll also remove the need to restrict your eating.


How Do I Eat Mindfully?


That is the perfect question to ask!


Are you ready to dive deep into mindful eating?


My 8-week workshop is now open for enrolments. I’d love to invite you into my next Mindful Eating Program today.


Not sure if it’s for you? Schedule a free health breakthrough session with me now and you can chat with me directly about the program, or about my 1:1 personalized health coaching for women.


I’d also love for you to join my mailing list so I can invite you to my next mindful eating workshop. Get your free mini course in the form below and I will be in touch!


You can read more of my blogs on mindful eating here.