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Why is Restriction Glorified Over Nourishment?

A conversation that comes up a lot in session is the idea society has embraced having a "restriction mindset" as a positive attribute. Everywhere we turn, there are messages promoting the concept of strict discipline and self-control. While there can certainly be value in both moderation and self-discipline, it's important to recognize that this emphasis on restriction can sometimes hold us back rather than propel us forward.


The idea of restriction as a positive attribute is deeply embedded in our culture. We're told that saying "no" to temptations, whether it's food, leisure activities, or other "indulgences," is a sign of strength and willpower. We are bombarded with images and messages that glorify strict diets, extreme workout regimens, and other forms of self-denial, all in the name of self-improvement.


But what if this cultural emphasis on restriction is actually limiting us? What if, instead of leading to personal growth and success, it's creating a mindset of scarcity, fear, and shame?


The truth is that when our focus is solely on what we can't have or shouldn't do, it can stifle creativity, innovation, and overall well-being. It turns the idea of nourishing our bodies and souls with normal, natural, biological needs (like food, rest, sex, to name a few) into something that we feel ashamed for not being able to more tightly control. I hear it all the time: "It's my fault that I can't be x number of pounds," or "if I could just go on the diet/stop being so lazy/get on a better schedule/etc, then everything will fall into place."


By constantly telling ourselves "I can't" or "I shouldn't," or creating a set of strict guidelines and rules that we must follow, we are inadvertently closing ourselves off from the possibility of self-acceptance and healthy nourishment. This mindset of restriction can breed anxiety and a fear of missing out, too, making us less likely to take risks and pursue our passions. It can lead to a negative relationship with ourselves, as we constantly criticize and deprive ourselves in the pursuit of an idealized version of who we should be.


This heavy emphasis on restriction can also seep into our relationships with others and how we view the world around us. When we're focused on what we lack or what we need to avoid, it can create a scarcity mentality that prevents us from fully appreciating the abundance and opportunities that surround us. It can also put us in a place of constant comparison or competition with others, rather than interconnectedness and compassion. This can hinder our ability to connect and collaborate with others and ourselves.


So, how do we shift away from this restriction mindset and embrace a more balanced and open approach to life? It starts with recognizing when we are putting ourselves in this restrictive space and getting curious about why we're there, without judgment or the need to control it. From there, we can start to focus on how we can best nourish ourselves from a place of abundance instead of lack and where we've been cutting ourselves off instead of opening ourselves up.


As we learn to get more curious about ourselves, we can begin to offer ourselves more self-compassion and self-care, understanding that it's healthy to enjoy life's pleasures without judgment or guilt. This can lead to a more positive and balanced relationship with ourselves and with others and we open us up to new possibilities, connections, and growth.


While I can't deny that there is value in moderation and self-discipline, it's important to be mindful of how our cultural emphasis on restriction can impact our mindset and well-being. By letting go of labels and restrictions, we can reduce the negative emotions often associated with eating and other natural bodily functions and instead focus on the joy and pleasure that these things can bring.



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